Lost for Five Days – One Mans Survival Experience

Doug Williams

Fishing is one of the most popular pastimes for people. It can be a great way to get rid of stress or to just separate yourself from the world for a while.

Many people enjoy going fishing alone; it is a great opportunity for reflective thought and to have some alone time in a peaceful setting.


While fishing can certainly be a relaxing pastime for many people, that certainly was not the case for this California man, who went out for a days fishing and ended up getting lost for a whole five days.


One day, Mike Vilhauer decided to go fishing at Lower Sunset Lake in Alpine County when he realized that he had been there for a while and it seemed like no fish were going to bite and it was not going to be a very successful outing.

He thought that maybe he needed more bait, so he decided to get off the boat and go explore a nearby mountain to get some insects to use.


After a few hours it began to get dark, so Mike decided that it would be a good time to head back to the boat and be on his way. Unfortunately, this is when things truly went awry.

As he began to head towards what he thought was the place where his fishing boat was, it became too dark to go further so he decided to find shelter under a tree and use branches and pine needles for warmth.

Mike had attempted to call 911 but, as is the problem so often when someone is out deep in the wilderness, the signal is too weak or nonexistant.


The next day, Mike woke up and continued to try and get back, either by locating his boat or finding a way to get help. Unfortunately, he had no food or water and had to do his best to adapt to the area around him and the resources available.

He used puddles for his water source, even if though the puddles were pretty filthy. As the day went on he did not lose his resolve but still was not any closer to finding a way back. That night he had to once again sleep outside in the wilderness using just trees and pine needles for warmth and shelter.

The next day Mike continued to wander around aimlessly, hoping that he could find some landmark that would signal his way back to society. He continued to try to find his way back but was so ravaged by hunger and thirst that he once again had to stop.

This time, he used a boulder to shelter him from the elements. Things only got worse when it rained all night.


By Saturday, Mike was completely exhausted and worn down; he needed more food, he needed more to drink, and he had not been getting any proper sleep.

Because he was sleeping out in the wilderness and there was so much rain, he was getting close to hypothermia. He decided that he would have to overcome his weakness if he had any chance of surviving, so he tried to climb to the top of the mountain to see everything, but each time he thought he had reached the top, it turns out that he had not and there was another higher peak .

He was quickly losing hope of finding a way home. His emotions were high, he was thinking about his family; how he had put them in this position, how he would miss them and how his little misstep would change their lives forever.


While he was processing all of these emotions he was suddenly overcome with a motivation to go on – a sense of perseverance. He knew that he would find his way home and he needed to see his loved ones again. He could not succumb to defeat.

He headed back down and drank water from a stream as he passed. He picked up a piece of driftwood to scrape a message onto and began composing a letter to his wife as a goodbye in case it was necessary. It granted him a way to say his last words to her in case he did not survive.

Sunday morning, Mike began to write the word “help” in needles, hoping that someone overhead would see it and be able to rescue him. There was a helicopter overhead that he had hoped would see the help signal, but unfortunately, it appears as if they did not and moved on.

Later, the helicopter came back with a rescue team that had been looking for him for days.


It took five days, but he was finally saved and able to head home after what should have just been a short fishing trip.

Luckily he did not suffer any kind of serious injury as a result of being stranded in the wilderness for five days with barely any supplies.


fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival