Anthony Mancuso had fallen down a ravine after stepping off of Hummocks Trail near Spirit Lake Highway
COWLITZ COUNTY — A Vancouver teenager who spent 32 hours lost along the Hummocks Trail northwest of Mt. St. Helens spent most of his time in a tree, surviving on pine needles.
Sixteen-year-old Anthony Mancuso stepped off the trail to relieve himself while hiking with family Sunday afternoon. Hours later, he still hadn’t returned.
Frantic, Anthony’s mother reached out to friends on social media, who contacted the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office. They responded and searched until dark on Sunday, including the use of a Washington State Patrol drone with infrared capabilities, but found no sign of the teenager.
They also brought in a helicopter from the Air National Guard in Portland, but still failed to catch sight of Anthony.
Monday, more than 100 people showed up, including search and rescue teams from around the region, as well as friends and family of Anthony.
Despite the resources, which included a U.S. Navy helicopter, it appeared they would have to suspend the search again on Monday without any answers.
“When I was up there I spoke with (Anthony’s) dad, and he was really anguishing over the situation,” said Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman. “I don’t think he’d slept since (Anthony) went missing.”
The family brought in help from Huffman Canine Obedience Training, a dog training program out of Canby, Oregon. They arrived Monday afternoon, and eventually located a shoe that appeared to belong to Anthony.
“That kind of reinvigorated things and focused on that area, and then finding a second shoe,” Thurman says, “and then Anthony close by up a tree.”
That was shortly after 9 p.m.
The teen had lost his voice after eating pine needles during the night to survive, but he managed to whistle when he heard searchers approaching.
So what happened?
According to Anthony, he slipped and fell into a small ravine a short ways off of the trail. Once he recovered from that, he was startled by a coyote.
“He kind of took off running, and that’s the point where he lost his shoes,” says Thurman. “And he kind of was hiding from the animal himself in a bush, and then eventually climbed up a nearby tree and actually was up in the tree, from what he told us, probably at least 24 hours.”
Anthony was barely 150 yards from where he had initially gone missing, proving just how difficult the terrain in that area of the Mt. St. Helens wilderness can be.
It was actually the fact that he was in a tree that kept the searchers from spotting him in the air, Thurman said.
“He heard the helicopters, heard the drones,” says Thurman. “But he was not able to draw attention to himself.”
While some may be quick to criticize the teenager’s actions, Thurman says it’s important to understand that everyone reacts differently in moments of crisis like this.
“We would ask people to please respect the family’s privacy and not be critical of the situation,” Thurman said. “We are very happy with the end result.”
Aside from being cold, hungry, and a little scrapped up, Anthony was able to walk out on his own and sleep in his own bed last night.