SAN DIEGO — On Friday morning, 21-year-old Max Lenail went for a hike alone in Mission Trails. On Saturday, his body was found in the San Diego River by rescue crews. By all indications, Lenail was an experienced outdoorsman, who frequently hiked and rock climbed. It’s a chilling reminder that no matter who you are, nature cannot be underestimated.
“Hiking in San Diego is beautiful,” says Cal Fire Captain Tom Paranio. “Some are easy, some are more expert. But I really feel this could have been avoided.”
Although Paranio didn’t work the Lenail case, he has experience with rescuing hikers who are ill-prepared to deal with the elements. He said that weather might have been a factor.
“San Diego weather changes pretty drastically from the coast to the mountains. We say dress for success [with] warm clothing, food, water, socks, shoes,” Paranio said.
The weather on Friday was dreadful for hiking. A mix of rain and hail pummeled San Diego for most of the day. Since it is a predominantly desert climate, San Diego can be very prone to flash flooding, which can lead to dangerous situations.
“If you see a running stream, you never want to cross it,” said Paranio. “You would be very surprised how much force and pressure even one foot of water under a certain speed can sweep you off your feet.”
Weather appropriate clothing, sturdy shoes, plenty of water, snacks and a fully charged cell phone are all necessities before you hit the trail. Above all, if you’re preparing to go on a hike it is recommended that you let people know where you are going and when you’re expecting to be back. At this time, there is little known about what happened to Max Lenail, but Paranio never wants to see it happen again.
“This is a very sad case, such a young man and such a bright future," he said. "To really give back from this incident to others to see what we could do to prevent this.”