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West Sacramento Man Found After Five Days In Wilderness Of Alpine County

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Leigh Martinez Leigh Martinez
Leigh Martinez is the multimedia journalist covering the San Joaquin...
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ALPINE COUNTY (CBS13) — A West Sacramento fisherman was lost with no food for five days in the wilderness of Alpine County. Mike Vilhauer hasn’t been fishing all year, because of the state drought. A friend told him there may be fish up in Wet Meadows Reservoir, so Vilhauer decided to make the trip alone last Wednesday.

Vilhauer said he didn’t have any luck fishing at the reservoir, so he moved to another lake. Striking out again, Vilhauer thought crickets would make better bait, so he walked into the forest with a butterfly net.

“I just couldn’t find anything to catch,” said Vilhauer, who didn’t bring his food or gear, because he only planned to be gone 15 minutes.
“In the meantime, I’m jig-jagging up and down the ridges.”

Vilhauer was lost. By night fall, he had to make a shelter out of pine needles to keep warm, but storm blew through the mountains.

“It got really, really cold.”

The next morning, Vilhauer still could not find the lake he was fishing on.

“Every time I’d walk up one ridge and go up the mountain, I’d think, ‘There’s the lake.’ And there would be nothing,” said Vilhauer.

Vilhauer was in the mountains in Alpine County for five days without food. He said he encountered a wolverine, a large herd of deer, and found several bear tracks.

“I had to keep going down to get water, because I didn’t have anything to carry it,” said Vilhauer who drank out of streams and creeks.

Search and rescue teams started on Friday, but kept missing an exhausted Vilhauer.

“A couple of choppers kept going by and I thought this is not good, because usually after they finish one area, they move to the next.”

Vilhauer made the decision to stay in one spot by a stream.

“I made these big 8 to 10 feet letters ‘HELP’ in pine needles,” said Vilhauer.

He was rescued Sunday afternoon after a helicopter spotted Vilhauer’s ‘Help’ sign. He was uninjured, but exhausted. He said he was only four miles from the lake when he was rescued, but he traveled in circles during his ordeal.

“That’s when they told me, by-the-way, there’s no fish in that lake,” said Vilhauer.

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