LOS ANGELES (AP) — A hiker who was missing for five days in the rugged Southern California wilderness was found alive after an extensive search.

George Null, 58, was picked up Wednesday by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s helicopter in remote area of the Angeles National Forest. A Sheriff’s Department photo taken with a crew member showed Null dirty and with a stubbly beard but smiling broadly.

“So relieved,” his sister, Rebecca Latta, told Los Angeles news station KCBS-TV after learning of the rescue. “We didn’t know for days. Not knowing is so hard.”

The search by authorities and volunteers began Saturday when Null did not return from a day hike in the Mount Waterman area of the San Gabriel Mountains, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

The helicopter crew spotted him waving next to a creek in a deep canyon.

“The area that he was located in was at about 2,500 feet (762 meters), while the mountaintop that he came off of in order to get there is at approximately 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), so over several days, he’s made a lot of progress downstream,” sheriff’s Sgt. John Gilbert told the TV station.

Latta said her brother gave her a huge hug.

“I think he’s so exhausted that he really doesn’t have a lot of words right now, and he’s maybe a little bit delirious after five days of wandering around in the forest,” she said.

Latta said her brother is an experienced hiker, but he told her he became disoriented in an area burned last year by the Bobcat Fire, which blackened more than 180 square miles (468 square kilometers) of the forest.

“Since then the forestry service has closed these areas and recommended hikers don’t go in them,” Gilbert said.

The Angeles National Forest spans more than 1,000 square miles (2,590 square kilometers) between metropolitan Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert.

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