Rescued after 5 days: lost hiker shares his story - KPTV - FOX 12

Rescued after 5 days: lost hiker shares his story

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GRESHAM, OR (KPTV) -

He spent five and a half days lost and alone in the Oregon wilderness and survived. Now, Nathan Mitchell is sharing his incredible story for the very first time as he recovers in the hospital.

Mitchell, 34, was found Thursday just before noon, after he set out for a day hike in the Wildwood Recreation Area near Welches on Saturday.

In his first interview since being rescued, Mitchell expressed the gratefulness he had for the familiar faces that found him.

“I feel very happy to be alive, very thankful for my friends, and feeling good,” he said Friday afternoon.

Mitchell said he was roughly seven miles into the woods Saturday when he got lost with a major storm about to hit.

“I took a wrong trail and it kind of looked like the trail kept going down the hill, and it looked less and less like a trail,” he recalled. “I was so far down the hill, it was almost on a cliff side at that point, and that’s when I knew I needed to really start thinking about survival tactics.”

He said that first night alone in the woods was the worst. In the torrential rain, he tumbled down part of a hillside. When he climbed back up, his backpack tumbled down the slope with his phone and nearly all of his supplies inside.

The only thing Mitchell had left was a flashlight, and the batteries didn’t last long.

“That’s when I started panicking, losing hope for a brief time,” he said. “But I really wanted to stay alive.”

On day two, he found another trail, not realizing it was taking him farther into the woods, over steep ridges and canyons.

By day three, he was only following a network of converging streams, drinking the water to stay alive.

“I remember being told how big that area was and how deceptive it was because you can kind of hear the highway maybe, but maybe it’s the waterfall,” he explained.

Mitchell saw a rescue helicopter, but in the dense forest, he had no way to signal for help. He had no food and no way to communicate and spent each night trying to stay warm hunkered down next to a tree.

By days four and five, his hope was starting to fade, and it was exhaustion that ultimately worried him the most.

“I just kept thinking I’ve got to make it out of here, I’m not going to give up,” he recalled. “But day four – I think people in the search too, and myself – you start to despair.”

Mitchell said he knew people would be looking for him, but he had no idea how large the group was. Search and rescue volunteers from all over the state were on the mission, along with roughly 50 of his family and friends.

It was Thursday afternoon – five and a half days after he left his car – that two childhood friends who’d been searching for him hit the jackpot.

Mitchell was found in a drainage area off the Bonanza Trail.

“[My friend] was like, ‘Oh my God, dude, I can’t believe you’re here. Do you know how many people are looking for you?’” he recalled. “I was like, ‘I think there’s probably a few.’”

He was escorted out of the woods where he was finally reunited with his family.

“My sister started crying, I just know how much my parents were worried, but I didn’t know they had this huge, huge group of people all worried,” Mitchell said in tears. “I’d like to thank the hospital and my friends and family and all the sheriffs. Everybody.”

Mitchell said he might take a couple of weeks off, but he will be hiking again soon – this time with a buddy and a locator beacon. He expected to be released from a Gresham hospital on Saturday.

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