California hiker missing in the wilderness for 10 days survived only by drinking water from his boot

California hiker Lucas McClish disappeared on June 11 while taking a three-hour hike in his hometown of Boulder Creek. His family reported him missing on June 16 when he failed to show up for a family dinner on Father's Day. He had been missing for nearly 10 days when he was found by a rescue team in the mountains.

In this photo provided by SLV Steve, lost hiker Lukas McClish, 34, is reunited with his family in the rural community of Boulder Creek, Calif., on Thursday, June 20, 2024. McClish, who was missing for 10 days, was found safe and sound in the mountains in Northern California, authorities said. (SLV Steve via AP)(AP)

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Residents' report helps county search for McClish

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The Santa Cruz County clerk's office announced in a Facebook post Friday that McClish had been found. The missing person report from the hiker's family gave county officials the strength they needed to find McClish. Officials found him after sending search parties to several possible regions over the next four days. Locals played a key role in assisting county officials in their search when they reported hearing someone screaming for help in the Foreman Creek area off of Big Basin Highway around 3 p.m. on June 20.

The district office wrote in its Facebook post: “Officers responded with State Parks, Cal Fire and the Boulder Creek Fire Department and were able to confirm this was Lukas McClish, who had been missing since Tuesday, June 11th.”

Cal Fire, which assisted Santa Cruz County officials, shared an X-post, writing, “Multiple reports from witnesses hearing someone screaming for help, but that person's whereabouts were difficult to determine.” The sheriff's office expressed its gratitude and acknowledged the teamwork of everyone involved that led to a positive outcome.

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Alienated hiker survived only with water

McClish was lost in the woods for 10 days without assistance in obtaining food and water, raising questions about his wilderness survival. When asked about his survival methods in an interview with ABC 7, he explained, “I just made sure to drink a gallon of water every day, but then when it was almost gone, my body needed food and some type of nutritional intake.” He stored water in his boots and survived by hydrating his body with large amounts of water.

As KSBW reported, he said of his days in the wilderness, “I go up a ravine, down a ravine to the next waterfall, sit next to the waterfall and drink water out of my boot.” The hiker reportedly ate wild berries and slept on wet leaves while yelling, “Help, help. I'm over here.” Or, “Is anyone out there? I want a burrito and a taco bowl.” I thought about that every day as I slowly realized after the first five days that maybe I had overdone it,” as the New York Post reported.

The hiker set out that day with only pants, hiking boots, a pair of folding scissors, a flashlight and a hat, as it was only a few hours' hike for him.

McClish said it was a humbling experience and he probably hiked enough to last for the rest of the year.

Anna Harden

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