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Missing El Capitan hiker found after walking home

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LAKESIDE, Calif. — A 67-year-old man got separated from a hiking companion at El Capitan Mountain in Lakeside and walked all night, almost all the way to his La Mesa home, where he was found safe Saturday morning.

Jerry Lee Hooton of La Mesa went missing after a friend lost sight of him while hiking east of the El Capitan Preserve around 3 p.m. Friday. Hooton’s friend, Wallace Mauck, alerted park rangers after Hooton failed to make it back to their vehicle, sheriff’s Sgt. Thomas Seiver said.

Sheriff’s search-and-rescue personnel and deputies were later called to the preserve at 13755 Blue Sky Ranch Road, but Hooton was not found in the subsequent search, Seiver said.

Another of Hooton’s friends called the sheriff’s department after being alerted to the search efforts and told authorities Hooton called him around 5:30 a.m. from a pay phone at a convenience store on Mission Gorge Road in Santee, Seiver said.

Deputies then focused their search efforts on the area between the store and Hooton’s home in La Mesa. Around 8:40 a.m. he was spotted walking in the vicinity of Lake Arrowhead Drive and Lake Murray Boulevard — more than 13 miles from El Capitan, according to Seiver.

Hooton told authorities he returned to Mauck’s vehicle, scrawled a message in the dirt and started walking to a trolley station to go home. Seiver said Hooton initially got lost, but later regained his bearings and continued walking until deputies found him.

Seiver said Hooton was apparently in good health and declined medical attention.

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