'I wanted to live': Hiker shares how he survived 5 days in the wilderness

Rescued hiker: 'I wanted to live'

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Nate Mitchell, rescued after five and a half days in the wilderness near Mount Hood will spend a second night in the hospital.

I’m feeling great. Bottom of my feet are sore,” he said from his hospital bed on Friday.

And now, the 34-year old is telling his story.

It began last Saturday, a spontaneous chance he thought, for a summer ending hike by himself before the big storm hit. He now admits he was way too confident.

“Yeah. So people saw my Instagram photos that I put up for a reason, cause I knew it’s not super safe to be climbing on this steep trail. There's water coming over the trail, but I didn’t think it was a really significant storm. I’ve been training all summer,” he said.

EARLIER: Portland hiker found alive after 5 days in wilderness

He decided on the Boulder Ridge Trail at the last minute, not even telling his wife, one of his many mistakes he now admits.

Mitchell's father found his car only after convincing Subaru to locate it electronically.

Mitchell made it to the top of the Boulder Ridge Trail, a steep climb stretching over seven miles.

But on the way down, he took a wrong turn and as the storm hit and he tried to shelter under a tree. He set his backpack on the ground, and put his hands up under his shirt into his armpits for warmth.

It worked fine until he lost his balance. He couldn’t get his arms out in time to stop and fell down a steep hill.

“It wasn’t a real extreme tumble,” he said.

“It was like bark dust and it was sliding but that was a big turning point in the whole trip because I bumped my back. It’s just a bruising there now but I thought in my head, 'You know I’m an injury lawyer, oh that's a herniated disc. No. It's back strain. I hit my head--that’s a concussion--no I just bumped my head.' And I crawled back up but that’s when I lost my backpack and that’s when I started panicking, losing hope,” he said.

At some point after his climb back up he bumped the backpack and it rolled further down the hill, and in the darkness, Mitchell couldn’t see it. It was gone.

The backpack held his cell phone, extra food and coat.

He wouldn’t eat for the next four and a half days. He drank water from streams that he followed down the mountain.

Over the next couple days he began yelling.

“It started with hello and then turned into help," he said.

Mitchell began following a stream downhill, having to cross back and forth as it dropped farther down the mountain. That’s how his feet got and stayed wet.

As the days wore on, he hiked and slept during the day. Then stayed awake but did not move at night. He felt it was too dangerous. He had an outer coat, a wool shirt and a tech T-shirt. He remembered that the week ahead held unseasonably warm weather that would also be dry. That helped his spirits.

A massive search began and he could hear helicopters but not see them.

Finally, on late Thursday morning, his friends found him as they checked back one last time on a trail they had already searched.

Mitchell was fighting a sinking feeling that this would not end well.

“It was kind of beautiful, the nature was kind of beautiful, but I was again, in another time of despair. I really wanted to live. I thought I was going to but I wasn’t sure,” he said.

"I kept thinking, I want to live 40- 50 more years,” Mitchell added.

The rescue gave him a new outlook on life.

“That feeling was just amazing. And my sister started crying. I just knew my parents were worried. But I didn’t know they had this huge, huge group of people all worried,” Mitchell said, tearing up.

Now that he’s safe, he’d like to say thank you.

“I'd like to thank the hospital, my friends and family, all the sheriffs, everybody,” he said. 

© 2017 KGW-TV


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