A man’s morning trip to grab lunch turned into a more than two-day fight for his life out in the Arizona desert mountains.
Mick Ohman moved to Phoenix from Minneapolis, Minnesota, a year ago. Since then, he routinely goes on “little adventures” to explore his new surroundings, and that’s why he ventured 80 miles from his home in Phoenix to grab lunch at Crown King, a ghost town in the Bradshaw Mountains, on July 27.
When he was ready to head back to Phoenix, Ohman figured he had time to kill and beautiful scenery to see, so he took a different route that would bring him to Phoenix just in time to watch the sunset. But this route would unexpectedly take him over unpaved narrow roads and jagged terrain, which caused Ohman’s Honda CRV to leak fluid and break down, leaving him alone in the blistering triple-digit heat of the desert just an hour into the ride back. He was miles from anyone.
“I was worried but I kept hope because I was doing a lot of praying,” Ohman tells PEOPLE. “I really put my faith in the Father above.”
Ohman trudged through the wilderness and climbed up hills for hours to find phone reception, but never found a signal. With no planes in the sky or signs of humanity anywhere near him, a frightening thought began to creep into 55-year-old Ohman’s mind—there was a chance he may not make it through.
Ohman took out his phone and recorded a message explaining how he ended up there, which included a heartfelt farewell: “If you find this phone and I didn’t do so well, please tell my sisters how much I love them.”
Within hours, the desert heat took a toll on Ohman’s body. He was thirsty and hungry, but the only food he had was a spoiled sandwich, crackers, and a few cans of Mickey’s Malt Liquor. Ohman was feeling dizzy and his fingertips were pruning up like raisins.
“I was so thirsty that I would swallow and my throat would stick together,” he explains. “I had to urinate, so I grabbed a cup. The urine wasn’t as salty or bitter as I thought it was going to be, but the temperature is what got to me.”
Ohman says it gave him a boost of energy, which was what sustained him into the night.
As the sun rose on Ohman’s second day of being lost, he came across a small creek he was able to sip from. He spent the day firing bullets into the sky in the pattern of SOS and writing “H” on the ground with rocks in case a plane flew by. Help never arrived, but Ohman felt relief when rain fell from the nighttime sky. “These big fat juicy drops of rain started falling,” he says, “and I was just so relieved that I danced in the rain. It felt so good.”
The morning after the rain, on his third day being lost, Ohman felt motivated. He walked and walked, despite the pain he was feeling. “The sun was beating me down badly, and I’m sweating like crazy, my neck is getting red and chaffed,” he says. “I was hurting.”
Ohman wondered the wilderness until, finally, he heard a sweet sound: the roar of a dirt bike. Troy Haverland, a biker out on a weekend ride, would be the first person Ohman had seen in almost two days. Haverland put Ohman on the back of his bike, and the two rode 45 minutes to Lake Pleasant, where they met with Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies. With his hands on Haverland’s shoulders as they rode, Ohman screamed, “You can tell your friends and family that you saved a life today!”
Ohman says he and Haverland bonded over the incident, and they still speak today. “There’s no way I would have made it out of there on foot,” Ohman says. “My prayers were answered, simple as that.”
And Ohman isn’t shying away from his adventurous ways.
“I’m getting back on that pony in a week or two!” he says. “But this time, I’ll be going with experts.”
Jason Duaine Hahn