Hiker found alive after 10 days lost in California mountains reveals how he survived

A shirtless hiker who went missing for 10 days in remote northern California mountains has been found alive despite having no water and not telling anyone where he was going.

Lukas McClish, 34, had set out on a three-hour hike through the Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Boulder Creek, California, on June 11 after his friend mentioned a granite outcropping in the area.

He did not tell anyone where he was going, and had brought with him just a few supplies because he is an experienced hiker who has traversed other rugged regions of the US.

‘I left with a pair of pants, and my hiking shoes and a hat,’ McClish told KGO-TV. ‘I had a flashlight and a air of folding scissors, like a Leatherman tool – and that was about it.’

McClish, an experienced hiker who does landscaping in forests razed by wildfires, said he was ‘astounded’ that he got lost – and so quickly. The alarm was only raised by his parents when he failed to turn up for lunch on father’s day.

Before he was rescued he spent nine nights and 10 days – shirtless – foraging for himself as he drank water from the creek, ate wild berries and slept on wet leaves, losing around 2.5st (30lbs) in weight.

Things got worse on day eight when he came down with hypothermia and slipped while going over a rock face. So decided to shout: ‘Help, help, I’m over here’ for around 48 hours before several of the 300 rangers searching for him heard him.

A drone was sent up and he was quickly found with the help of a sniffer dog. And remarkably he only needed one night in hospital before he could return home to his family, who had been waiting for him at the forest’s edge when he was rescued.

Lukas McClish, 34, was rescued from the Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Boulder Creek, California after 10 days

The moment that Mr McClish was reunited him with his family (pic

The moment that Mr McClish was reunited him with his family (pic

McClish said he initially considered the predicament a chance to test his survival skills

McClish said he initially considered the predicament a chance to test his survival skills

The area in which he was hiking had been razed in the CZU Lightning Complex fire of 2020 and ‘looks completely different from all of the other terrain,’ he explained.

‘That’s one thing I didn’t take into consideration – when the fire comes through like that and decimates it, it turns into the desert and you’re unable to find your bearings.’

The typical markers to indicate direction, such as deer trails or hiking paths, were gone.

But at first, McClish considered his predicament a chance to test his survival skills,  according to the New York Times.

‘I’m an avid backpacker, so for me to go out for a night or two is not out of the norm,’ he told the Times. 

On that first cold night, though, McClish tried to build himself a camp – but the brush he used to start a fire was wet.

He then hiked across a canyon for better shelter, and the next day set out to find a stream he thought would be nearby.

‘So I just kind of hiked,’ McClish told WDBJ. ‘Each day I go up a canyon, down a canyon, to the next waterfall, drank water out of my boot.’ 

‘I felt comfortable every time I was out there,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t worried about it.’

‘I had a mountain lion that was following me, but it was cool,’ McClish added. ‘It kept its distance.

‘I think it was just somebody watching over me.’

The Big Basin Redwoods State Park was hit by a wildfire in August that burned roughly 97 percent of the parks 18,224 acres

The Big Basin Redwoods State Park was hit by a wildfire in August that burned roughly 97 percent of the parks 18,224 acres

His parents grew worried when he did not show up for Fathers' Day and filed a missing persons report

His parents grew worried when he did not show up for Fathers’ Day and filed a missing persons report

But by day five, McClish started to grow concerned – and tried to find a way back to civilization.

‘I knew if I kept following the sun, I’d get to the ocean eventually, but I didn’t know how far from the ocean I was,’ he said.

Meanwhile, his family began to worry when he did not show up for Father’s Day, and filed a missing person’s report.

That sparked a massive manhunt, involving nearly 300 people and emergency personnel from several agencies. 

‘Some nights, although I just had to trust God that he was going to be OK – and that was hard to do some nights, when we would go to bed at night, because I would worry about where he was, where he was sleeping, how cold he was and where he was if he was alive,’ his mother, Diane McClish, told WDBJ.

The missing persons report sparked a massive, nearly 300-person manhunt for the missing hiker

The missing persons report sparked a massive, nearly 300-person manhunt for the missing hiker

McClish was finally found when park rangers heard his cries for help

McClish was finally found when park rangers heard his cries for help

As search efforts continued, McClish started shouting for help as he experienced hypothermia and slipped while going over a rock face. 

‘Help, help, I’m over here,’ he remembers screaming over and over during days eight and nine, along with ‘Is anybody out there?’ 

At the same time, McClish said he kept dreaming about his next meal as he was forced to survive on wild berries.

‘I wanted a burrito or a taco bowl,’ he said. ‘That’s what I thought about every day when I, after the first five days, when I started to kind of realize that I might be in over my head.’

Finally, at around 7.30pm on Thursday, two park rangers were making their way up a hill and heard McClish’s screams.

‘I’m thinking, I hope this isn’t a mirage,’ McClish recounted. 

The Boulder Creek Fire Department deployed a drone and spotted him, while a dog tracked him down

The Boulder Creek Fire Department deployed a drone and spotted him, while a dog tracked him down 

But the Boulder Creek Fire Department soon deployed a drone and spotted him, while a dog tracked him down.

He was then escorted out of the wilderness by police, and was reunited with his anxious family.

McClish would go on to spend Thursday night safely at a local hospital, where doctors removed rocks from his back.

He said he still doesn’t fear the wilderness, but admitted: ‘I did enough hiking for probably the whole rest of the year.’

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