John Harm Wiersema, a 39-year-old hiker from Jerome, Idaho, was found safe although injured and extremely dehydrated after getting lost for four days in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park.
Wiersema somehow managed to survive despite having no food, and being caught in snowy, freezing cold weather, wearing only a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Just why he chose to go out so ill prepared is anyone’s guess.
He set out on a four-mile trek on Monday afternoon without any food, and just a single bottle of water. Rescuers found him on Friday afternoon dehydrated but incredibly had only minor injuries.
Rescue crews had been searching the national park in Southwestern Utah by helicopter and on foot for several hours after spotting his car earlier that morning. The sheriff’s office said:
With recent weather conditions being very cold and having snowed, it was hard to believe someone could survive alone in the area.
Rescuers had only been searching since Thursday after receiving a report that he had gone missing from a worried family member. They quickly found his car and so began the search. He told officers that he had survived by drinking water from streams.
What exactly went wrong I do not know but somehow, what should have been a two-hour hike turned into a four-day fight for survival after he became lost.
Before ever stepping foot in an unfamiliar area, please do as much research as possible beforehand and equip yourself with maps. Be prepared!
On Saturday, Wiersema added a post to Facebook explaining what had happened:
I got to the first outlook, Swamp Canyon. I thought it would be nice to go for a hike. Once I got a ways down I wanted to go further. Once I decided I should turn back before it gets dark, I lost my trail. I was a little frustrated the first night when I found a stream, in the dark, by stepping in it. So now it’s cold, windy and I have wet socks. I wish that was the worst that happened. I got the bright idea to climb the rocks to see if I could find where I was but I was again in unfamiliar surroundings. I climbed the rocks many more times over the next few days and at one point a branch snapped. I was easily over 150 feet high. I lost all control, started sliding and thanks to this lone bush, I was saved from certain doom. I slept in the rain, chilling wind and even snow, during the day that hot sun burned me. I survived on water from a stream and snow and even tried chewing on some pine needles get some moisture from them. I suffered from delusions and auditory hallucination. I was bushwhacked so much I have abrasions all over. So many times, I lost all hope and accepted, I’m going to die down here. I would lay my head down and drift off not knowing if I would wake up. When I did, I had bursts of reality, I refuse to die here,
On the fourth day of his ordeal, he finally came across other people.
Friday morning I came across these 3 guys on horses who had some dogs with them were apparently bear hunting. These were the first people I’d seen since Monday evening. They were son, father and grandfather. The son immediately hands me an ice cold Powerade. My hero! The father jumps off his horse and gets me on, taking me to where they are parked.
A couple hours later a couple guys in dune buggy with Sheriff’s office written on the side pulled up. I don’t think they saw me at first but I slowly was able to stand up and said something like, “I’m the dude that’s been missing since Monday”. One looks at the other and says, “Wow! I’m glad they were wrong!”.
Wiersema is currently recuperating at Intermountain Garfield memorial hospital in Panguitch, Utah.
Again, I can’t believe the support and love from you guys. I cried after hearing from my family and closest friends and saw how many reached out to show how worried they are. You guys saved my life!
Could Wiersema have done more to prevent this situation from happening? Yes, of course he could but people do get lost. They don’t do it deliberately but it does happen. It is easy to say that his choice of clothing was ridiculous but in the blazing heat during the day, what should have been a two-hour hike would have been extremely difficult if he was wearing much more. He should have taken extra water but again, he didn’t exactly plan for this to happen. What he should have done was research! His normalcy bias told him, “it won’t happen” and he believed it. This was his mistake.