Every year, thousands of people go hiking in the woods. Unfortunately, a number of these people become lost and are never seen or heard from again. Sometimes, missing people have no idea how they got in the woods in the first place.
When someone disappears into the wilderness, rescuers and volunteers will mobilize in an attempt to locate them. Such efforts have saved many lives over the years. Other times, through skill or luck, lost hikers make it back to civilization on their own. These are ten stories of people who got lost but were eventually found.
10 Aleksandr Kovalev
The taiga of Siberia is a vast forest. In the winter, there is so much snow that poor visibility makes it nearly impossible for people to escape, which is why it remains largely uninhabited by human beings. In September 2017, a man named Aleksandr Kovalev disappeared from work in the Siberian village of Beregovoy. His truck had a full tank of gas, and his glasses were left inside the vehicle. It didn’t make any sense why he should abandon the truck when he could barely see.
For two weeks, no one knew where Aleksandr was . . . until he emerged from the taiga. He got out of the woods, found a highway, and stayed until help arrived. It’s a miracle that he survived in the freezing Siberian wilderness for two weeks without food or water, not to mention the fact that the taiga is also known to be inhabited by black bears, wolves, and tigers.
He had frostbite all over his legs and needed to be hospitalized. When his own children asked him why he was out in the wilderness in the first place, he said he did not know. He also felt too traumatized by the experience to talk about it.
9 Lisa Theris
During the summer of 2017, 25-year-old radiology student Lisa Theris went missing, and after several weeks, she was declared dead. In reality, she had trusted two men she’d just met, who happened to have criminal records. Suddenly, everything went dark. She woke up completely naked and without shoes in the woods of Alabama. She was also missing her glasses. Her eyesight is so bad that without her glasses, she is legally blind. She became lost in the woods and found a walking stick to help her maneuver through the wilderness. Lisa claims that she has no memory of how she ended up in the woods in the first place. She may have been drugged.
She was lost for a total of 28 days. Doctors believe that she lost 18 kilograms (40 lb). She survived by eating mushrooms and berries and drinking water from puddles. When it rained, she would wring the water out of her hair and drink that. Her legs are scarred from scratches, bug bites, and poison ivy. She eventually found a road and collapsed from exhaustion. A female driver thought Lisa was a dead animal but immediately pulled over to help her and called 911 once she realized Lisa was a human being. The ambulance arrived, and Lisa was reunited with her family.
The two men who Lisa was with are named Randall Wade and Manley Green. By the time Lisa showed up alive, they had already been arrested for a theft around the same time as her disappearance. Lisa claims that the entire experience completely changed her life. It gave her a new appreciation for everything. She kept the walking stick as a reminder of her journey. During an interview, she clutched onto it in appreciation of how it saved her life. “It helped me out a lot.” Not much is being reported about the two men because it is still an ongoing investigation.
8 Liang Sheng Yueh
A young couple, 21-year-old Liang Sheng Yueh and his 19-year-old girlfriend Liu Chen Chun, were hiking in Nepal in 2017. The weather suddenly got very bad, and they could no longer see where they were going. They both fell into a ravine, where their lives were only spared because they found shelter in a cave on the edge of a cliff. They had no way of escaping for seven weeks straight. Eventually, they ran out of the food they brought with them. Ultimately, Liu died, and Liang slept most of the time to conserve what little energy he had left. The rescue team found them only three days later.
Liang was still alive, but he had lost 30 kilograms (66 lb), and maggots were already eating away at his right leg, which had been injured. The rescue team was only able to find Liang and Liu because vultures were circling around their bodies. Liang says that the only reason he survived was because he continued to eat the snow around him and lick salt that he’d brought with the food. He was lifted out by a helicopter and brought to a hospital immediately.
7 Barbara And La’Myra Briley
In December 2016, 71-year-old New Jersey native Barbara Briley was driving down to North Carolina to visit relatives for Christmas with her great-granddaughter La’Myra. Barbara was lost in the middle of Virginia. She tried stopping at a gas station to ask for help. The clerk tried to help her with the GPS. Barbara misunderstood her GPS’s instructions, however, and turned down a random dirt road. She was around 1.6 kilometers (1 mi) deep into the woods when she drove over a small fallen tree. Her car became stuck, and Barbara and La’Myra were lost in a remote area. Normally, it’s good to wait for help to come, especially when it’s the middle of the winter, and they were in the forest.
However, no other cars passed on the dirt road for several days. Meanwhile, their family was worried. Police helicopters were searching for them but couldn’t spot them from underneath the trees. It turns out that the dirt road was on private property, and the owner found them. Barbara was unresponsive, but La’Myra was totally fine and very talkative. They both survived by eating the snacks that they had in the car for the Christmas party. The property owner called 911, and the two received medical care immediately.
6 Shannon Leah Fraser
A 30-year-old woman named Shannon Leah Fraser from Queensland, Australia, was at a swimming hole with her friends in September 2014 when she started having an argument with her fiance. She needed to calm down, so she decided to go for a walk into the bush. This was a huge mistake, because Shannon quickly got lost, and nobody could find her. Volunteers spent a collective 800 hours looking for her.
Shannon finally found her way back 17 days later. She showed up at almost the exact spot where she first disappeared, but she was completely naked, except for a plastic fertilizer bag. Her skin was so sunburned that it was beginning to bleed. She also had a deep gash in her leg. A farmer named Brad Finch found her and helped her get to a hospital. Shannon Fraser lost 16 kilograms (35 lb). She survived by eating bugs and fish and drinking water from from a creek. The reason why no one could find her was because instead of turning around and going back in the direction she came, she was going uphill into a mountain area where the search team thought it would be totally illogical for anyone to go.
5 Keith Parkins
In 1952, Keith Parkins was just two years old when he disappeared from his grandfather’s ranch in Ritter, Oregon. The family searched for him for several hours across multiple miles of terrain, and yet they couldn’t find him. The next day, Keith was finally found alive but unconscious. He was lying facedown in the snow, and it is truly shocking that he survived the night. He was 13 kilometers (8 mi) away from his family’s ranch. His clothing was ripped, and he had removed his jacket.
In the Missing 411 documentary, Les Stroud, also known as the “Survivor Man,” reenacted the walk that Keith would have made in 1952. Little Keith would have had to pull off 19 hours of nonstop walking and climbing in order for him to get to the location where he was found. Theorists find it very hard to believe that the two-year-old boy could have made this journey on his own. They postulate that he was possibly abducted. During the documentary, Keith is interviewed, but he does not remember all of the details of that night.
4 Robert Bogucki
A 23-year-old American man from Alaska named Robert Bogucki went on a trip to Australia in early July 1999. He went into the dangerously hot Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia. He wanted to explore the outback on his bicycle. No one knew he was even missing until the end of July, when his abandoned bike was discovered. A search for him began, but it was eventually called off on August 9.
A group of Bogucki’s fellow Americans decided to take matters into their own hands. A Vietnam veteran named Garrison St. Clair led a group of people to keep searching. This entertaining effort attracted local news stations, and this is how Bogucki was found. A news helicopter spotted him standing in a river, and they rescued him. He had been gone a total of 40 days, and he only drank groundwater and ate plants. Perhaps the most baffling part of the story is that he did this all on purpose, as part of a spirit quest—including leaving his food and water behind. However, considering that his body was already withering away, it would have likely been a death sentence if he hadn’t been rescued.
3 Edward Rosenthal
Joshua Tree National Park is a popular destination for hiking and camping in Southern California. At 64 years old, Edward Rosenthal only planned to take a short hike in 2010. However, on his way back to the car, he made a wrong turn and got totally lost. He was stuck in the desert for six days and walked a total of 39 kilometers (24 mi) trying to get back to his car.
He eventually became too exhausted to walk, found shade in a small canyon, and decided to stay still, except to move wherever the shade was. He was wearing a hat, and he had a pen in his pocket. So on the rim of the hat, he wrote messages to his family and gave the instruction that he didn’t want his funeral to be sad; he wanted everyone to get drunk and have a party. Thankfully, a helicopter flew over him, and he was rescued before those messages were ever read.
2 Andrew Gaskell
In October 2016, a 25-year-old Australian engineer from Tasmania named Andrew Gaskell was on holiday in Malaysia. He was hiking in Gunnung Mulu National Park. Before the trip, he wrote on his personal blog that he hoped a long journey would help him figure out what he was doing with his life. He purposely stayed away from highly populated tourist attractions and decided it would be more “authentic” to climb mountains during his spirit quest.
He became lost in the mountains for about two weeks. He was malnourished and dehydrated, and his legs were covered in leeches. After the extensive search and after being airlifted in a helicopter, he posted a public apology, stating that he was truly sorry for the trouble he caused because this could have been avoided. Gaskell wrote a detailed blog post about what happened, including the fact that he had purposely ignored all of the advice locals had given him about safety procedures. He also purposely walked down paths that had multiple signs that said areas were closed or forbidden.
1 Jaime Neale
In 2009, London native Jaime Neale was 19 years old when he decided to do a gap year before college. He flew to Australia to hike through the outback. This was part of an epic vacation in which he also expected to visit Vietnam, Laos, and Nepal. He visited the Blue Mountains in New South Wales and only expected to spend a few hours walking on the trails, and he decided to leave his cell phone behind. Unfortunately, his day trip turned into a 12-day-long nightmare. He was lost, and to make matters worse, helicopters were actually flying over him. He would start screaming and waving his hands in the air, yet the pilots never seemed to notice him.
He was finally found by two other hikers, who helped him get to a hospital. During an interview with The Guardian, Jaime’s parents expressed that they were very angry at him for not bringing his cell phone, but they couldn’t exactly punish him, considering what he has been through.
Shannon Quinn (shannquinn.com) is a writer an entrepreneur from the Philadelphia area.