Rescued Hiker Feels 'Distinguished Bond' With Woman He Was Lost With on First Date

Two teen hikers were lost in Southern California for five days on a first date.

ByABC News
April 8, 2013, 3:10 AM

April 8, 2013 — -- The hiker rescued in the California wilderness after becoming disoriented and lost for days began to hallucinate and lose all sense of location during his ordeal, but says that he feels a "distinguished bond" with the woman he was lost with on a first date.

"I started becoming a savage," Nicholas Cendoya said. "To be honest with you, the third day I wasn't even scared. I was seeing tigers. I thought tigers were stalking me. I had a stick sharpened, ready for anything. "

Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, went hiking near Trabuco Canyon, Calif., March 31. When they failed to return, officials launched a search effort. Cendoya was barefoot, shirtless and disoriented when he was found Wednesday evening. Jack, 18, was found Thursday morning, shoeless and clinging to a ledge.

Cendoya said he never gave up hope that he and Jack would be rescued, even after four days with no food or water.

"This wasn't my time to die," he said. "I just knew that I needed this to become the person that I'm supposed to be."

The two hikers had set off Easter Sunday for a get-to-know-you hike in Trabuco Canyon in Southern California.

"We ended up seeing a little creek, and we were hop scotching on it. And then my shoes fell in, and got all wet," he said. "We saw this mountain, and we started climbing it, and eventually we just kept climbing it and we didn't come back down."

Cendoya said that they wanted to touch the clouds, but misjudged how long it would take. The two climbed for six hours before reaching the top.

"I realized that up there we're pitch black and we're out of water," Cendoya said. "That's when I noticed I was really dehydrated, because we were like, 'OK, water break,' and we open her bag and there was no water left."

The two then tried to call 911, but their cellphone batteries died before the dispatchers could track the signal, he said. That's when they started to panic.

"I said just hold onto me. Let's go back down the canyon," he said, "And I must've fallen. And I don't know if Kyndall took a fall and was unconscious. "

After the two became separated, they didn't even know if the other survived.

"All I wanted was water," Cendoya said. "I ended up just eating plants. Anything I could do to survive."

It wasn't until Wednesday that hikers finally found him, shirtless and shoeless, and clinging to bedrock. He was completely disoriented.

"Apparently, he thought he was in Newport Beach at one point," hiker Amanda Phipps said. "So he was just really out of it."

Dr. Stephen Desantis said Cendoya showed signs of blunt-force trauma to a lung, likely from the fall, causing amnesia and an injury that allowed air to escape from his lungs and sit in the middle of his chest, ABC affiliate KABC-TV reported.

Cendoya said he didn't remember much after the fall, but added that for the five days he was lost, he ate plants to stay alive and hallucinated about being stalked by tigers. Cendoya said he was also very concerned that Jack was safe.

"I just wanted to see Kyndall more than anything, and see her face-to-face, just so I know she's OK," he said.

The next day Jack was rescued from a rocky ledge no bigger than a yoga mat.

"I didn't even develop a friendship with her yet," Cendoya said. "And this created like the most distinguished bond I've ever had with any girl ever."

Cendoya and Jack are believed to have gone off the trail near Holy Jim Trail, a tree-lined dirt path along a creek that leads to a waterfall and is popular with day hikers.

In the 911 call, they said they were about a mile from Jack's car, which was parked at a trailhead, but rescuers expanded the search when they weren't found nearby.

The area is in a section of the national forest in the Santa Ana Mountains, which lie along the border of Orange and Riverside counties southeast of Los Angeles. The trail ranges in elevation from about 2,000 feet to about 4,000 feet.

ABC News' Alyssa Newcomb contributed to this report.