s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 5 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 10 of 15 free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Support local journalism and get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app, all starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

"He kept his wits about him," Allman said. "He realized he didn't have energy to climb the mountain, he used his rifle to kill wildlife that came close to him and kept the embers going."

On Sunday, Penaflor was recovering at his home in San Francisco's Bernal Heights district with his family, Allman said.

"Other than being dehydrated, he was fine, he was joking around, he appeared very healthy," he said.

Penaflor's survival story began Sept. 24 when he and a friend set out to hunt deer in the national forest in an area known as Bloody Rock, sheriff's officials said. He and his hunting partner split up for the morning and planned to meet up for lunch at noon.

But Penaflor didn't show up, and his friend couldn't find him. The next day, his friend called the Sheriff's Office to report him missing.

Penaflor, meanwhile, had walked further away from the road than he'd intended and at one point fell and was knocked unconscious when he hit his head, he later recounted to deputies at the hospital.

He awoke enveloped in fog.

Penaflor walked until soon realizing he didn't know how to get back. He lit a fire and warmed himself with leaves and grasses he packed around his body.

Four days after Penaflor went missing, a search for the avid outdoorsman that had grown to include 16 volunteer search-and-rescue teams and other agencies was suspended.

They had covered steep terrain up to 6,200 feet, using numerous dog teams trained for searches, but found no sign of the man.

Penaflor apparently saw a helicopter during this time but the smoke from his fire wasn't seen by the air crew, Allman said.

<b>Worsening weather</b>

A storm was on its way.

Through rain and perhaps some snow, Penaflor crawled under a large log and repacked his bedding with dry leaves and grass. He drank from a nearby drainage and apparently kept a gash in his chin from the initial fall clean and uninfected, Allman said.

"When people get lost in the woods, what happens is they travel in circles and they get injured," Allman said. Yet, Penaflor "was very smart, he stayed in one location, he kept his clothes dry," Allman said.

As the days stretched on, Penaflor's family kept hope and awareness of the man's plight.

Family members stayed in the area, posting missing person posters from at least Willits to Covelo and built a website with information about the missing man. A black belt in karate, Penaflor was described on the site as a lifelong hunter in great health who knew the area well. He had hunted in the Spruce Grove area of the Mendocino National Forest for the past seven years.

Allman said he believed Penaflor was retired after a career in the hotel industry laundry service.

<b>Weak cries for help</b>

On Friday, volunteer searchers from six other counties gathered in Mendocino County to gear up for a search to be launched Saturday.

At about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, after nearly three weeks surviving with his wits and knowledge, aid came to Penaflor from a large group of hunters who heard his calls for help.

Through bad cellphone reception and dropped calls with the Sheriff's Office, the hunters communicated that they were trying to find a person calling out from a canyon. The caller was told to dial 911 and searchers then were able to get GPS coordinates and head for the area.

The hunters eventually found a weak but alive Penaflor and constructed a stretcher out of their coats and poles cut from branches, Lt. Shannon Barney said.

They carried him up a steep, rugged hillside.

After several hours, the searchers encountered the hunters carrying Penaflor. Penaflor eventually was flown by a Cal Star medical helicopter to Ukiah Valley Medical Center.

Allman visited Penaflor at the hospital Saturday and said the man appeared to be in remarkably good health. Allman said he witnessed Penaflor's reunion with his son, Jeremy.

"It was extremely, extremely heartwarming," Allman said. "There weren't even words spoken."

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson @pressdemocrat.com.