3 missing hikers from Bay Area found, officials say

SAN JOSE (BCN) -- Three Bay Area hikers who were reported missing in a remote region along the Sierra Nevada have been located this morning following an extensive search, sheriff's officials said.

San Jose resident Steven Morales, 62, Menlo Park resident Christine Ricks, 46, and Sunnyvale resident Venu Aruva, 32, were initially reported missing Monday evening after they failed to return from a backpacking trip Sunday, according to the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office.

They were found safe near Sheep Camp. No other information about how they were located was immediately available from the sheriff's office.

The trio had gone to the Emigrant Wilderness, located in the unincorporated community of Pinecrest. After contacting the U.S. Forest Service, sheriff's officials learned the group obtained a wilderness permit before entering the area.

The permit was filed under Ricks' name, with three people reported to be in her party. The permit was obtained Wednesday with a planned entry date of the following day and an exit date of Sunday, sheriff's officials said.

Sheriff's officials located Morales' car, which was parked at Kennedy Meadows Resort. The owner said he had spoken with the trio before they began their hike, saying they had planned to hike to Emigrant Lake. They also mentioned stopping at Relief Reservoir.

Heavy rains, snow, lightning and winds occurred throughout the region over the weekend. Sheriff's officials had said they believed the group may have been impacted by the inclement weather, which created extremely muddy conditions and caused the Stanislaus River to rise significantly, according to the sheriff's office.

The county's Search and Rescue Team and a Cal Fire helicopter assisted with the search.