Few adults can survive an emergency in Idaho’s wilderness, but 13-year-old Charlie Finlayson not only survived but also saved his father. As Idaho Statesman reports, during a camping trip this month in central Idaho’s Big Horn Crags, a tumbling boulder broke his dad’s back, left arm, and left heel, rendering him immobile. The pair was on a 12-day outing, more than 10 miles from the trailhead. No one was expecting them for days, so rescuers couldn’t have known to come looking for them.
Charlie cared for his dad for three days in the wilderness, ensuring he stayed hydrated and fed. Also, Charlie encouraged him to fight through the pain as they treated and wrapped his wounds.
After an unsuccessful attempt to move his father, it became clear that Charlie would have to go for help alone. “[Dad] said I was going to have to hike all the way out the next day,” Charlie says. “I got ready for that and I gave him granola bars. I made sure he had lots of granola bars for when I was gone.”
Charlie’s dad, David Finlayson, sent Charlie with a note listing his injuries and location. On his way up the trail, Charlie passed the message to two men on their way into the wilderness then continued hiking out to find more help.
He eventually made contact with rescuers and was driven by law enforcement to meet family while a chopper went and recovered his dad. “What I learned from this big experience is you should always stay calm in situations,” Charlie says. “That definitely helps the chance that everything is going to be fine and nothing is going to get more hurt.”
One day after the rescue, Charlie left on a Boy Scout trip so he could earn his wilderness survival and hiking badges.