Hiker Rescued 3 Hour Hike Turned Into 10 Day Nightmare

A shirtless hiker who vanished in the remote California mountains has been found alive after surviving for ten days by drinking water from his boot and eating wild berries. Lukas McClish, 34, embarked on what he thought would be a brief three-hour hike on June 11 to visit some rare granite outcroppings in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Boulder Creek. With minimal supplies and no communication of his plans, McClish did not anticipate the ordeal that lay ahead.

“I left with a pair of pants, my hiking shoes, and a hat,” McClish recounted to KGO-TV. “I had a flashlight and a pair of folding scissors, like a Leatherman tool—and that was about it.” Despite his experience as a hiker and his work in forest landscaping, McClish was astonished at how quickly he became lost. It wasn’t until June 16, five days after his departure, that his parents raised the alarm when he failed to show up for Father’s Day lunch.

Over the next nine nights and ten days, McClish wandered through the wilderness. He drank water from a creek using his boot, ate wild berries, and slept on wet leaves. “I just made sure I drank a gallon of water every day, but then after, getting close to the end of it, my body needed food and some kind of sustenance,” he explained. During his ordeal, McClish lost approximately 30 pounds and faced numerous dangers, including being followed by a mountain lion and developing hypothermia on the eighth day after slipping while climbing over rocks.

The area McClish was hiking in had been severely affected by the CZU Lightning Complex fire in 2020, drastically altering the landscape and making navigation difficult. “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,” McClish noted. Common markers like deer trails and hiking paths were no longer recognizable.

Initially, McClish saw his predicament as an opportunity to test his survival skills. “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 New York Times. However, the harsh realities of the wilderness soon set in. The first night was particularly cold, and attempts to start a fire with wet brush failed. He moved across a canyon for better shelter and sought out streams for water, each day venturing through canyons and waterfalls.

As the days wore on, McClish grew increasingly 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. His family, meanwhile, had reported him missing, prompting a massive search effort involving nearly 300 people and multiple emergency agencies. His mother, Diane McClish, shared her anguish: “I just had to trust God that he was going to be OK—and that was hard to do some nights.”

On the eighth and ninth days, suffering from hypothermia and slipping on rocks, McClish began shouting for help. “Help, help, I’m over here,” he recalled yelling repeatedly, hoping to catch someone’s attention. His dreams of food kept him going as he survived on wild berries, often fantasizing about a burrito or a taco bowl.

Finally, around 7:30 PM on June 20, two park rangers heard his cries while climbing a hill. “I’m thinking, I hope this isn’t a mirage,” McClish said. The Boulder Creek Fire Department deployed a drone, and a sniffer dog quickly located him. McClish was then escorted out of the wilderness and reunited with his family, who had anxiously awaited his return at the forest’s edge.

He spent one night in a hospital, where doctors treated him for minor injuries, including removing rocks from his back. Despite his harrowing experience, McClish remains unafraid of the wilderness but acknowledges, “I did enough hiking for probably the whole rest of the year.”


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