Josh McClatchy was missing for nearly a week after embarking on a hike through Arkansas’ Buckeye Trail in the Caney Creek Wilderness near Mena to celebrate his 38th birthday. As the family rejoiced over his rescue, McClatchy also relished his safe return home — and his first drink of water.
“When they found me, they let me take a couple sucks off a CamelBak. It was so refreshing,” McClatchy told ABC News of the water. “I had an I.V. before I made it down, so I was starting to feel considerably better.”
McClatchy went missing on June 1 and texted his mother that he was lost. Over the next six days, family and friends worked alongside several agencies in a desperate search for the man. Rescuers in a helicopter spotted McClatchy Friday night, according to a statement from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. At the time, he was four miles off the trail, ABC reported, and it took the rescue team an additional hour to reach him on foot.
“It took about 3½ hours to get him off the mountain and then carry him back out to the trailhead,” authorities said in the statement. “From there McClatchy was reunited with his family and transported to Mena Regional Health Systems.”
McClatchy was severely dehydrated but otherwise okay, ABC reported.
In a statement to PEOPLE, McClatchy thanked the search and rescue teams, saying, “I wouldn’t be alive without them.”
He also praised his friends and family who greeted him late Friday night when he was pulled from the wilderness. “That was unexpected and warms my heart like no other,” he said. “I want to thank anyone who has ushered kind thoughts, love, and prayers around the world. It is overwhelming and means so much to me.”
His mother, Jen McClatchy, previously told ABC that the adventure was her son’s first time hiking alone.
“Josh had not been on the trail before, but he did a lot of research prepping for it,” Jen said. “He looked at several different trails over the last month and was really excited. He chose this trail because it had a waterfall and he’s attracted to waterfalls and I feel he planned very well.”
McClatchy’s family remained hopeful throughout the ordeal, organizing search groups and taking to the area themselves to find him. They even set up a GoFundMe page to pay for the search efforts.
It is unclear just how McClatchy got lost. But the family recalled the week-long search in a statement to PEOPLE.
“What began as a nightmarish week, has ended with tears of happiness and overwhelming joy. ‘We have him.’ These are the sweetest and most riveting words we have ever heard,” the statement reads.
“Joshua has been released from the hospital and is doing great. Remarkably, he escaped serious injury. Praise be to God, he is alive and well. Never lose hope. They found him.”
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