69-Year Old Hiker Details His Story After Being Stranded in Wilderness for 17 Nights

by Madison Miller

After 17 nights out in the deep wilderness, the family and friends of Harry Burleigh thought they had lost him forever to the Southern Oregon forests. Somehow, the 69-year-old hiker was able to conquer the wild and survive for over two weeks before eventually being rescued.

Now, two months after his rescue, Burleigh is opening up about the gruesome, near-death experience. He held a press conference at the Douglas County Courthouse where he detailed his survivor journey in front of the press and the community.

Harry Burleigh started the conference by thanking the devoted rescuers that saved him. He said, “We want to thank our local community, our friends, our family for all the love and the support and the energy and efforts that were brought to bear on this poor pilgrim who went out and got lost,” according to coverage of the press conference from Oregon Live.

Details of the Hike that Went Wrong

Harry Burleigh’s story is proof that even the most experienced outdoors experts can get caught up in an unexpected disaster.

He shared that the hike should have been an easy “in and out” scenario. Since he was expecting it all to be simple and straightforward, he didn’t prepare in the ways he usually would.

“I dropped all of my protocols that I would normally follow. I didn’t implement the seven P’s: Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance,” Burleigh said.

He was intending on just going on an overnight fishing trip in the Twin Lakes area back in early May. This means that he packed the bare minimum for the trip. Any extra supplies, including a water bottle, were left useless at home while he fought for his life.

He started to hike in the area when suddenly he lost the trail he was following. From that point on, Burleigh had to channel his inner Bear Grylls to stay alive in the wild of the Umpqua National Forest in the Cascade Mountains of the area.

Harry Burleigh Recued

Luckily, he had a whole town willing to drop everything to find him. There were over 100 volunteers — from mountain rescuers to ground searchers to K-9s to helicopter surveillance.

Despite not coming prepared, Harry Burleigh’s experience with the outdoors made him that much more resilient. He was able to make shelter, which rescuers identified. He wasn’t there at the time, but they left a note saying they’d pick him up the next day. To hold him over, rescuers left some supplies and a lighter. They wanted him to start a fire to make it easier to find him.

“They left him a note and lighter and told him to make a fire and they would be back in to get him tomorrow. It took the team another 6 hours to get out,” his wife wrote on a Facebook community page. She constantly updated it with news, hoping it would help with the rescue.

According to CNN, she posted that there were at one point 40 people from eight different counties all on the search.

At the end of it all, a helicopter circled over that same area, desperately calling out for the hiker. He called back. Luckily, he sustained only minor injuries, but nothing serious.