Washington state

Hikers eat ants and berries for 5 days to survive after getting lost in Washington forest

Lost in the North Cascades mountain wilderness, a 59-year-old man whose hiking partner had gone off to look for help didn’t expect to survive another 24 hours, KING reported.

David James and Marshall “Buster” Cabe, 64, who was rescued a short time later, had run out of food five days before searchers found them Wednesday, KOMO reported.

“I ate blue huckleberries for energy, and I ate some ants,” Cabe said, KIRO reported. “They aren’t bad. They taste like Sweet Tarts, except they’ll bite you in the tongue. You eat them fast!”

Cabe and James had set out Aug. 16 at the Downey Creek trailhead 18 miles east of Darrington, Washington, to hike to Bachelor Lake and then Cub Lake, KCPQ reported.

When they didn’t return or check in Friday, their families notified authorities, according to the station

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The two men became disoriented on their way back from Cub Lake and lost track of the trail, KOMO reported.

Then James “lost a boot and his entire sleeping bag in a campfire accident,” KIRO reported. Cabe gave James his raincoat and tried to hike out to find help. He slept in moss beds he built inside logs.

“Every time I saw a creek, I’d just fill my belly up with that water,” Cabe said, according to the station. “I’d lay there for a half hour... to let it get in my system and go again. I didn’t get that hungry.”

But Cabe couldn’t find his way out. On Wednesday, searchers found James at their campsite and then found Cabe about an hour later, KCPQ reported. They were taken by helicopter to a hospital.

James was hospitalized with severe dehydration, while Cabe is recovering at home, KOMO reported.

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“A lot of people were concerned, but I’ve known Buster my whole life,” said friend Andy West, KING reported. “And Buster grew up in the good old days in Darrington, where people still canned everything. They picked berries. They lived off the land.”

Cabe had planned the hike to Cub Lake to mark a special anniversary, KOMO reported.

“Fifty years ago him and eight of them hiked in -- they were 14 and 15 years old, it was something he wanted to do because it was 50 years later,” said Nancy Cabe, one of his sisters, according to the station.

Now he has a new goal, KIRO reported. “I want to go back there one more time,” Buster Cabe said, according to the station. This time he plans to stay on the trail, however.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.