A Gardnerville woman is recovering from mild frostbite at a Carson City hospital after spending six nights in Hope Valley.
Gardnerville resident Paula Lane, 46, and boyfriend Roderick Paul Clifton, 44, were reported missing after they left Citrus Heights, Calif., on the afternoon of Nov. 29.
On Wednesday, Lane was found walking along Burnside Lake Road by her brother, who took a frontloader from a nearby state transportation shed and drove up the road.
According to Alpine County Undersheriff Rob Levy, the couple was stuck near the top of the road after Clifton decided to try out the 1989 Jeep Cherokee's four-wheel drive capability. They drove around the locked gate.
The U.S. Forest Service had closed dirt roads throughout the Sierra for the season on the same day.
Levy said the Jeep became stuck in the mud at Burnside Lake and the couple spent the night there. On the morning of Nov. 30, as a major storm was rolling into the Sierra, Clifton tried to walk down to Highway 88 at 9:09 a.m.
"Lane attempted to convince Clifton to stay with the vehicle," Levy said. "Lane stayed with the vehicle until Monday when she attempted to walk and crawl out."
Levy said Lane's brother Gary became convinced that the couple might have gone to Burnside Lake, where they'd camped before.
"Gary Lane commandeered a CalTrans front loader that was parked in a sand shed nearby," Levy said. "Lane drove up the road with the loader for several miles where he found Lane distressed and crawling in the road. Lane loaded Paula Lane into the bucket of the loader and returned her to Highway 88. Once there, they proceeded to Sorensen's."
Lane told responders she'd found Clifton's body along the roadway while making her way down the road. Searchers from Eldorado and Alpine County rode snowmobiles up the road and found the body about a mile north of Burnside Lake.
Lane is at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center recovering after she arrived there 9 p.m. Wednesday. Dr. Vijay Maiya reported that her condition is remarkable good for spending most of a week in the mountains.
Clifton's cause of death is pending an autopsy.
The search came to light on Monday after Citrus Heights authorities issued a bulletin asking people to be on the lookout for the couple and describing the blue 1989 Jeep they were last seen in.
At one point a helicopter joined the search tracing their route up Highway 50 and over Luther Pass on Highway 89 to the junction with Highway 88.
Cell phone reception is almost nonexistent in the Sierra around Hope Valley.