Four people who got lost in the wilderness after riding off a designated trail for off-highway vehicles have been rescued, the Madera County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.
It took three deputies and five volunteers nearly six hours Monday to rescue Nathan Kelly Brown, 37, of North Fork, Jacob Southers, 42, of Clovis, and two juveniles.
The stranded group called 911 around 5:30 p.m., sheriff's spokeswoman Eric Stuart said. They were found around 8 p.m. and returned to their vehicles later that night.
Riding three dirt bikes and an all-terrain vehicle, the group entered the wilderness off Roads 222 and 274 -- north of Putney Ranch Camp, which is just north of North Fork -- at an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet. Stuart said the novice riders found themselves in steep terrain and above their riding skill level.
In an attempt to get out of the wilderness, the group did what is referred to as "bushwhacking," blazing their own trail, Stuart said. That only got them farther into the mountainous region and way off course, she said.
With dusk setting in, they realized they were lost and called 911.
Detective Larry Rich, who oversees the sheriff's OHV unit, said the group was fortunate to have a cellphone equipped with GPS.
Even so, reaching them proved challenging, Stuart said. The group was located about a mile down a steep ravine.
Deputies later admonished the group for violating Madera County's OHV laws. In addition, two of the vehicles didn't have current registration, Stuart said.
She said riders are encouraged to contact the U.S. Forest Service for information about OHV trails and laws in Madera County. For more information about OHV laws, go to the Madera County Sheriff's web page.
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