Harry Burleigh, hiker stranded for 17 days, tells his story
Nearly two months after surviving a 17-day ordeal in Southern Oregon wilderness, Harry Burleigh stood in front of a conference room at the Douglas County Courthouse to tell his story of survival.
Standing with his wife, Stacy Burleigh, Harry Burleigh started the conference by thanking everyone involved in the rescue effort.
“We want to thank our local community, our friends, our family for all the love and the support and the energy and efforts that were brought to bear on this poor pilgrim who went out and got lost,” he said.
Then Burleigh, an experienced outdoorsman, went into detail about how he found a hike that was meant to be an “in and out,” but turned into an ordeal that he didn’t prepare for.
“I dropped all of my protocols that I would normally follow,” he said. “I didn’t implement the seven P’s: Proper, prior, planning prevents piss poor performance.”
Burleigh emphasized how leaving extra supplies behind, even a water bottle, made the situation even more challenging.
“It sounds funny, but it’s so true. You gotta take those kind of considerations when going out in Mother Nature,” he said. “And if you’re not prepared for it, she’ll hammer you.”
What was planned as an overnight fishing trip in the Twin Lakes area in early May turned into a 17-day search.
Burleigh began hiking into the Twin Lakes area before he lost the trail. What ensued was more than two weeks of pure survival as search and rescue teams from throughout the Pacific Northwest attempted to find the 69-year-old.
Burleigh was due to return from his fishing trip on May 6, a Thursday. Friday morning, Stacy Burleigh started to get concerned.
More than 100 volunteers assisted in the search for Burleigh in the Calf Creek area, ranging from trained mountain rescue and ground searchers, K-9s to eyes in the sky via both plane and helicopter. That search began on Mother’s Day, based at the lower Twin Lakes trailhead.
On May 16, searchers located a makeshift shelter and a fishing tackle box they identified as belonging to Burleigh. They left Burleigh some supplies, a lighter, asked Burleigh to start a fire, and left a note that said “we will be back tomorrow to get you.”
“He was very thankful to have been found,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Brad O’Dell said on May 25. “One of the searchers said, ‘If anybody wants a hug, Mr. Burleigh is handing them out for free.’”