Teen hiker missing for 11 days in Tennessee woods describes how he survived

Austin Bohanan said he knew he had to keep moving.

ByABC News
August 24, 2017, 2:30 PM

— -- A teen who had been missing for 11 days, after he was separated from his stepfather during a hike, walked out of a dense Tennessee forest in good condition on Tuesday.

Austin Bohanan, 18, described how he was lost and survived after he was stranded alone in the expansive Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"I was with my stepdad and we were hiking up in the mountains and following a trail most of the time," he said. "He was in the middle of the creek and said he'd lost his glasses."

The teen helped with the search, he said, since his stepfather can't see well without the glasses.

"[I] was trying to search a little bit," he said. "I guess he went on a little bit, trying to find his lenses and I didn't see him again after that."

Though he tried signaling for his stepdad, calling around the area and looking for movement, he didn't find him.

The teen, who relatives said is an avid camper, according to the Associated Press, said he realized he needed to get to higher ground.

"I wasn't scared or anything, I just knew that I had been separated and I needed to do something about it," Bohanan said.

The teen climbed to the top of a ridge where he spent the night, he said, then set out to follow a stream to fresh water. He said he knew he should not stay stationary.

"The main thing was just keep my calm, keep my cool, just keep moving," he said. "It's just instinct, I guess, that came out."

"I prayed literally every night and day and it helped me drive forward."

Bohanan did not have any food with him and said he didn't find any in his path during the 11 days.

"I did not eat anything," he said. "I felt hungry the first couple of days and after that the hunger just kind of went away because I guess my brain figured it didn't need to send that signal."

At the same time, more than 100 people were scouring the nearly 7,000 acre area of the park searching for him. Park rangers told ABC News they used ground crews, air ops, helicopters, canine units and boats in the search.

Bohanan said he could hear the helicopters, but they did not locate him. He also said he could not find a location with cell phone service to call for help.

Eventually, after he followed a creek at the base of the mountain, Bohanan said he spotted kayaks and a boat.

"Luckily I saw a boat, a guy and his daughter," he said. "[I] waved them down [and] hollered at them and they were like 'Hey I'm coming,' and he asked if I was the one they'd been looking for and I said, 'Yes sir, I guess so.'"

The boater alerted authorities and the teen was reunited with his family.

"I just locked eyes on him, grabbed him, hugged him; both of us started crying," his father Ryan Bohanan told ABC. "It was a moment I'll never forget."