Missing hiker survives by drinking water gathered in boot

Photo of missing hiker hugging his family after he was found
Lukas McClish was found with no major injuries and was reunited with his family [SVL Steve]

A California hiker has been rescued after being stranded in the mountains for 10 days, surviving on little but wild berries and water that he collected in his boot.

Lukas McClish, 34, went out for what was supposed to be a three-hour hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains on 11 June.

But he soon lost his way, in part due to the destruction of landmarks by recent wildfires in the area.

His family reported him missing on 16 June after he did not show up for Father’s Day, triggering a multi-day search and rescue effort.

Mr McClish was found on Thursday after a drone from the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office spotted him.

In a post on X, Cal Fire San Mateo, which assisted in the rescue efforts, said there were “multiple reports of witnesses hearing someone yelling for help, but the location of that person was hard to establish”.

They said Mr McClish was found in the forest between Empire Grade Road and the Big Basin Highway in Santa Cruz County.

He was found with no major injuries and was reunited with his family, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said.

“This truly was a team effort with the best outcome we could have hoped for,” the sheriff’s office said.

In an interview with a local ABC News outlet, Mr McClish said he went out hiking that day with “just a pair of pants, and my pair of hiking shoes, and a hat”.

“I had a flashlight, and a pair of folding scissors, like a Leatherman tool. And that was about it,” he added.

He said he survived by drinking large quantities of water, which he collected from a waterfall using his boot.

“I just made 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,” he said.

Mr McClish said the ordeal left him “tired and a little sore”, and that he was moved to see all the rescue teams that had searched for him.

"It was just really humbling and I don't know, it was an awesome experience," Mr McClish said, but added he likely will not be going out in the wilderness for a while.

"I did enough hiking for probably the whole rest of the year," he said