Man Survives Four Days in Idaho Wilderness with Broken Leg

John Sain was rescued by two motorcyclists on Sunday.
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John Sain was rescued by two motorcyclists on Sunday.
Salmon-Challis National Forest

Salmon-Challis National Forest's Stoddard trailhead (not where John Sain was found) (Photo by D Guisinger/Flickr)

A 50-year-old Montana native was hunting and camping alone near McCall, Idaho last Thursday when his foot slipped between two logs, snapping two bones in his right leg.

John Sain said he was tracking an elk Thursday morning when the accident occurred. With no cell service and miles from the trail, Sain says he wrote letters to his wife and children and contemplated “ending it right there.”

Sain started his trip last Wednesday, and said he has been camping alone since the age of 13. He was able to survive for four days in the backcountry of the Salmon-Challis National Forest with only a small survival kit, little food and a water purifier.

Sain used sticks and ripped cloth to build a makeshift splint. Realizing his only chance was to get to a trail, he crawled for two days through heavy brush to reach it. He credits his perseverance during this ordeal to his love for his wife, Jennifer, and their two children.

By Sunday, Sain was dehydrated and losing hope. But that afternoon, two lost motorcyclists found him along the trail and were able to reach cellphone reception to call for help.

McCall Fire and Rescue was dispatched to find and stabilize Sain, and the woods were cleared so that a helicopter could land and airlift him to the Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise.

Sain will remain in the hospital for the next few days, recovering after surgery on his right leg.

"I honestly didn't think I was going to make it out," Sain says.

Despite his close call, Sain says he will continue to go camping and hunting alone—only next time, he’ll take a satellite phone or GPS with him. He says his story should serve as a reminder to be prepared when going it alone in the wilderness.

Sain is expected to travel back to Riverside, Calif., where he now lives with his family, sometime next week.