Missing hikers survive on berries, ants for nearly a week in wilderness


SULPHUR CREEK, Wash. (KIRO/CNN) – A happy ending for two hikers in Washington state.

They survived nearly a week in the wilderness.

At one point, the men ran out of supplies and were forced to eat some of natures finest foods – like berries and ants.

64-year-old Buster Cabe said he had to leave his campsite, and his friend, 59-year-old David James, behind four days ago – to get some help.

He said the two set out for a week-long hike on the rugged Downy Creek trail, but trying to take a shortcut took them far off the trail for days.

Buster says they ran out of food and James lost gear in a fire and he couldn’t hike out.

“He burned his shoe up in the fire and burned his sleeping bag up, and now he’s got a sock wrapped around his foot and he’s got a bad knee so he’s got another one of my socks around his knee cuz he lost his knee brace,” said Buster.

For four days and nights, while search and rescue choppers looked for the pair, Buster survived on land.

“I ate blueberries, they got more energy than the red ones. Blue huckleberries, I ate them, and I ate–some ants,” he said.

Buster learned mountain survival skills from his uncles and ants provided protein to keep going.

“They ain’t bad though, taste like sweet tarts,” Buster said. “Except they’ll bite you in the tongue. Eat them fast!”

He said he slept in moss beds that he built, and forced himself to stay hydrated.

“Every time I saw a creek I just swell my belly up with that water, and I’d lay there half hour or so let it get in my system and go again, I didn’t get that hungry,” said Buster.

Buster’s wife Tracy says when search and rescue choppers finally found David then later Buster, she knew he’d be okay.

“He powers through everything, I mean if it’s tough, then he just keeps going harder,” she said.

But Buster said he tried everything to get the attention of the choppers.

“I was laying in a rockslide earlier today going come on–see me!” he said.

Numerous groups helped with the hunt, including the Snohomish County volunteer search and rescue, Everett Mountain Rescue, and King County SAR.

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