After getting lost for five days in the wilderness at the border of Idaho and Montana, Kaden Laga is happy to be alive.
The 25-year-old Utah resident went missing in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness during a horseback riding trip with his family, CNN reported Monday. After volunteering to hike back on foot because one of the horses went lame, Kaden took a wrong turn, causing him to miss the meet-up point the family had set and to get lost.
Kaden eventually found rescuers around 1 a.m. Friday, discovering their campsite thanks to a headlamp left on by one of the responders.
But Kaden’s safe homecoming wasn’t without its trying moments.
He said that one night, he thought it was so cold that he would surely die, and even wrote out a short letter for his wife, Arden, who is pregnant. (Before he embarked on the trip, she had told him, “You better promise me that you come home safe,” Salt Lake City station Fox 13 reported).
“I wrote a little text in case they found my body cold,” Kaden told the outlet. “I just said, ‘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.’”
Kaden also said that while he searched for a trail, he saw a helicopter fly overhead, and had moments where he thought he would finally be rescued.
“I’m like, ‘This is it, they’re going to get me,’ and they just take off into the other direction,” he recalled to Fox 13.
Kaden survived by drinking water from streams and eating berries and crickets, CNN reported.
Kaden’s family never gave up on the search, and both he and Arden are now expressing their gratitude to the outpouring of support from the community.
On Friday, Arden said on Facebook that Kaden was “cracking jokes” when they found him.
“My Kaden is finally home ❤️” she said in the Search for Kaden Laga Facebook group. “He was cracking jokes the whole time and was so excited to take a shower, which was about an hour long 😂”
“I have been just overwhelmed coming back and just seeing all the effort that everyone has put in, and just the love and the care for, a lot of people, a total stranger, honestly,” Kaden said in a video published by NBC Montana on Facebook on Saturday. “So, thank you so much, for all your love and support. I’m happy to be alive.”
Arden cut in to say, “Me too!”
On Saturday, Arden shared a longer update, saying that they will “be donating all leftover supplies and food back to the community.”
Her post continued: “We have been using donation money to reimburse travel and efforts for Kaden’s Search and will be getting Kaden new hiking shoes (picture found below), a new phone (he completely obliterated his phone to try to start a fire), and a trip to the doctors to check him physically and mentally. We are so grateful he didn’t need to go to the hospital!”
“It’s been amazing seeing individuals, families, and communities grow closer to God through this experience,” Arden continued. “Please don’t forget what you’ve felt and what you’ve learned. Always know that God lives, He answers prayer, and He is a God of miracles.”
The post included a photo of Kaden with his two rescuers Brett and Robyn, who she promised, “we will totally be naming our children after you!”