TUKWILA, Wash. — For the first time since his rescue, a hiker spoke exclusively with KIRO 7 to share his incredible story of survival after spending nine days fighting for survival in the Cascades.
For Andrew Devers, this moment doesn’t seem real.
“It just feels like I’m not fully awake,” Devers said as he stood outside of his apartment in Tukwila.
“I don’t believe myself, like even now there’s a person with a camera and you, like five days ago I’m accepting that I’m dead,” he said as he shook his head from side to side.
Just 48 hours prior, he was lost in the Cascade Mountains.
“I stopped thinking about weeks and months and years and it only came down to hours,” he said.
On June 18, Andrew embarked on what he thought was a 3-mile hike up Pratt River Trail.
“I had a notebook with me and I was expecting to get to the top, read my book for a little bit, write a couple poems and then come back,” said Devers.
Having successfully hiked solo a dozen times prior, he took off without a phone and drove to North Bend’s Middle Fork Trailhead without telling anyone where he was going (he acknowledges the error in his ways).
He hit the trail with a plastic water bottle, a thermos, and two cans of Mountain Dew -- he didn’t bring any food, knowing he had a can of SpaghettiOs pasta waiting for him in his car upon his return.
Then, in what felt like an instant, he was lost.
“I was following what I thought was the trail and then I just remember being off in my own head for about 40 minutes and then I look back and there’s no trail,” Devers recalled.
Devers said he spent the first six hours screaming for help and trying to locate landmarks, but nothing worked.
Still lost and nowhere closer to where he started, he decided to find a shady place to sleep until he could find a way out the next day.
The days started to pass, and he still couldn’t find his way out.
“It was like nine days of my versus me,” Devers said.
“There were so many moments when I was like, ‘this is it, you’re out!’ you know … and then it’s like your hopes are shattered.”
Three days in, his mind had already started to play tricks on him.
He recalled hearing a person’s voice across the river but when he tried to cross, he was carried downstream, until he was eventually able to anchor himself to a branch. That was where he found food for the first time.
“I swear I heard my girlfriend’s voice and I look to the right and there’s this like perfect red berry and then I follow these berries and it leads to this personal oasis that I was able to recover in, because at this point my legs and everything were all messed up but I didn’t have food until then,” Devers explained.
“They tasted phenomenal, they tasted like life like, I could feel the life going back into my body,” he smiled.
The berries brought solace, but after days of scouring the land for more and drinking river water to quench his thirst, he started to give up hope.
“I was like screaming and no one was listening to me, no one was replying.”
On June 22, four days after Andrew started his hike and went missing, the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), alongside trained search and rescue volunteers, began to comb the area. They closed the Middle Fork Trailhead and put out a tweet requesting help from the public.
Devers could see helicopters overhead but was unable to make contact.
“I feel like a ghost, like I can hear everything, but no one can hear me, and there’s choppers but they can’t see me,” Devers said.
As the days passed, he continued to write. When he first started his journey he wrote down video ideas for YouTube and other things of a creative nature. Once he saw the helicopter, he wrote a poem to the pilot inside, calling to him for help. And after days of solitude and degrading hope, he wrote down his wedding vows so his girlfriend of seven years would always know he intended to marry her.
“Day seven and day eight, I was like, ‘okay, I’m actually dying, be fair to the people you’re leaving behind,’” Devers said.
“I was accepting I was dying,” he continued. “I think the saddest part is no one was going to be there.”
On day nine, he made a last-ditch effort to survive.
Having found a stream, Devers explained his plan to keep following it until he could hopefully locate a trail and wait for a fellow hiker.
“I ended up randomly just like crawling over a tree and finding like an adorned path,” he said.
Devers did not know at the time, but the trail he stumbled onto, was the same path he strayed from nine days earlier.
“I just slept and I woke up and these two like jacked hiker bros were like, ‘what’s going on man?’ and it was like everything I wanted, it was like waking up to my own Baywatch scene,” Devers said with a smile.
Andrew said he was about two miles from the trailhead when the runners found him. He said they quickly ran back to their car and drove until they had cell service and could call for help.
“It was hard to believe someone was actually there until the rescue workers were calling my name and then I was like, ‘Is that my name? That’s my name! It’s me, it’s Andrew!’”
Andrew said he didn’t remember what the search and rescue volunteers said to him, but remembered feeling a sense of relief knowing a human finally had control over the situation.
Andrew was then taken to an area hospital where he was evaluated and later released.
It has been two days since his rescue. He is feeling well, but is still dealing with dehydration, muscle atrophy and feels weak frequently.
“Physically, apparently I’m fine,” he said. “It’s just the emotional thing that’s the bigger thing now.”
Once he recovers, Andrew plans to become a search and rescue volunteer, a true full-circle moment so he can pay it forward.
“I remember the man with the piercing green eyes and the woman with the accent and the man who was behind me that was carrying me with the drill sergeant voice and then the other dude with like the perfect red headed beard and then the woman who’s 99-percent a nurse but not fully registered yet… I’m just never going to forget you guys, and I have a brain that naturally forgets, so I hope that means a lot… I’m just glad I’m here,” Devers said.
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