Missing Hiker Found In Californian Mountains After 10 Days!

Missing Hiker Found In Californian Mountains After 10 Days!

A California man named Lukas McClish spent ten days stranded in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California after what was supposed to be a short hike. McClish, 34, began his hike on June 11, planning for it to last only three hours. However, he got lost, which eventually led to a 10-day ordeal of survival. His family’s concerns grew when he missed a planned Father’s Day dinner on June 16. They quickly reported him missing and search efforts were launched immediately.

McClish was ultimately found with the help of a drone from the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office on June 21, in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. He shared his 10-day survival challenges following the rescue, including him being stalked by a mountain lion. Let’s have a look at the full story.

“I lost 30 pounds in 10 days.”

McClish told the New York Times.

The Unexpected Turn: Lost in the Wilderness

Lukas McClish, an experienced backpacker familiar with the Santa Cruz Mountains, had not thought what could go wrong when he set out for a hike. He started without camping gear, a pocket knife, or a cellphone as he had previously completed this hike multiple times. Unfortunately, little did Lukas know, that the recent wildfires had drastically changed the landscape. As a result, he lost his sense of direction.

“When the fire comes through like that and decimates it, it turns into the desert, and you’re unable to find your bearings.”

Reflecting on the disorientation, McClish explained.
Image source: YAHOO /Daily Mail

Survival: Sleeping Inside A Log and Drinking Water From His Boots!

During his first days in the wilderness, McClish relied on water to stave off hunger, drinking up to a gallon and a half each day. Despite his efforts, he lost 30 pounds over the ten days. “I was kind of doing the water-diet thing,” he said. Lukas used his boots to collect and drink water from a waterfall.

His situation worsened as he battled hypothermia and had no proper shelter. To stay warm at night, he stuffed himself inside a hollowed-out log.

“It was cold at night. I would usually build a lean-to and use dry duff on the bottom to stay warm. It did not provide me with much insulation.”

McClish recalled.

Adding to his challenges, a mountain lion began tracking him. McClish described the encounter: “He kept his distance, he was a pretty cool lion, I guess.” His albinism further complicated his survival, making his skin extremely vulnerable to sunburn. So, he had to stay under tree canopies during the day.

The Search and Rescue Operation

When McClish’s family reported him missing on June 16, a multi-agency search was quickly initiated. The search efforts included the use of advanced technology like drones. McClish was eventually located by the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office drone in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, an area known for its ancient redwoods. McClish was found with severe sunburn, scrapes, bruises, and rocks embedded in his back from a fall.

Image source: New York Post

Post-Rescue Recovery: Severe Sunburns

After his ordeal, McClish received medical treatment for his injuries and sunburn. His first full meal was a burrito and taco bowl, which he had craved during his time in the wilderness.

“I have lived here all my life, I have hiked many treacherous trails from up north in the Sierras to down south, and I never assumed our mountains were like that. I didn’t realize they could be so harsh.”

Reflecting on his experience, McClish noted.

His family and community were relieved and overjoyed by his safe return.

Image source: David Buchen for Daily Mail
Image source: New York Daily News


Lukas McClish’s harrowing ten-day ordeal in the Santa Cruz Mountains underscores the importance of preparation, even for seemingly routine hikes. Despite his experience and familiarity with the terrain, recent wildfires had altered the landscape, leading to his disorientation. Relying on water to survive, battling hypothermia, and avoiding a tracking mountain lion, McClish’s resilience was remarkable.

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