Why a Hiker Didn't Die in the Wilderness: His Son

Charlie, 13, used survival skills to care for his dad before finding help
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2015 11:31 AM CDT
Why a Hiker Didn't Die in the Wilderness: His Son

David Finlayson recalls packing frozen breast milk while taking his infant son into the great outdoors. In the years since, he and now 13-year-old Charlie have explored the jungles of Panama and the heights of Rainier. And the teen has apparently picked up some pretty serious skills along the way. On Aug. 17, the two were on a 12-day backpacking trip in a remote area of Idaho when a chunk of rock as large as a fridge fell from a mountainside and hit Finlayson; he "tumbled down like 20 or 30 more feet," Charlie tells KTVB. The 52-year-old, who was knocked out, says he woke up "hanging off a cliff" with a broken back, left arm, left heel, and a gash that exposed his shinbone, per the Idaho Statesman and ABC 4. "At first I was freaking out a little bit," says the Boy Scout—but then he calmed down, bandaged the gash with supplies from a first aid kit, and ran a mile back to their secluded camp to get supplies.

The next day, Finlayson dragged himself back to camp with his son's help. "I had one arm, one leg ... and my butt," he says. "At the end of the day, he said he was in the most pain he had ever felt in his life," Charlie adds. They soon decided the 90-pound Charlie would have to hike 13 miles out of the wilderness alone to get help (while carrying a 40-pound pack). After an emotional goodbye—"He didn't know ... if he'd see me again," Finlayson says—Charlie set off with a note from his dad, explaining his location and what had happened. He ran into two members of his church a few miles down the trail who went to stay with Finlayson while Charlie went on, eventually finding a man who ran the remaining 8 miles and got in a few hours before him. Finlayson was airlifted to a hospital, where he's undergone two surgeries and is due for more. "He was my savior," Finlayson says. (More uplifting news stories.)

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