A 16-year-old Chilean boy was returned safely to his group Monday morning after spending a cold night lost in the Mazatzals.
The boy suffered mild hypothermia, but was otherwise unharmed, after running away from the group he was camping with.
"The boy was with a group called Explorations Incorporated out of Montana," Gila County Sheriff's Sgt. Terry Hudgens said. "It's one of those groups that takes troubled kids out in the wilderness for hunting and camping, and in the process, does some therapy with the teens to improve their self-reliance, their self-esteem."
The group from Montana was camping 15 miles from the Barnhardt Trail in the Mazatzal Wilderness Area near the Gila-Yavapai county lines.
"When they got up Sunday morning, they found one of their four teens missing," Hudgens said. "One of the instructors tracked him back to the Castersen seat, but then lost him again."
Back at camp, instructors found a note left by the teen, in which the boy said he couldn't take the program any longer and was heading to California.
"He also told instructors that if they tried to stop him, he'd kill himself," Hudgens said, "so we had to proceed with caution."
Hudgens called in Tonto Rim Search and Rescue and a helicopter and they looked for the boy until midnight Sunday; they continued the search at daybreak Monday.
"At that time, one of the instructors continued the search, and eventually found him hiding under a tree," the sergeant said. "They took him back to camp, and they'll continue working with him on the therapy program."