'3 Miracles' Saved This Texas Hiker

Jeff Hahn tells 'Texas Highways' of survival amid intense, often deadly heat
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2023 9:45 AM CST
Hiker Might've Died in Texas Desert if Not for '3 Miracles'
A view of the Rio Grande River in Big Bend Ranch State Park, Brewster County, Texas.   (Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress)

A Texas man who spent 27 hours lost in the desert says he survived thanks to rescuers and "three miracles" that occurred before he met them. As Jeff Hahn tells Texas Highways via the Guardian, he was hiking with his adult daughter at Big Bend Ranch State Park in mid-June when heat began to take a toll. It was 107 degrees in the shade as the pair began their hike, according to a rescue report. But there was little shade to be found, according to 59-year-old Hahn of Austin. "You're exposed," he says. "There's no place to hide." Lost and wracked by body cramps eight hours into the hike, Hahn, who was unable to get cell service, allowed his daughter to travel ahead in search of help. When she returned with a park superintendent on an ATV, her father was nowhere to be found.

Against his better judgment, Hahn had continued moving to relieve the pain in his legs, traveling several miles to a mining shack, where he encountered his first supposed miracle. Two sealed bottles of water covered in dust were waiting for him, he says. He drank his fill before leaving the shelter under cover of darkness, but he later fell and broke a wrist. Lying in the dirt and unable to move, he encountered his second miracle: a large rock with a puddle of water on its surface. He used the straw from his hydration pack to suck up the liquid before finding the strength to get to his feet around daybreak. He wasn't the only one struggling. "It was the hottest I have ever been," a state park police officer who took part in the rescue tells Texas Highways, noting he ran out of water for the first time ever on a hike.

By the second day, rescuers assumed they were searching for a body. But Hahn had encountered a third miracle: a stream and a pool full of tadpoles, which he caught with his hat and gobbled up. He jokes that he was in "full Naked and Afraid" mode by then. Soon after, he heard a rescuer call out, and just in time. Hahn was suffering from acute renal failure and his muscles were beginning to break down. Still, he was lucky. There were at least six heat-related deaths in state and national parks in Texas this summer, per Texas Highways. Now mostly recovered, Hahn hopes to prevent such deaths. "We're going to turn ourselves into trail angels," he says. He notes he's planning to replace the water bottles he found, though he says he might drive this time. (More rescue stories.)

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