"She was with the two dogs like it was just another walk," searcher Bill Tracy said. he spotted the girl walking along a ridge in the foothills east of Valle Vista. "She told me she was going home," he said.
Dozens of searchers scoured the rugged foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains near Highway 74 after Skyler was reported missing about 6 p.m. Monday. While visiting friends with her parents, she walked away with a 2-year-old Great Dane and a 8-week-old German Shepherd puppy. Skyler was wearing a sun dress and sandals.
About 20 people on foot and on horseback spent the night combing the area near the Cranston Ranger Station, south of Highway 74 and just inside the boundary of the San Bernardino National Forest.
At 7:30 a.m., as Riverside County Sheriff's Dapartment spokesman mark Wasserman was announcing that the search was being expanded, word came that Skyler had been spotted.
Tracy, a member of the Hemet-based Sheriff;s Posse, said he and Rick Buffington were looking for a spot to use as a staging area when they saw some movement about a quart-mile away. As the heavy cloud cover cleared, the rising sun outlined Skyler and the dogs.The men approached the girl and asked how she was doing.
"She told them she was hungery," Buffington said.
Smiling searchers, family members and friends greeted her at the rangers station. Some wiped away tears. Others hugged.
Except for a few scratches, the blond haired girl appeared to be fine, authorities said. She was examined by paramedics; her parents planned to take her to the doctor.
Skyler told rescuers she became tired the night before and fell asleep under some bushes. The dogs stayed with her, keeping her warm through temperatures in the 40s.
"They slept with her," Wasserman said. "It might have been different if they had not been there. It definitely would have been harder for her to survive."
As rescue teams collected their equipment, Skyler's stepfather, John Stark, carried her to a waiting car with her mother. She was wrapped in a blanket.
"There is no feeling like this," he said, as Skyler sat in the car with her mother."It feels great."
By Jose Arballo Jr.