Lost Hiker Survives 10 Days in Santa Cruz Mountains on Berries and Boot Water

Hiker Lukas McClish, 34, was rescued on June 20 after spending 10 harrowing days lost in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, subsisting only on wild berries and a gallon of water per day that he collected in his boot, according to reports. 

Photo Credit: SLV Steve

On June 11, McClish embarked on what was meant to be a short, three-hour hike to go to work. Familiar with the area, McClish set out with just a multitool and flashlight, sans t-shirt. When he didn’t show up for Father’s Day on June 16, five days later, a massive search and rescue operation ensued to find the lost hiker. 

In an area with deep brush and winding trails in the San Lorenzo Valley, parts of the trail had also been decimated by wildfires, wiping out familiar landmarks for McClish to navigate, said ABC7 Los Angeles. From there, McClish deviated off-trail and found himself hopelessly lost, wandering each day to find an exit point. 

According to McClish, his survival hinged on drinking a gallon of water per day, which he collected from creeks with his boot, and foraging for wild berries. At night, he slept on a bed of wet leaves while continually shouting for help. 

“Just, ‘help, help. I’m over here.’ Or, ‘is anybody out there?’ I want a burrito and a taco bowl, that’s what I thought about every day when after the first five days, when I started to kind of realize that I might be in over my head,” McClish told KSBW.

At one point, McClish recounted a moment where a mountain lion followed him, keeping its distance, but never attacking. 

“It was cool,” he told KSBW. “It kept its distance. I think it was just somebody watching over me,” McClish told reporters. 

On June 20, someone finally heard his cries for help in Big Basin State Park. Boulder Creek first responders utilized drones to target his location, sending in K-9 units and rescuers to reunite McClish with his family after 10 long days.

Photo Credit: SLV Steve

Though his voice was hoarse and body sore, McClish exited the wilderness uninjured, grateful for the many paw and footprints that reflected this massive search effort. The rescue mission involved local law enforcement, Boulder Creek Fire Department, the sheriff’s office, state parks, and CAL FIRE. 

“It was just really humbling and I don’t know, it was an awesome experience,” McClish told ABC7.

When asked if he’d be returning to the trails any time soon, McClish and his family responded: “I did enough hiking for probably the whole rest of the year,” he said. 

Featured image: Lukas McClish rescued after 10 days via SLV Steve

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Comments 5

  • Licky McSplit : Jun 26th

    What a dumbass! Going out unprepared in the wilderness what a fantastic idea! Hope they stuck him with a huge rescue bill.

  • Robin Pierce : Jun 27th

    Agree with McSplit. The guy was “familiar” with the area. I call bs. Seems like an idiot that sucked up S&R resources.

  • Barney Stinson : Jun 27th

    why is his hair and beard white if he’s only in his 30’s?
    what type of meth-head goes out in the woods without a shirt? was it hike naked day?

    berries and boot water… bet he had a major case of the runs after all that.

  • Dennis Peery : Jun 28th

    Having spent time up there camping and hiking, his story makes no sense. If you look at Big Basin on a map, you’ll see that if you hike up you hit Hwy 9, go down, Hwy 1. There has to be more to this story, either a drug fueled haze, or he intentionally dodged SAR for days to become a “victim”. It simply doesn’t add up.

  • John : Jun 28th

    I admire him. So he made a mistake. He is humble and grateful. God bless him.


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