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An attack by a swarm of yellow jackets led to two nights alone in the forest for a Berry Creek woman last week.
Carley Rubanoff, 20, was found by Plumas County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue personnel about 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24.
Rubanoff was rescued just a few hundred yards from where she was last seen the morning of Sept. 22, while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail near Spanish Peak. She spent more than 48 hours alone in the woods.
According to Search and Rescue Coordinator Mike Grant, Rubanoff “was tired and thirsty, but in relatively good shape when she was found.”
Rubanoff was hiking the trail with her boyfriend, Joshua Hill, when the ordeal began.
The pair had just broken camp and started their hike. Hill was soon far enough ahead of Rubanoff that the two lost visual contact.
Rubanoff stopped at a creek to fill her water bottle when she stumbled upon a yellow jackets’ nest.
She was stung repeatedly as she fled. While trying to get away, she dropped her pack and ran into a wooded area.
Grant said Rubanoff became “completely disoriented” and was unable to find her way back to the trail.
Hill reportedly hiked back and searched for Rubanoff for several hours before calling the sheriff’s office to report his girlfriend missing at 1 p.m. Sept. 22.
Grant said a sheriff’s deputy was dispatched to the area but was unable to locate either of the hikers.
Grant said Hill told him by phone that he suspected Rubanoff had likely returned to a parking lot about two miles away. He told Grant he was going to search for his girlfriend there.
Grant said he instructed Hill to call him if he was unable to locate Rubanoff.
However, despite not finding his girlfriend at the parking lot, Hill didn’t call the sheriff’s office. Instead, he reportedly continued to search for Rubanoff on his own.
It wasn’t until 3 p.m. the following day (Friday, Sept. 23) that Hill encountered a Forest Service employee and reported that his hiking partner was still missing.
The Forest Service and the sheriff’s office immediately began a coordinated search for Rubanoff.
Grant said Forest Service personnel checked all likely trailheads in the area to see if Rubanoff had walked out.
The search intensified the next morning (Saturday, Sept. 24) as a California Highway Patrol helicopter unit joined the effort.
Saturday afternoon, while Hill and the sheriff’s search and rescue team were hiking to the place where Rubanoff was last seen, near Bucks Summit, they found the lost hiker.
“We were taking Josh back to where they were camped and we heard (Rubanoff) yell,” Grant said. “She was only about 300 yards away from where they were camped. But 300 yards might just as well be 300 miles in a heavily wooded area like that.”
Rubanoff told her rescuers that she was able to stay warm at night by building small fires.
She said she tried to find the trail during daylight hours, with no success.
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