Utah man Kaden Laga survives 5 days lost hiking Montana wilderness feeding off bugs and berries while remembering his promise to return safe to his pregnant wife.
Kaden Laga of Orem, Utah, set off on a hike with family members on Aug 11. in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, a mountainous region on the border of Montana and Idaho, promising his pregnant wife, Arden, that he would come home safely.
‘She looked at me and said, ‘You better promise me that you come home safe,” Laga recalled via Fox 13. Of note, the couple are expecting their first child in November.
After his brother’s horse went lame, Laga offered to hike ahead of the group and give his horse to his brother, but a wrong turn led to him eventually becoming lost, alone in the wilderness.
‘Pretty early on when I realized I was lost I came to grasp with the possibility of me dying and actually came quite to peace with it and was not too worried,’ Laga told Fox News’ Shepard Smith in an interview Tuesday.
‘[It] felt like of all the places to die, the Bitterroot Wilderness is the place to do it. But, remembering the promise that I had made to Arden, that I would come home safe and take care of that baby, my mind switched and it was survival mode for the next 5 days after that. The focus was just getting home no matter what.’
And then the despair hit: ‘In case I don’t make it out of here. I love you.’
Still, on one of the coldest nights, Laga feared for his life and wrote his wife a text message on his phone in case his body was found.
‘In case I don’t make it out of here. I love you. I loved my life with you and I’m so sorry I left you to be a single mom,’ the husband wrote.
‘I suddenly went mental,’ Laga conceded according to an interview with the Billings Gazette. ‘My brain was talking to itself: ‘All you have to do is keep moving forward. Kaden, are you moving forward?’ Yes, I’m moving forward. ‘Then you’re doing a great job.’’
Rescue helicopters flying overhead did not spot Laga, dashing the man’s hopes of being found.
‘I’m like, ‘This is it, they’re going to get me,’ and they just take off into the other direction,’ Laga said.
‘They did everything they were supposed to do, but they had a lot working against them. … I was not a good rescue candidate because I went off trail, and the trail I was on was really rough. I was wearing all rock and dirt colors anyway. We always just happened to be a day apart,’ Laga told via the Gazette.
— Ashley Moser (@AshleyMoser) August 17, 2019
Retaining his faith in God and self:
Still, Laga didn’t give up hope, continuing to search for a trail, all the while drinking water from streams and eating grasshoppers that tasted like ‘unbuttered popcorn.’
Perhaps what saved Laga was his calm attitude and the fact that he’d previously gone hiking in the region before and had a sense of how to survive off the land.
‘I’ve been in those woods several years so I knew huckleberries and thimbleberries were safe and grasshoppers as well,’ he said.
Finally, at about 1 a.m. on Friday, Laga stumbled upon a campsite where a couple had left their vehicle’s headlights on while they slept.
Laga’s wife and family had been praying for his safe return and were overjoyed when they heard that he had been found the Billings Gazette reported.
‘I had a very frank conversation with God five minutes before we found out that Kaden was safe and alive,’ Arden Laga told Fox News Shepard Smith. ‘I just said, I need my husband home, and I know you can provide that, and so five minutes later, I heard screaming downstairs that we got a message that he was alive. And, I just fell on my knees and was just sobbing that that was true.’
Adding, ‘It’s just not his time. God had a totally different purpose for him.’
Rescuers took Laga off the mountain by helicopter and reunited him with his family on Friday afternoon.
‘Kaden (and I) have been resting and reconnecting since returning and he’s doing great,’ Arden posted on a Facebook group set up for Laga’s search. ‘We are expecting some physical and emotional abnormalities to start showing up in the next few days. We had planned a trip to Hawaii 4 months ago that we are still planning to take to help us rest, reconnect and take things easy.’
Laga said the experience re-affirmed his belief in God along with him losing considerable weight, ‘I lost at least three pant sizes’, the husband said.
‘One of the most important things was keeping your head,’ Laga said. ‘I had my episode in the beginning, but it was the quiet whispering of the Spirit and God that was able to keep me calm, keep me hopeful, keep me moving and keep me thinking of ways to get off that mountain.’
The couple had planned on taking another hiking trip together in Hawaii in two months and said they won’t let this experience hold them back. Notwithstanding recent tragedy and one happy recovery of another lost hiker.
“In case I don’t make it out of here I love you. I’ve loved my life with you, and I’m so sorry I’ve left you to be a single mom.” Those are the words Kaden Laga wrote in a text in case they found “my body cold.”https://t.co/rlIvescHRs
— KSL (@KSLcom) August 19, 2019