Ten Days in the Wilderness: How One Hiker Survived with Just a Knife

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Lukas McClish, 34, embarked on what was meant to be a brief three-hour hike through California’s Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Ten harrowing days later, he was miraculously found alive, having braved the wilderness with nothing but a flashlight, a pair of scissors, and a Leatherman tool. His story is a testament to human resilience and survival instinct.

A Routine Adventure Turned Nightmare

McClish, an experienced hiker, hadn’t told anyone of his plans, taking only minimal supplies: pants, hiking shoes, and a few tools. He quickly lost his way on what should have been a short trek. The alarm was raised five days after his departure when his parents noticed his absence at a Father’s Day lunch on June 16.

The rescue team found him on June 20, following nine nights and ten days of survival against all odds. During this period, McClish foraged for food, drank from creeks, and battled the elements, all while losing a staggering 30 pounds (13+ kilos).

Survival in the Wild

In his quest for survival, McClish faced a mass of challenges. He battled hypothermia, navigated rugged terrain, and even had a close encounter with a mountain lion. “I felt comfortable every time I was out there,” he said, reflecting on his ordeal. “I wasn’t worried about it. I had a mountain lion that was following me, but it was cool. It kept its distance. I think it was just somebody watching over me.”

His survival tactics were as gritty as they were ingenious. He drank water out of his boot, ate wild berries, and slept on wet leaves. Attempting to build a campfire proved futile due to wet brush, so he sought shelter in canyons and followed creeks in search of a way out.



The Final Days

By day five, McClish realized the gravity of his situation and began trying to navigate 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 recounted. His family, deeply worried, had already sparked a massive search operation involving nearly 300 people.

McClish’s thoughts frequently turned to food, dreaming of burritos and taco bowls as his hunger intensified. Despite his ordeal, his spirit remained unbroken.

The Rescue

On the evening of June 20, McClish’s desperate cries for help were finally heard. Two park rangers, scaling a hill, detected his screams. “I’m thinking, I hope this isn’t a mirage,” McClish recalled. The Boulder Creek Fire Department deployed a drone to locate him, and a search dog confirmed his position.

He spent the night at a local hospital, where doctors tended to his injuries. Despite the trauma, McClish remains undeterred, stating, “I did enough hiking for probably the whole rest of the year,” but he has no plans to give up his passion for climbing.

McClish’s ordeal underscores the importance of preparation and communication in outdoor adventures. His survival is a powerful reminder of the outdoors’ unpredictability. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a novice adventurer, McClish’s story is a call to always be prepared, stay vigilant, and never underestimate the wilderness, make sure you tell others where you are going and even in the best conditions prepare for the worst .

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