FRESNO — A hiker who was stranded for six days with a badly broken leg in California's Sierra Nevada said Wednesday that survival mode kicked in when he treated his own injury and he sought sustenance by eating crickets and moths, and drinking melting ice.
Recovering at a Fresno hospital, Gregg Hein, 33, said he was a couple days into a solo hike high in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks northeast of Fresno when a large rock crushed his right leg above the ankle. After letting out a yelp, the Clovis man said his first thought was treating his dangling leg and protruding bone to boost his chances of making it out alive.
"I have to get these next moments right," said Hein, an avid outdoorsman. "What do I do to make sure I have the best chance for a positive outcome?"
He briefly considered applying a tourniquet to stop the bleeding, a move that he knew would end with his leg being amputated.
Rather, Hein said he used hiking gear to wrap and secure his leg, and then he scooted to a flat clearing with a good vantage point to wait for rescuers. His leg became infected, but Hein said he remained lucid.
Doug Hein reported his son missing two days after he didn't return home as planned. Rescuers started their search that day on foot and from the air. A helicopter crew spotted Gregg Hein and lifted him to safety.
He underwent two surgeries and expects two more in a healing process expected to take months. His leg bones are pinned in place, and his hands and legs are covered in scrapes from falling about 150 feet in the accident.
Hein said his risky days of hiking alone are behind him, but not his love of the outdoors.
"As soon as I can get back to trail running and hiking, I'll be out there," he said. "It's my community."