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A 62-year-old woman who vanished while hiking in California was found alive Saturday — more than a week after she was separated from the group she was traveling with, police said.
Miyuki Harwood was located not far from where she went missing in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest, after hearing rescuers and blowing a whistle to get their attention, said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.
Harwood was airlifted to a nearby hospital for treatment of broken bones, Mims said during a news conference Saturday. Mims wouldn’t comment on the extent of Harwood’s injuries but said she was able to visit with the 62-year-old, who was stable, speaking and “very grateful that she was found.”
Harwood was last seen on Aug. 20 near the Courtright Reservoir, about 100 miles east of Fresno, with a hiking group from the Sierra Club, based near Sacramento. She did not know any of the people she was hiking with, but her family told police that she was an experienced hiker, according to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.
California Highway Patrol officer Rusty Hotchkiss said the group had only planned a daytrip, and that is all Harwood was prepared for. She had a water filter with her, but “she had no food,” Hotchkiss said.
“She was a fighter. She was a tough girl,” Hotchkiss added. “It just tickles us all to death that we have good news at the end of nine days.”
“She was really at the end of the time period that we thought she could survive,” Mims said.
Several local agencies, the California Office of Emergency Services and the California National Guard were involved in the aerial and land search for Harwood. More than 60 search and rescue crew members were aided by dogs and drones, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office said.
The search was initially hampered by smoke from a wildfire, called the Rough Fire, which began July 31 and was burning about 10 miles away from the search area. Officials also worried that the smoke would debilitate Harwood as rescuers scrambled to find her.
Mims warned that hikers should not separate from their groups and stay away from trails with hazardous conditions. “Especially right now with the fires going on, now is not a good time to go up into that area. Allow the firefighters to do their job,” Mims said.