Lost Autistic Hiker Found Alive After 3 Weeks In The Desert

Have you ever been outdoors with someone who was in over his head? No skills, in terrible shape, or simply overconfident. Or perhaps he had a health issue, or even a mental health issue, that put him at greater risk of getting hurt or lost than the average outdoorsman.

A young autistic man was at great risk for the past three weeks, when he got in over his head and became lost in the backcountry by himself. And yet, he somehow survived. William Martin LaFever, 28, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, went missing around June 6th while attempting to walk from Boulder, Utah, to Page, Arizona, a distance of about 90 miles.

He was just rescued this past Thursday afternoon, as a helicopter pilot spotted LaFever sitting in the Escalante River about five miles from Lake Powell, according to Yahoo News.

The young man told rescuers that he lived off the bits of food he found and frogs that he caught. He was able to avoid dehydration by drinking from the Escalante River. 

LaFever was horribly emaciated from the rigors of the desert and three weeks of hiking with next to nothing for food.

Garfield County Sheriff's Deputy Ray Gardner helped rescue of the man, as Garner had recently completed training in search and rescue operations for people with autism. "In all my career I have never seen someone so emaciated," Gardner said in the sheriff's department release. "I could not believe that he was alive, and feel certain that in another 24 hours he would not have been alive."

It's easy for us to play armchair survival expert or back seat parent and say that someone should have looked out for this young man better. But the reality is that people get lost all the time. Usually it's just for a few minutes or hours. Few people ever "mean" to get lost for weeks, but it happens. Let's just use this story with an unlikely, happy end to remind us that hiking alone can be very dangerous for anyone, at any age, regardless of mental and physical ability.

Ever gotten in over your head? Did a seemingly harmless choice get you into real trouble? Please leave us a comment to share your story.