Fourth Grader Lost in Wilderness Doesn’t Panic

I spend a lot of time trying to convince skeptics that “Free-Range” does not mean, “Send Your Kid Down the Mississippi on A Raft.” So when I present this article, it’s only because it delights me so: The story of a boy who will be in fourth grade next year who got lost in the wilderness and didn’t panic.

Instead, he tore up his yellow slicker to leave little ribbons in trees as a sign to searchers: I’m nearby!

He also followed a stream figuring it would lead to a lake where there might be people.

And upon reuniting with his dad 18 hours later, what were his first words? “Happy Father’s Day.”

Bet it was.   — Lenore

29 Responses

  1. I read that one too, great story. Kid sure kept his head on straight enough, even if he was scared enough to lose his backpack.

  2. Awesome. I fear what most kids would have learned from the television most families watch.

  3. I’m off to read it.

  4. I like your headline better, though!

  5. I’m glad to hear from you experiment and so on. Here in France mothers (and fathers) think to do everything instead of their children even when they are 25. They want thme only to have the best of their lives.

    So there is ne more best because there is no worst.

    Thanks for your blog

  6. Thank you for that. It’s nice to see a child who, although in a bad situation, handles it. I hope one day my son will have that resilience and ability to handle the unexpected. (Of course, I also hope he won’t need it, but life doesn’t always work that way.)

  7. awesome!!!
    see there is better things on tv than Chowder and Spongebob
    actually shows that show nature and science and actually demonstrate good skills for children to have . Though i think Bear Grylls can sometimes be a bit pretentious ( I like Survivorman Les Stroud ) . Its great that he was able to keep his cool and use some of the things he saw in the show to help the searchers find him

  8. About tv shows, one day I´ll write a book about what my brothers learnt watching McGyver… There was that time when an extremely naive teacher evacuated a whole classroom because my brother showed up with a bottle labelled “nitroglycerine”… Talk about paranoia…

  9. Very Cool.

    I always laugh a little when on the show Bear says things like ,”If you ever find yourself needing to survive a night in a dense forest miles from anywhere then remember you can always build a shelter and make a fire out of shoelaces.” Looks like I should start listening more and maybe have the kids start taking notes.

  10. What a lovely story. Smart kid! That show irritates the snot out of me (oh! the melodrama!), but it’s nice to know something good has come out of it.

    On an only semi-related note my DH was channel-surfing last night and asked me, “When did cable news become the ‘CAC’ [Child Abduction Channel]'” I’m not sure when it happened, but it sure has.

  11. What a great story!

    It’s amazing what can be accomplished “even” by a child when they keep their wits about them. Avoiding panic is a lesson often overlooked by parents, and one we should all be teaching our children. Yes, emergencies occur and instead of encircling our kids with fear of the world, we should be EMPOWERING them to act in a crisis.


  12. Wow, what an amazing story. My son likes to watch that show (he’s 7) but I don’t think he’s picked up any pointers. And my 9yo would probably just stand there and scream at the top of her lungs after running around crazy for 20 minutes and getting herself more lost. We’re city people, though. There aren’t many chances to get lost in the woods…lost in the neighborhood, yes. I’ll have to start teaching them to navigate the streets. They still go the wrong way when we walk to the store and it’s only 3 blocks away.

  13. You know, HI, we can all click on your username here and visit your blog. You don’t have to sign your posts with it. (Unless you want to, I’m not complaining.)

  14. What? That’s my last name. lol

    Sorry – some websites I post at don’t save site info in a signature, so signing with my link is second nature. 🙂

    (nothing to see here…)

  15. That is a great story; its’ awesome that little guy was able to keep his head and get back to his parents.

    As a kid who grew up with a dad who did volunteer search and rescue, one of the first things WE were taught was that if you’re lost, STOP MOVING. Hug-a-tree helps searchers find you because they don’t have to follow you all over the state/province. Parents should always have an up-to-date photo of their child and some article of clothing with their child’s scent on it for the dogs to track as well. A sock put into a ziploc bag and then put in the freezer will work perfectly. 🙂

    We were also always given a whistle so we could signal searchers with 3 blasts (3 is always a help code, whether it’s shots from a gun, three signal fires, etc) and not wreck our voices shouting.

  16. Your site contain a many useful information. I enjoy the article. and I agree with Laura. Great post, thanks!

  17. Yes, if we get the kids out and about, they can figure out where to go fairly quickly. Our three year old led us down the trail to home after a backpacking adventure last weekend. The trail was covered in snow much of the way, and so not exactly clear. But he had traveled it to the camp site, and he led us without correction for a good mile and a half.

    Why are we constantly amazed at such things? I keep hearing every parent tell me how amazed they are that their kid did such and such. While all the breakthroughs are wonderful events, perhaps we wouldn’t have been as “amazed” 30 years ago.

  18. Makes me think of the recent hullaboloo over South Carolina’s free range governor (, though his “I did it!” of the last few hours speaks to a different kind of free range I don’t think you’re advocating for.

  19. That little guy is going places in this world.

  20. Jen: you’ve provided a perfect example of the kind of safety advice that, if followed, truly makes people safer rather than making them scared. As someone in the early history of this blog pointed out, there’s a big difference between being careful and being fearful. A careful kid who gets lost stays in one place and sends out signals. A fearful kid who gets lost assumes that anyone he hears approaching are more likely to be MolesterMonsterPedoPredators than rescuers, and runs away from them (there’s a well-known case where this really happened; his fear-driven actions delayed his rescue by at least a day). Ah, you ask, but what if your kid is the one who gets abducted by a pedophile posing as a rescuer? Well, if you think that way, you’re the kind of person who would take up smoking to reduce the health risks of gaining weight.

  21. *hustling to go get my kid from the raft in the Mississippi*

  22. We were also always given a whistle so we could signal searchers with 3 blasts (3 is always a help code, whether it’s shots from a gun, three signal fires, etc) and not wreck our voices shouting.

    Jen – great advice! Common sense that I totally missed 🙂 I always tend to throw away any whistles my son gets (can’t stand the noise frankly) 🙂 Now, I’ll throw them in with the camping gear instead!! Or even have him take one when he and his friends head for the woods around here! – Thanks!

  23. My 7yo daughter requested a whistle the other day, one with a band attached that could be worn as a bracelet. I let her talk me into it when she said it would be good when we were hiking, in case we got separated (we were just that day heading out camping). How I wished in the tent that I hadn’t bought that whistle! I confiscated it within hours… looks like I might need to consider giving it back!

  24. Mark Twain’s childhood involved plenty of time in the Mississippi on a raft. He lived to tell about it and grew up to be a literary genius. Might not be such a bad idea.

  25. the kids very smart and stayed very cool I probally wouldn’t have. I like the way he thinks

  26. What, a 3 year old in a battery powered toy truck is not enough to float down a river for two hours? Better tell them he needs an upgrade!!!

  27. You obviously don’t want to leave a kid in the wilderness on purpose, but they’re much more resillient than they get credit for. I wonder if he did all that because his parents taught him what to do. Either way, well done, Kid!

  28. John, you are absolutely correct, it shows that you’re an authority on the subject. I admire someone that takes the pride you have and with your projecton of information. oSo when i actually do sit down to read material, I appreciate well written and organized blogs like this one. I have it bookmarked and will be back. Thanks.

  29. What? That’s my last name. lol

    Sorry – some websites I post at don’t save site info in a signature, so signing with my link is second nature.

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