Life or Death: Bonus Story

            Another perilous situation...another bold solution...
Here is a story that didn’t make it into the book, but could have.
                 Enjoy and thanks for visiting my site.


  Alone, lost in the wilderness, nine-year old Grayson Wynne fought fear and kept a level head

For much of Saturday, June 20th, 2009, the Wynne family searched Utah’s Ashley National Forest. They retraced their steps, hunted for clues, and called Grayson’s name hoping that the nine-year old boy might answer.

Earlier that day, on the 6 kilometer hike to Daggett Lake where the family was supposed to camp that weekend, Grayson had been walking with his cousin. Somehow he had fallen behind and become separated from the others. Now the small boy was alone, lost somewhere in the half-million hectare forest.

As the Wynnes scoured the woods, they kept their hopes alive. Grayson was a smart kid. He’d figure things out, they told themselves. They pushed aside nagging doubts and fears, but still there was no denying the urgency of their search. There were dangers in the forest and the longer Grayson was lost, the greater the odds that he wouldn’t survive.

As nightfall approached, the Wynnes contacted authorities. They needed help, people skilled in the ways of the forest, people who knew about tracking. Members of the sheriff’s office, local search and rescue teams, and volunteers on horse and mule joined the search. They combed the woods looking for small signs that the boy had passed that way – a footprint, a broken twig, a twisted blade of grass. Anything.

That night, a clue was found. It wasn’t much. Just a wrapper from a granola bar on the ground, about 275 meters off the beaten trail. But it was enough to raise hopes. Grayson had been there. Perhaps they were getting closer.

Fear is the enemy for lost people. Expert trackers know this. Unchecked fear can grow into panic. Panic activates the leg muscles. It makes people want to run. Instead of staying in one place, they tear through the bush, getting deeper into trouble and farther from those searching for them.

Fear was with young Grayson Wynne, too. He knew the dangers of the wilderness and he was scared. But he also kept a level head. He didn’t run. Instead he thought about his options.

Grayson knew a thing or two about survival, facts he’d gleaned from a television series on the Discovery Channel called Man vs Wild. In the show, the host, Bear Grylls, pits his skills against some of the world’s harshest climates, from the frozen Arctic to the searing Sahara Desert. To survive, Grylls builds shelters out of available materials, forages and hunts for food, finds hidden sources of water – whatever it takes to live through the experience. What would Bear do in this situation? Grayson asked himself.

Grayson had a few supplies. A yellow raincoat. Some snacks. A black backpack with a sleeping bag and an extra jacket inside. More supplies than Bear often had in the T.V. show. This boosted Grayson’s confidence. If Bear could survive in the wilderness, he could, too.

One of the first things Grayson did was climb. He could hear searchers calling his name, but he couldn’t tell from which direction they were coming.

“I climbed a pine tree to see if I could see anyone, but I didn’t,” he said later. “So I just kept following the river.” Rivers, he knew, often emptied into lakes. There was a chance that the river might lead to Daggett Lake, to the campground, his parents and safety.

As he walked, Grayson marked his trail. He tore his raincoat into bits and tied strips on to trees to show searchers where he had been. If he decided to turn around, the trail of yellow markers would help him find his way back, too.

“I just used my hands,” Grayson said. “I don’t know how many times I tore the thing but quite a lot.”

But for all his wise choices, Grayson also did something he said later was ‘pretty stupid’. The backpack was heavy and awkward. It slowed him down. So Grayson dropped it and left it behind. “I was just panicking too much,” he said.

When night fell, Grayson built a small shelter under a fallen tree. It was cold and damp. He thought about his parents, about the things that drew them close, about the searchers who might be following his trail. He prayed. He cried. He didn’t get much sleep.

In the morning Grayson resumed his walk along the river, tying bits of raincoat to trees, doing what he knew Bear would do in the same situation.

Buoyed by the discovery of the granola bar wrapper, over 100 people continued to search for Grayson through the night. Early Sunday morning, about 365 meters from where the wrapper had been found, they spotted a small footprint along the river bed. A while later, they found the black backpack. They noticed the yellow bits of raincoat tied to the trees. Based on the layout of the items, they figured Grayson was following the river.

A bloodhound and its handler were flown to the spot where the backpack was spotted. While trackers focused on the river and the carefully marked trail that Grayson had left, helicopters flew overhead scouring the forest for a glimpse of the boy.

They didn’t have long to wait. When Grayson heard the chop-chop of the helicopter, he did what he knew Bear would do. He ran to an open meadow and waved his last chunk of yellow raincoat to signal the pilot.
At the same moment, two searchers on horseback broke into the clearing. Relief spread through the forest as the news travelled: Grayson had been found. He was okay.

Cold and wet, Grayson was taken to the command center and reunited with his parents. “I missed my parents a lot,” he told reporters. “I almost broke into tears when I saw them, but I didn’t.”

In a news release, the sheriff’s office had this to say: “This search was successful due to the many searchers and volunteers, and to Grayson for being such a strong little boy with a lot of common sense.”

Grayson, though, gave full credit to Bear Grylls. “I was really scared, but Man vs Wild tells you how to survive all different terrains.”


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