SALT LAKE CITY – When he realized he’d been separated from his family on a weekend hike in a northern Utah forest, 9-year-old Grayson Wynne’s thoughts turned to television.
Grayson watches “Man vs. Wild” on the Discovery Channel every week with his brothers and his dad. On the show, host and adventurer Bear Grylls strands himself in the wilderness and then shows viewers how to survive the sticky situations.
That’s where Grayson says he learned to leave clues behind to help searchers find him.
On Saturday, when he was scared and alone in the Ashley National Forest, Grayson started tearing up his yellow rain slicker, despite the intermittent downpours, and tying pieces to trees.
“I just used my hands,” said Grayson, who was found safe Sunday after spending 18 hours lost in the forest. “I don’t know how many times I tore the thing but quite a lot.”
Grayson was among a party of about 15 family members that left Saturday from the Spirit Lake trailhead in Daggett County. The group stopped to tighten a saddle on a horse at some point, said Grayson’s dad, Kynan Wynne. But Grayson didn’t realize it and went ahead of the pack before diverting onto a smaller trail in the thick forest.
Although Kynan Wynne was concerned for his son’s safety, he was also confident in the boy’s resilience.
“Somewhere he got the idea that for multiple reasons, not just for people to find you, but to retrace your steps if you have to, to leave a trail,” Kynan Wynne said.
Grayson created a small shelter overnight under a fallen tree. The next day, he decided to follow a creek in hopes of finding help.
“I (thought I) might find the lake, that there might be somebody at the lake,” he said.
Grayson, who will start fourth grade in the fall, also left a couple of clues for searchers that he didn’t mean to.
He dropped a granola bar wrapper about 300 yards off the main trail. Searchers also found a small footprint and a backpack about 400 yards from the wrapper.
“I was just being pretty stupid that I dropped the backpack,” Grayson said. “I was just panicking too much.”
When Grayson heard a helicopter overhead, he ran into a meadow and waved the last piece of his jacket. But two searchers on horseback saw him first.
“It was such a good feeling that I was going to be all right,” said Grayson, who got back to normal Monday by playing in a Little League double-header.
When he was reunited with his father, Grayson’s first words were “Happy Father’s Day.”
The Daggett County sheriff’s office credited the searchers, volunteers and Grayson’s common sense for the positive outcome.
“The thing that he recognized from the show, regardless of the circumstances you’re in, you are capable of surviving,” Kynan Wynne said.

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