'The worst 7 days of my life': Rescued hiker recounts surviving week lost in woods

'I'm just so happy to be here,' hiker recounts how he survived after being lost in woods (Courtesy David James)

ARLINGTON, Wash. -- One of the two missing hikers rescued in Snohomish County this week says it's a miracle that both survived their ordeal.

David James and Marshall "Buster" Cabe set out Aug. 16 for a five-day hike up Downey Creek trail, but a search was launched for them after they missed their return date by several days.

James, 59, was found first on Wednesday and was flown by helicopter to Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington for treatment of severe dehydration.

His hiking partner, the 64-year-old Cabe, was found about an hour later and was well enough to be taken home.

From his hospital bed Wednesday night, an emotional David James told KOMO News over the phone he's lucky to be alive.

“I’m just so happy to be here," James said through tears. “Those were the worst seven days of my life.

“I don’t think I would have made it another night,” he added.

A photo shows Cabe and James all smiles and loaded up with gear and walking sticks as they set out on the Downey Creek Trail in Darrington on Aug. 16. But James said he and Cabe got lost when they decided to take a shortcut after a fishing trip from Cub Lake.

James said they ran out of food, and for five days, James survived on huckleberries and mushrooms. He slept on moss and a log, and used a raincoat for a blanket.

“I didn’t know if (the mushrooms) were poisonous or not, I didn’t care,” said James. “I had no shoes for five days — I ate literally nothing for five days, I was so weak and I laid on a log and a helicopter went by and I was shaking my coat and they didn’t see me and I stood up and about fell on the log because I was so dizzy."

The friends got separated Wednesday morning and James crawled down to a river where he said the King County Sheriff's Office helicopter finally spotted him Wednesday afternoon. SnoHawk 10, the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office helicopter touched down and plucked James up near Sulphur Creek.

Rescuers also found Cabe nearby.

James said it’s an ordeal teaching him not to take life for granted.

“When they picked me up I was so relieved, I don’t know -- I just feel like I’m getting another chance,” said James.

James said he lost a lot of his survival gear in the woods.

He wants to encourage other hikers to always pack properly — especially with a compass or a way to call for help — like a whistle or matches.

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