• 'I ate some ants.' Missing hikers rescued from North Cascades after surviving 5 days with no food

    By: Gary Horcher

    Updated:

    SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. - Marshall "Buster" Cabe says five days after running out of food while looking for help in rugged mountain wilderness of the North Cascades, he had no choice.

    "I ate blue huckleberries for energy, and I ate some ants," said Cabe.

    Cabe, 64, said he learned mountain survival skills from his uncles after hiking Snohomish County's Downey Creek Trailhead 50-years ago, in 1969. Cabe figured ants would provide enough protein for him to keep going.

    "They aren't bad," he said. "They taste like Sweet Tarts, except they'll bite you in the tongue. You eat them fast!"

    On Wednesday afternoon, Cabe and his hiking partner, David James, 59, were spotted separately by a search and rescue helicopter near Sulphur Creek, 14 days after they began a planned one-week hike from the Downey Creek Trailhead on Aug. 16.

    When the pair didn't return home on the 24th, family members reported them missing. Cabe said the pair tried to take an old shortcut to save time, but that route had become too thick and treacherous to move quickly. At some point, the pair lost the trail altogether.

    Cabe said James lost a boot and his entire sleeping bag in a campfire accident, and then lost his knee brace. Cabe said he gave James his raincoat and a few other supplies, and then tried to hike out, looking for help.

    James reportedly told rescuers that they ran out of food five days ago and didn't believe the pair would have survived another day. 

    "They had food and supplies to last one week and family members believe their intended route was Downey Creek Trail to Bachelor Creek to Cub Lake," deputies wrote in a news release. 

    James was reportedly hospitalized in Arlington Wednesday night with severe dehydration.

    Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue, Everett Mountain Rescue, King County SAR, Pierce County SAR, Skagit County SAR, Seattle Mountain Rescue and Tacoma Mountain Rescue all assisted in the search. 

    For four days and nights alone, Cabe said he slept in moss beds that he built in logs, and forced himself to stay hydrated.

    "Every time I saw a creek, I'd just fill my belly up with that water," he said.  "I'd lay there for a half hour to let it get in my system and go again. I didn't get that hungry."

    Cabe's wife Tracy says when search and rescue choppers finally found James, then Cabe an hour later, she knew Buster would be OK.

    "He powers through everything," she said. "I mean, if it's tough, he just keeps going harder. He's a redneck!"

    Cabe said he tried everything to get the attention of the choppers.

    "I was lying in a rockslide earlier (Wednesday) going, ‘Come on, see me!"'

    Now that his cuts, bruises and bug bites will have a chance to heal, Cabe says he has a new goal.

    "I want to go back there one more time. Now, I want to go back again!"

    Except this time, Cabe says he'll stay on the trail.


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    Last year, KIRO 7's Alison Grande reported on a lifesaving new technology that will help first responders locate missing hikers. The technology allows first responders to send a text to a cellphone, and when the user clicks on the links in the text, it will send their GPS coordinates back to 911. Watch the full package below. 

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