A missing 23-year-old hiker and his dog have been found alive and well after being lost for three days. The pair were rescued on Thursday after air rescuers spotted the word “help” spelled out in duct tape on a rock according to The Telegraph.
“The air crew took this photo of Cody’s camping spot. Notice the ‘HELP’ sign on the rock above his campsite! Very clever!” explained Placer County Sheriff’s Office.
Cody Michael, of Rocklin, California, set off hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountain range on Sunday with his German shepherd, Bauer, when he got lost due to the hidden snow-covered trail. Michael said he had planned on staying just one night, but when he tried to leave, he took one wrong turn after another and became lost.
Michael’s parents raised the alarm when Michael did not return home on Monday after what should have been an overnight hike along the Loch Leven trail. More than 50 search and rescue volunteers responded to his parent’s calls for help and spent the following days searching for him.
Cody Michael and Bauer spent three days trying to find their way home but had to stop walking when the German shepherd got blistered paws and could not go on. That is when experienced hiker Michael took out his duct tape and spelled “help,” a move that saved his life.
The SOS message was eventually spotted by a Black Hawk helicopter search crew on a remote trail. The helicopter airlifted Michael and Bauer to safety after they had been lost for 72 hours. When the hiker heard the chopper, he did everything he could to alert them to where he was.
“I jumped up on the highest point that I could and started swinging some stuff around that I had set up and it worked,” Cody Michael said. “They saw me and they came down.”
Micheal was taken to Sutter Roseville Medical Center, where he was reunited with his parents. In an unbelievable coincidence, the lost hiker was found exactly 72 hours after sending his last text to his family. His father, Howard Michael, was very emotional over the ordeal.
“Words don’t describe it, emotions do…[I] spent a good amount of time with him. It was an incredible father-son moment.”
Cody Michael was more hungry than hurt, so crews made a stop on the way to the medical center so the starving hiker could grab some food. When Michael did reach the medical center, the sheriff’s office tweeted a video of Bauer walking with one of its deputies, as well as a photo of Cody Michael smiling.
“Lost hiker Cody Michael is looking great! He’s going to get medically checked, but he has no injuries. Thank you to our amazing search teams! A helicopter crew located him in the Cherry Point area and hoisted him to safety,” said Placer County Sheriff’s Office.
The relieved hiker told news crews that he though he was not going to make it and had almost given up hope when he was found.
“Five hours or so ago, I didn’t think I was going to make it. I really didn’t…This is all I wanted, was to see my family again.”
Howard Michael said that his son is very driven and in great shape to endure the outdoors. Faith is what kept their family strong, according to KCRA.
“All of my kids share in the same faith, and my son who is lost, I’m sure he’s expressed these kinds of thoughts and prayers wherever he is, and that’s what gets us through this,” Howard Michael said.
Cody Michael and his German shepherd are said to be in a good condition. The hiker underwent a mandatory medical check, and his loyal dog Bauer is recovering at an animal hospital and is being treated for his blistered paws.
It was Bauer’s sore paws that forced Michael to think of a different way out besides hiking. He came up with the idea for the SOS sign because he knew he would have to stay put for his canine companion. Michael set up camp and stuck his message on a boulder about a mile north of where the American River and Big Granite Creek connect.
“Every morning I got up and just thought I would figure a way and I didn’t … And he [Bauer] couldn’t really go anymore. That’s when I just set up camp and figured they’re going to come get me or I’m not going to make it.”
Michael thanked the men and women who gave up their time to come to his rescue.
“All those units that were out there – the countless hours. You saved my life. I can’t thank you enough.”
[Photo via Placer Country Sheriff’s Office/Facebook]