Missing hiker reunited with family after long, cold night in forest

IDYLLWILD, Calif. (KABC) -- A 20-year-old hiker who went missing during cold, snowy conditions near Mount San Jacinto was reunited with his family Tuesday after spending a harrowing night alone in the wilderness.

Cristian Sandoval says he realized he had lost the trail Monday in the San Bernardino National Forest as the snow began falling and temperatures were dropping.

He sought out shelter and found an outcropping of rocks, then dug a hole and filled it with bark and pine needles. Exhausted, he crawled in and fell asleep.

He had dressed for cold weather, but wasn't quite prepared for the overnight lows. He also had no more than a banana and a granola bar to help maintain his energy.

"I kept waking up because my feet felt so swollen, because of the cold," he said. "They were dangling out a little bit. But I kept stamping my feet together to get some blood flowing. That took care of it."

The next day, Sandoval was finally able to find his way out of the wilderness and flagged down a ride. He was reunited with distraught family members by the afternoon.

Riverside County search-and-rescue team members say Sandoval did a few things right on his hike, but also made a few mistakes. He bought a day pass which let rangers know approximately where he was hiking and he told his family when to expect him back home. But they also say he should've been more careful about checking the weather and bringing a fully-charged cellphone.
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