Hiker lost in California woods for 10 days needed 'rocks removed from back'

By John Mercury June 24, 2024

A hiker who lost more than 13kg after disappearing in California’s woods had to have rocks removed from his back. 

Pictures have emerged of the moment a shirtless Lukas McClish, 34, was reunited with his family after being lost for 10 days in Big Basin Redwood State Park.

Mr McClish was last seen on 11 June but was only reported missing on 16 June, when he failed to show up for a Father’s Day dinner, according to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office.

He was found on Friday after people reported hearing someone scream and drones were deployed to track him down.

The hiker reuniting with his loved ones. Pic: SLV Steve
Image:
The hiker reuniting with his loved ones. Pic: SLV Steve

Mr McClish, an experienced hiker, told the New York Times (NYT) he drank water from creeks and ate wild berries in order to survive – a “diet” which saw him lose 13.6kg (30lbs).

“I was kind of doing the water-diet thing,” said Mr McClish. “If you drink a gallon and a half of water every day, you don’t need food until you run out of carbs.”

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Mr McClish got lost on 11 June. Pic: SLV Steve
Image:
Mr McClish got lost on 11 June. Pic: SLV Steve

Mr McClish described how he had very little on him when he embarked on what he thought would only be a three-hour hike before work.

“I left with just a pair of pants, and my pair of hiking shoes, and a hat. I had a flashlight, and a pair of folding scissors, like a Leatherman tool. And that was about it,” he told ABC7.

But he ended up getting lost as landmarks along the track had been eroded by fires.

Emergency services deployed drones to the area after screaming was heard. Pic: SLV Steve
Image:
Emergency services deployed drones to the area after screaming was heard. Pic: SLV Steve

The sheriff’s office said it had received multiple reports of witnesses hearing someone yelling for help.

State Parks rangers were the first to discover him and fire crews helped bring him to safety on Friday.

During the first few days of his ordeal, Mr McClish tried to see his experience as an opportunity to spend time with himself and test his survival skills.

“So, I kind of just hiked,” he said. “Each day, I go up a canyon, down a canyon to the next waterfall, sit down by the waterfall, drink water out of my boot.”

But by day five, he started to look at ways of getting back home.

“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.

By day eight, Mr McClish was repeatedly shouting in the hope of getting someone’s attention as he suffered from hypothermia and had fallen while walking over a rock face.

Once rescued, Mr McClish was taken to hospital for a night, where he had rocks removed from his back, the NYT quoted him as saying.

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“I did enough hiking for probably the whole rest of the year,” he said.

“Me too,” his dad said.

“We’ve all hiked a lot,” his mother added.

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