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Inside the Incredible Survival of Calif. Hiker Missing in Mountains for 10 Days: How He was Stalked by 'Pretty Cool' Mountain Lion, Drank a Gallon of Water out of Boot Daily

Missing hiker stalked by mountain lion, drank water from boot while lost 10 days in Northern California woods.
Source: Santa Cruz Sheriff; CAL FIRE

A missing hiker reunited with his family after getting stalked by a mountain lion and losing 30 pounds while lost for a harrowing 10 days in the Northern California woods.

Jun. 27 2024, Published 4:30 p.m. ET

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A missing hiker reunited with his family after getting stalked by a mountain lion and losing 30 pounds while lost for a harrowing 10 days in the Northern California woods, has learned.

Lukas McClish, 34, set out for a three-hour hike from his hometown of Boulder Creek on June 11, but five days later, he didn't show up for Father's Day dinner. His loved ones reported him missing on June 16, and officials launched an extensive search effort.

Several agencies combed the mountainous area for four days until, on the afternoon of June 20, witnesses reported hearing someone yelling for help near a highway in Big Basin State Park, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said.

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After using drones to pinpoint his exact location, State Parks rangers found McClish in a remote canyon and helped the disheveled man to safety. He had "no major injuries," according to deputies, but the hiker — who has albinism — was severely sunburned, and covered in scrapes and bruises.

McClish also said doctors had to remove rocks that had become lodged in his back from when he tumbled off of a boulder.

The hiker has spoken to several outlets since the ordeal, and explained that the landscape once familiar to him were transformed by recent wildfires, causing him to veer off-path. About an hour into his trip, he realized he was lost.

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“The terrain had changed since the fire," he told the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. "There was no sign of game trials or fire roads which I could usually use to get my bearings."

McClish, who hadn't brought his cell phone or pocket knife with him, only had a foldable pair of scissors and a flashlight at his disposal as he relied on survival instincts to scrape by. He took shelter from the frigid nights in hollowed out logs and drank creek water from his boots.

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california hiker missing in mountains for  days
Source: Santa Cruz Sheriff

Lukas McClish, 34, had no major injuries when officials found him in a remote canyon in Big Basin State Park.

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"It was better than trying to catch enough water in my hands," the hiker said, calling his boots the most valuable thing he had with him. His flashlight also lasted nine nights, which he said "was surprising."

"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," the hiker explained, "I didn't realize they could be so harsh."

But McClish's dire situation escalated when he realized a mountain lion had begun stalking him, he said.

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"He kept his distance, he was a pretty cool lion, I guess," the adventurer recalled. He avoided a confrontation with the predator, but was becoming increasingly famished and weathered by his exposure to the wild area and decided to hunker down near a waterfall and await help.

"I just make sure I drank a gallon of water every day, but then after, getting close to the end of it, my body needed food and some kind of sustenance," McClish told ABC News.

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"Every day I hoped they would find me before 8 PM so I could get a burrito and taco bowl," he said. The starving hiker ravenously indulged in the meal he had been longing for after his trip to the hospital, but he told The New York Times he "lost 30 pounds in 10 days.”

Relieved to be home, McClish expressed gratitude for the massive search effort, calling it "just really humbling," adding, "I don't know, it was an awesome experience."



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