A man from Ulkatcho First Nation remains grateful to his community for rescuing him after he spent the night in the bush.
Harvey Sulin, 50, had gone out mushroom picking the morning before with his cousin and her daughter to pick pine mushrooms in an area on the south side of Cowboy Lake about an hour and fifteen minute drive from Ulkatcho.
“I told my cousin I’d go into the bush until I found mushrooms, but I didn’t find any until I walked a couple of kilometres in,” Sulin recalled, adding he just kept going until he could find more mushrooms, but became separated from the other two women.
Eventually he called back and couldn’t hear anyone answer.
He kept picking mushrooms thinking he’d find them, but eventually realized he had gone the wrong way.
“I ended up running into heavy windfalls, going through three swamps, went up a hill, ran into a rocky area and it was getting dark.”
He could hear gun shots, a bear banger and people yelling, but it was a long way away from where he was.
“I tried to go down a few more hills and it was getting completely dark. I fell, hit a log and fell forward, and banged my knee cap on the log.”
Sulin found the biggest tree he could and went under it and spent hours trying to keep warm.
He was wearing a T-shirt, pullover, jeans and shoes, which were soaked.
“I had no drinks, matches, no food, just my mushrooms.”
Through the night he tried to keep warm, by rubbing his feet together, but by 3 a.m. his breathing was getting heavier and his feet and shins were cramping.
“At one point I wrapped my T-shirt around my feet,” he recalled.
His imagination got the best of him at times as he listened to the sounds of the forest at night.
In the moonlight he thought he saw a bear and his heart was pounding.
“I’m a prayer so I was praying all night,” he added. “I slowly turned my head back toward the bear and realized it was a big tree but after that I warmed up a bit and it gave me a sense that I was going to be OK and I actually fell asleep for about 20 minutes.”
Once the daylight emerged he decided to try to start walking again so he picked up his mushroom bag and headed out.
It was difficult to walk because he was weak and his legs kept giving out.
“I kept telling myself I couldn’t give up, I couldn’t give up and then I heard a yell and I yelled back. The person asked if I could come to them, but I said I couldn’t and then our community member Charlie Williams came to get me on a quad as far as he could and then walked in.”
Williams helped him back to his quad and then they drove through thick swamps and brush, through a quad trail, and back to the road.
“I thought we were a mile away but we were at least two miles away from where our truck was,” Sulin said.
Community member Graham West said when he was notified that the picker was missing, he contacted the band’s general manager.
“She instructed me and fellow part-time stewardship guardian Fred Cahoose to mobilize and do what needed to be done because the lost mushroom picker is diabetic and we knew time was of the essence,” West said.
Crews searched on the ground all night and into the early morning.
West said the ground crew consisted of council member Charlie Williams, his son Trent Williams, Larry Cahoose, Andre Cahoose, Alex Sill and Mike Sill, with support from Ernie Sulin, Maxine Cahoose, Jeritta Cahoose, Wanda Cahoose, Bernadette West, Simon Mack, Corrine Casmir, Duane Alexis, Gertie Capoose and ‘countless’ others, including elders Eddie Sill, Hobson Baptiste and Alexie Cahoose.
“We had to all work together as one in order to locate the missing picker,” West said. “It was our fourth missing picker this season and it shows how stewardship guardians working with locals can work fast, efficiently and as a team. I am so proud of them all.”
Sulin said he had never gone through anything like it before and is thankful to everyone.
“I have always heard about people getting turned around, but it never happened to me. My mom always told me if something like that happens to pray and pray, and you will make it out.”
His mom, Mary Sulin, was actually cooking a bunch of food, and brought snacks and drinks to the search party.
When he got to the camp they handed him food and clothes and blankets and then brought him into the community to get checked out at the clinic in Ulkatcho.