Third rescue at Lake Margaret conducted |

Third rescue at Lake Margaret conducted

Staff and wire reports

A 78-year-old California woman who became lost while hiking in the Sierra Nevada was found Friday after spending the night in near-freezing temperatures.

Lucille Cuzzillo of Walnut Creek, was reported missing by friends late Thursday after she didn’t return to the Kirkwood Mountain Resort after what was supposed to be a day hike.

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office said Cuzzillo and her friends set out from the resort around 8 a.m. Thursday morning for a 3-mile trail hike to Lake Margaret.

But about 1 1/2 hours into the venture, Cuzzillo complained of shortness of breath and told her friends she was heading back, authorities said.

The rest of the group continued on. But when they returned later in the day, they discovered Cuzzillo hadn’t made it back.

Search teams from El Dorado, Alpine and Amador counties as well as personnel from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Forest Service, California Highway Patrol and Kirkwood Fire Protection District combed 25 square miles of rugged area, more than 7,500 feet above sea level. CALSTAR, an air ambulance, also assisted.

Search and rescue teams have responded to three incidents on the Lake Margaret Trail this year. The trail, a favorite for wildflower enthusiasts, meanders through varying terrain ranging from meadows to granite slabs. In the first mile, the trail makes a distinct split.

The temperature at night plummeted to near freezing.

At dawn, additional help from California Rescue Dog Association and Air National Guard arrived.

Cuzzillo was found near a creek around 8 a.m. Friday. Authorities said she was disoriented, scratched up, cold and wet.

She was wearing a shirt, shorts, knee brace and a day pack that contained some water, said Sgt. Marty Hackett.

Hackett advised day hikers to take necessary precautions before setting out for a long hike or breaking off from the group.

“Our recommendation is you stay teamed up with a partner so in case you do have a problem another person can help get you out to safety,” he said. “Bring water. In the high elevation it’s easy to become dehydrated.”

She was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital for examination and treatment.

— Tribune staff writers William Ferchland and Susan Wood contributed to this article.

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