Kaden Laga was heading out on what was supposed to be a three-day horse pack trip through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness with his family. After one of the family's horses began to have trouble, they decided to leave it to rest, vowing to return later after they finished their hike. Laga, being a strong hiker, volunteered to hike ahead of his family, with a meetup destination agreed upon. Unfortunately, thanks to taking a wrong turn, Laga found himself lost, thinking of the pregnant wife waiting at home for him.
Laga tells ABC News that before heading out on the trip, that he and his family had done many times in the past, his pregnant wife Arden had made him promise that he'd be safe. "She was in Colorado staying with her parents," Laga explained to ABC. "She said, 'You better promise me you’re going to come home safe.' I said, ‘Of course. Of course. We do this trip all the time. Don’t worry.’"
Laga estimates he left on foot about an hour in advance of the rest of his family, who would take the remaining horses and would meet up with Laga at an agreed-upon location. "I figured we were about 20 miles in," Laga explained. "My goal was to cover as much country as possible. I was moving just as quickly as I could. I wasn’t really looking around. I thought we were going to get off the trail tonight because I was flying."
He said he realized around 7 pm that he must have taken a wrong turn and that he was, in fact, lost. "I had gone back about a mile when I realized I was lost," he said. "Instantly, my brain went to, ‘I think your number might be up. People die in the mountains. … Someone has to die every year. It’s your turn to be a statistic.'"
He explained that thinking about his pregnant wife waiting for him, and the promise he made her to come home safe was what gave him the strength to make it through. He said that it was during the frigid and wet night when he thought he may die, that he composed a letter to his wife on his phone, "just in case they found my body cold," he explained. He wrote, "In case I don’t make it out of here, I love you. I loved my life with you and I’m sorry I left you a single mom."
He said he wanted his wife to have something in case he died overnight.
The 25-year-old, who was lost for 5 days, was eventually found when he spotted a headlamp left on by one of the rescue teams along a trail that he had stumbled upon. He told ABC News that he survived by eating grasshoppers and berries and that his family never gave up, organizing search parties to look for the missing hiker.
"We will be donating all leftover supplies and food back to the community," Kaden's wife Arden wrote on the Facebook page that was set up dedicated to finding Kaden. "We have been using donation money to reimburse travel and efforts for Kaden’s Search and will be getting Kaden new hiking shoes (picture found below), a new phone (he completely obliterated his phone to try to start a fire), and a trip to the doctors to check him physically and mentally. We are so grateful he didn’t need to go to the hospital!"
Kaden Laga speaks out for the first time
WATCH: Kaden Laga speaks for the first time since he spent five days in the remote wilderness of the Bitteroot, after being separated from his family on a horseback trip. Laga, 25, was airlifted out of the woods and reunited with his family in Hamilton on Friday.Posted by NBC Montana on Saturday, August 17, 2019
She also included a picture of Kaden's rescuers, Brett and Robyn writing, "we will totally be naming our children after you!"
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