Rescued hiker shares harrowing, emotional journey of survival

A rescued hiker from Arlington sees the video of the moment he was pulled from the wild ?€“ and is thanking search and rescue crews.

ARLINGTON, Wash. — A rescued hiker from Arlington sees the video of the moment he was pulled from the wild -- and is thanking search and rescue crews.

He credits them for saving his life, after he was lost for nearly a week in the North Cascades in Snohomish County.

David James said the 13-mile hike up the mountain was fine, but coming down, he and his friend Buster Cabe were looking for a shortcut and got lost.

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He said they were hacking through thick bushes and forging their own trail for days.

“This is the hardest thing I've ever experienced in my life,” said James, 59, who lives in Arlington.

The men ran out of food.

“He (Buster) was portioning out Top Ramen, here's your piece for today,” James said.

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Then had to forage what they could.

“We didn't have any food for four, five days. I ate mushrooms and berries,” James said. “Buster, I have to say this - we had to cuddle up to each other and sleep back-to-back -- his warmth helped me out a lot,” he said.

Then in the last two days they somehow got separated. James said he was under a bush foraging for huckleberries when they lost each other.

“Not really anybody’s fault,” James said.

But he said at that point, he had no shoes -- one burned up when he rolled too close to a camping fire -- no equipment, was sleeping on the ground fending off biting bugs and freezing at night.

He said for days, he saw search and rescue helicopters looking for him.

“They drove by me three or four times. And I was waving, and I stood up on a log one time to wave my coat and I blacked out,  totally blacked out,” he said. James said he fell off the log and into a swamp.

“I pretty much gave up. I don't think I could've made it another day, I really don't,” James said.

“When they were flying by me and they didn’t see me. I was waving at them -- I thought it was pretty much over. I prayed to the guy upstairs though,” he said.

Then Snohomish County called in King County to help with the search.

James said he noticed the Guardian 1 helicopter was flying along the river and crawled to the water.

“Took all I had to get to that point,” James said. “I thought I was dreaming. Hardly had enough energy to wave to them,” he said.

That's when Alex Paul, a tactical flight officer with the King County Sheriff’s Office, spotted him.

“Saved my life,” James said, tearing up.

KIRO7 showed James the video Guardian 1 video of his rescue, where SNOHAWK 10 crews were reeling him up.

“Wow, yeah. Woohoo,” James said. “That's the best sound in the world right there,” he said about the noise of the chopper blades.

King County's Guardian 1 stayed overhead, telling Snohomish County where he was.

“Circled me and gave me that hope,” he said.

James says he can't explain the feeling of seeing the second helicopter come and knowing for sure help was coming.

“My hats off to them guys, search and rescue,” he said, getting teary-eyed. “I'd like to say thank you to them, big time,” James said.