This hiker survived 9 days with a can of SpaghettiOs. Here's his story
Last month, the girlfriend of a hiker posted a notice that he was missing. Andrew Devers, age 25, five feet ten inches, brown eyes. Long, dark brown hair to the middle of his back, scruffy beard, using a small gray backpack. Devers had set out to hike the Pratt River Trail near North Bend on Friday, June 18. Search and rescue teams went out that Monday but had no success.
Nine days later, two trail runners found him. This is Dever’s story, in his own words, as told to KUOW’s Kim Malcolm.
It was a standard Friday. At around 10 or 11 in the morning, I decided I didn’t want to be inside anymore.
I planned on being out for a day. I had my backpack with me, a can of SpaghettiOs, and a giant thermos of water.
I’d been hiking before – the past two, three years, I’d gone on maybe three or four hikes per summer. I was fairly confident in my ability, but I’m not Bear Grylls.
As I was getting out of my car, I realized I had Mountain Dew in my trunk. Horrible fuel for a hike, but whatever – throw it in the bag.
It was a gorgeous day at the hiking trail. The breeze was hitting off the water, and the sun was dappling through the trees. I was having a good time.
This was my first time on a trail where the path wasn’t two feet by two feet. It wasn’t very obvious where to go, and there were some parts of the trail where you just had to shoulder your way through trees or push through bushes. I started realizing that I wasn’t going the way that I wanted when I saw a sign that said something like avalanche. I went I little farther than that, and then I turned around. I didn’t want to finish the trail.
By the time I got back, the avalanche had completely changed the scenery of the trail. It was already a confusing trail, but I thought that I knew where I was going. I was in my head for 40 or 50 minutes before I turned around and suddenly – there’s no trail.
I turned around and looked for specific landmarks. But moments turn into minutes, and minutes turn into half hours and hours. It slowly started dawning on me that I legitimately did not know where I was. I was pretty hopeful, though. I didn’t think I was lost. The weather was still nice, and I thought I would hear somebody eventually.
The first night was weird. I told myself, ‘Oh, this is like a movie now. I guess we have to find a place to sleep. This tree looks nice. This ground looks soft. Let's elevate my head. Let's like keep my feet off the floor. Let's make sure I'm warm and covered.’ It felt like a mini-vacation – almost.
I opened up my backpack, and used it to cover my feet, it was like an eighth of a sleeping bag. I have a tiny torso so I was able to bring my shirt above my knees. I used my luscious long hair as a pillow. I knew my girlfriend would be upset that I wasn’t home, but she’d be all right tomorrow. I didn’t feel any concern that night.
The next day, I heard a stream and filled the thermos I brought with me. At that point I was pretty confident that I would come across people because it was a Saturday. All I would have to do is to sit and wait to hear some voices. My plan was to just wait for help.
I didn’t realize this at the time, but sound carries through water differently. I was hearing conversations from the stream, but they could have been coming from miles away. I had no idea how close those people actually were. I was calling out and yelling to the voices, asking for help.
ntil my third day in the forest, I didn’t have any food, just water. I still hadn’t heard humans respond to my calls. But across a river, I saw some trees falling down. Somebody was cutting trees! They couldn’t hear me yell out. The river was as loud as a helicopter.
I decided to cross the river. The current was super fast, so I walked half a mile to find a rock bridge that I could use to cross. I found a spot with six rocks. I made it across five rocks, but on the sixth, it fell out from underneath my feet. I tumbled down the river.
I reached out for a branch, but it snapped. And in the moment, my brain decided it would be a really hilarious time to pause and be like, ‘This is like that moment from the Lion King when Mufasa dies.’
I was like, ‘Andrew, stand up. This is not the time to have your Disney moment.’ And I reach out for another branch and pull myself up. Shortly after that, I hear what I swear is my girlfriend’s voice saying, ‘Look here.’ And to my right is this perfect salmonberry.
I follow the berries, which lead me to this perfect oasis where berries surround me, and there's a giant moss rock that I can sleep on. I was able to recover there for two days while I ate berries and let the wounds heal on my legs.
’m not really a person who can stay put. I have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), so I can’t really stay still anyways. That was accelerated by the fact that I was yelling and screaming and nobody was replying back to me.
I felt like I was a ghost, like I was alone. But I ran into birds and squirrels. They were my friends, because I needed friends at that point.
At some point, when I was sleeping, I heard like this breath that sounded dense. And then I heard a footstep crunch the grass. I have no idea what it was. A mountain lion? A bear? I yelled at him, for 30 minutes, please don't come to me.
On the third or fourth day in the forest, I saw the helicopters. One flew overhead of me, and I thought to myself, ‘Yep, no one’s saving me. I have to save myself.’
By day four, my mind stopped being able to process years and months. It was only able to process hours and days. I wasn’t able to think of what I was doing next week; I was only able to think of what was happening in the moment, questions like ‘Do I have berries for the next few hours?’
I was definitely thinking I was going to die. I was accepting it, but then I’d tell myself, ‘No, stop accepting it, you’re going to live, and get out of here. You have a dog; you have a girlfriend at home. You have things to fight for.’
But that would only last for a little bit. There was a point where I accepted death. I thought the helicopters would never see me. I thought, ‘I’m only walking to make it easier for the rescue workers.’
I had taken a notebook with me because I like writing poems when I go on hikes. I started writing out wedding vows to my girlfriend, and a will. They got really sad and really dark. It was a bad mental place. I had no concept of time. Just emotions and feelings.
By day five, the cuts on my body were starting to add up, and so was the exhaustion. My body wasn’t recovering from anything. Normally when you get a cut, it heals. But nothing was healing. I could see my body was slowly dying.
After eight days, through the power of spite, berries, and water, I somehow was able to find my way back on the exact same trail I ended up getting lost on. As soon as that happened, the “Rocky” theme music started playing in my mind.
I got about a mile and a half or two miles out from the start of the hike. The sunlight was hitting, and I was afraid of popping an ankle, so I just slept on the trail. And then the next morning, these hikers woke me up. It was like a scene from Baywatch. They were two perfectly in-shape dudes who looked like they were there to save me. They gave me some food and told me they’d get help. They left, but a few hours later, more rescuers appeared.
While I was praying and calling out to my friends, they were actually flying in to help find me. One of my friends is an Eagle Scout, and he flew in from Albuquerque to hike with my other friend. They were the ones who found my car. The first person who visited me at the hospital was my girlfriend, Krysteena.
The doctors who checked me out at the hospital were definitely surprised. They checked me for all these things, but I was physically fine. Physically, I do feel pretty close to what I would say is normal, although it's hard to remember what normal was, because that was three weeks ago. A week ago, I thought I was dead.
I’m now going to be the most organized hiker there is. My friends aren’t gonna let me go hiking alone again.
I’m able to see things in the moment and appreciate the moment so much more now, like falling asleep with my cat, or Chipotle. I didn’t think I would experience those things again. It's hard not to feel like overwhelming amounts of joy. But at the same time, like overwhelming amounts of guilt for all the people I put through all this. It’s painful dealing with those violently different emotions on an equal level.
I have no words to describe how grateful I am to the hikers who found me. I'm normally a man with a lot of words, and they left me speechless.
This essay has been edited for length and clarity. Noel Gasca produced this story for the web.