A dad-to-be is thanking God for his survival after miraculously outlasting the elements for five straight days during a family camping trip gone wrong.
Kaden Laga, 25, did his best to help his wife not to worry about him as he prepared for an upcoming horseback trek through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho. Arden, his wife of almost three years, was pregnant with their first child and nervous about her husband leaving town.
He was leaving her in good hands, however, and felt there was no reason for concern.
“She was in Colorado staying with her parents,” Laga told the Ravalli Republic, a local Montana newspaper. “She said, ‘You better promise me you’re going to come home safe.’ I said, ‘Of course. Of course. We do this trip all the time. Don’t worry.’”
Then Laga got lost in the wilderness.
During the days that followed, he kept hearing that conversation in his head. “I remembered Arden,” he said. “I remembered that I have a little guy on the way.” When he was tempted to give up, he was reminded that he had a wife and unborn son waiting and praying for him.
Laga became separated from his family’s group after one of their horses went lame and couldn’t keep going. As one of the more experienced hikers, the 25-year-old volunteered to walk back to the trailhead on foot, assuming that his family members would catch up with him along the way.
After a few hours alone, however, he realized he’d made a wrong turn.
Laga’s relatives should have passed him by now, and the trail no longer looked clear. He tried to find his way back to a familiar ridge, but soon found himself hopelessly lost.
“People die in the mountains,” Laga remembers thinking to himself. “It’s your turn to be a statistic.” But the dad-to-be wasn’t afraid of dying. Turning to his faith, Laga prayed and kept trekking forward.
As the hours went by and he was officially declared missing, his family began gathering with authorities to form a search party.
“Kaden was on a horseback trip with members of his family in the Selway Wilderness of Idaho just west of Twin Lakes when he was separated from them with limited supplies and clothing,” an admin wrote on a since-deleted Facebook page the family created in order to share his story and ask for prayers.
“We still haven’t found Kaden but we have plenty of authorities looking for him,” Arden wrote on Facebook after a few days had passed. “I personally have felt Gods continued reassurance that we will be reunited soon and that all is well,” she added. “All circumstances given, there are a lot of good things happening. Faith and Hope are key and I have felt this wonderful community made up of family, friends, and strangers lift us up through prayer during this time.”
“We feel so much peace that we will find him safe and I hope that will happen today!”
Meanwhile, Kaden was desperately surviving by eating grasshoppers and berries, according to the Ravalli Republic.
“My brain was talking to itself: ‘All you have to do is keep moving forward. Kaden, are you moving forward?’ Yes, I’m moving forward. ‘Then you’re doing a great job,'” he said. But drenched and exhausted, Laga felt doubt begin to creep in. Laga didn’t know whether he would survive the ordeal, and during the first cold night, he decided to leave Arden a note.
“In case I don’t make it out of here, I love you. I loved my life with you and I’m sorry I left you a single mom,” he wrote on his phone. “Then I hit send and put it in my pocket,” Laga said. “I figured if I died overnight, at least she would have something.”
But God had other plans.
On Thursday night, as a fierce storm rolled through the mountains, Laga stumbled upon a small game trail. Hoping it would lead to water, he followed it toward a creek.
“I followed it and then there was this pristine, perfect trail,” Laga said. “I fell to my knees and just thanked God.”
Not long after, he spotted a light through the trees, hearing for the first time in days the familiar sounds of a campsite.
“I didn’t know who they were,” he said. “I thought they might not know who I am. I didn’t want to spook them.” But the campers knew all too well the man they were searching for.
“Are you Kaden?” they called to him as Laga approached the camp. Tackling him with hugs and excitement, the strangers welcomed the exhausted traveler into their camp. They explained that the light that had drawn him closer was from a headlamp.
“Who sleeps with a headlamp on?” Laga asked, declaring, “that, once again, was one of those tender mercies from God.”
“It’s a real tangible feeling that I felt every minute that I was lost,” he said. “That I could feel people praying for me,” he told Inside Edition.
Arden also thanked God for bringing her husband back to her.
“My Kaden is finally home,” she wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post. “He was cracking jokes the whole time and was so excited to take a shower, which was about an hour long.”
“His family members and God had told me so clearly that Kaden is alive and we will find him,” she added. “It’s just not his time. God had a totally different purpose for him. I know this experience has changed my family, my extended family, some of my friends and complete strangers. God is real for them and prayer is a thing and it works.”
The couple also thanked all of the strangers who came together to search for Kaden. In particular, they thanked Brett and Robin Pederson, who had worked so hard to rescue him and were finally responsible for bringing him home. The Lagas say they plan to name a future child after either Brett or Robin, depending on the baby’s gender.
“They are the reason these kiddos are going to have a dad,” Kaden said, according to the Ravalli Republic.
Grateful to be alive, the hiker says he’s not giving up on the mountains or outdoor fun, and plans to go back someday.
“I was very gifted, blessed and protected,” he said. “As much as a lot of things went wrong, there were a lot of key things that went right — if I had not gone that way, if I had met an animal, if it would have been rainy at night, there were a lot of things that could have gone wrong that didn’t.”
“One of the most important things was keeping your head,” Laga said. “I had my episode in the beginning, but it was the quiet whispering of the Spirit and God that was able to keep me calm, keep me hopeful, keep me moving and keep me thinking of ways to get off that mountain.”
“Thank you so much for all of your love and support. I’m happy to be alive!” he said.
Arden wrote in the Facebook post, “It’s been amazing seeing individuals, families, and communities grow closer to God through this experience. Please don’t forget what you’ve felt and what you’ve learned. Always know that God lives, He answers prayer, and He is a God of miracles.”
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