It’s the summer of 2019, and Kaden Laga is out hiking with his loved ones in Montana. But as the day progresses, he gets lost in the woods, with no idea how to find his way back to safety. Fearing the worst, as the hours pass Kaden feels compelled to write an emotional note to his pregnant partner Arden.
Outdoor activities can be incredibly enjoyable during the warmer months, as people grab the chance to get back to nature and soak up the natural surroundings. Indeed, Kaden was doing exactly that back in August 2019. At that time, he and his family had traveled to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, ready to participate in a hike.
After saying goodbye to Arden, Kaden joined his clan for their trek through the Montana wilderness. However, their journey came to an abrupt halt when the latter’s brother encountered a serious problem. For you see, his horse started to display signs of lameness, so he couldn’t ride it any longer.
Reacting to the situation, Kaden formulated a plan with his family; he decided to complete the hike on foot, freeing up his horse for his sibling. Unfortunately, though, the tourist eventually lost his bearings, leaving himself in a terrifying situation. And given how bleak things were looking, he decided he wanted to leave Arden a message.
But before we dive into Kaden’s ordeal in the wilderness, let’s take a closer look at his life back home. A resident of Provo, Utah, he was once a student at Brigham Young University, where he took classes in advertising. Following that spell, he then started up his own company in October 2016.
Indeed, Kaden took charge of Jetpack Media, which specialized in online marketing. The Provo resident held that position for a number of months, ahead of calling it a day in June 2017. Alongside that role, he also plied his trade as a “computer support specialist” for his old college over a three-year period.
In the end, Kaden left that particular job in September 2018, before starting a new role some two months later. He joined a company named Disruptive Advertising at that stage, taking on the position of a marketing consultant. Outside of work, though, the former college student had an equally busy period in his personal life too.
For you see, Kaden had asked his girlfriend Arden Bradley to marry him back in July 2016. And about two months on from that they had tied the knot, as the latter joined the Laga clan. Much like her husband, Arden pursued a college education, but she focused on a more creative subject.
Arden attended Utah Valley University, where she became a modern dance student in 2015. As for her married life, she and Kaden took another significant step a few years later. As we mentioned earlier, she was pregnant in summer 2019, ahead of the ill-fated hike in Montana.
But prior to heading off for the journey through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Kaden was stopped by his wife. As it turned out, Arden wanted him to make an important vow. “She looked at me and said, ‘You better promise me that you come home safe,’” he recalled to TV station Fox 13 in August 2019.
Following that emotional exchange, Kaden and his clan left Arden behind to begin their trek. Now, to appreciate just how big the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness is, you need only consult the Montana Wilderness Association. According to the organization’s website, that area covers more than 251,000 acres.
Indeed, the website goes on to share a few more details about the area, painting a vivid picture. It reads, “Designated in 1964, this wilderness straddles the Montana-Idaho border and is situated within the boundaries of four National Forests. Elevations range significantly from 1,800 feet on the Selway and Lochsa Rivers, to 10,000 feet in the Bitterroot Mountains.”
In addition to that, the site touches upon the landscape itself, noting that hikers can marvel at waterfalls, canyons and woodland areas. However, the wilderness boasts some potential dangers too, as we’re about to find out. For instance, animals like wolverines and black bears can be found out there in the wild.
Regardless of those threats, though, Kaden and his family marched into the wilderness with their horses, taking in the idyllic surroundings. To begin with, the trek progressed smoothly, but soon the marketing consultant’s brother encountered a huge problem. As we highlighted earlier, his horse couldn’t complete the journey.
To help solve the issue, Kaden got off his horse and opted to walk the rest of the way, and the group settled upon a “meet-up point.” From there, Arden’s husband started to navigate the terrain, completely unaware of what would happen next. Unfortunately for him, he soon lost track of the correct path.
That fateful error meant that rather than homing in on a rendezvous with his family, Kaden was actually moving in the wrong direction, so he didn’t make it to his desired location. Instead, the Provo resident was now venturing deeper into the wilderness, an uncomfortable truth which eventually became apparent to him. Yet despite his predicament, he pieced together a plan to get out of it.
Speaking to TV station ABC Fox Montana, Kaden looked back on his mindset during that period. He said, “I decided I was going to keep going east no matter what. My new goal was to get out of there in a month and a half. In my mind, I thought I needed to give Arden a month to forgive me before the baby comes.”
But time was very much against Kaden, as he wasn’t carrying any helpful supplies. Indeed, he just had an empty water bottle and his mobile phone. So on that note, the father-to-be had to rely on his instincts to stay alive, eyeing potential food sources in the area around him.
Kaden kept himself hydrated thanks to the nearby streams, while his nourishment came from different places. To explain more, he cast his mind back during a conversation with Fox News. The hiker said, “I’ve been in those woods several years, so I knew huckleberries and thimbleberries were safe, and grasshoppers as well.”
As Kaden continued to forge a path through the wilderness over the following days, Arden tried to help her husband from afar. For you see, she was staying at his mom and dad’s house in Montana, where a makeshift base had been set up. Furthermore, those who looked to assist with the search had various tools available to them.
From helicopters to dogs, these individuals were well prepared to scour the area for Kaden. But unfortunately, one of the choppers failed to see him, even though it got fairly close to his location. “I’m like, ‘This is it, they’re going to get me,’ and they just take off in the other direction,” the former college student later told Fox News.
By that point, Kaden was getting just a few hours of sleep each day, as he needed to be mindful of the wilderness’s dangers. For instance, he was disturbed by a troubling sound one evening that prompted him to abandon his plans to rest. Arden’s partner was convinced that a bear had made the noise at the time.
On top of all that, Kaden’s footwear went through a lot of wear and tear as well, making his trek even harder. However, while he was determined to fulfil the vow that he made to Arden before the hike, he did think about the worst-case scenario. And that’s not all, as we’ll soon discover.
Kaden later told Fox News, “Pretty early on when I realized I was lost, I came to grasp the possibility of me dying. And [I] actually came quite to peace with it and was not too worried. [It] felt like of all the places to die, the Bitterroot Wilderness is the place to do it.”
“But, remembering the promise that I had made to Arden,” Kaden continued. “That I would come home safe and take care of that baby, my mind switched and it was survival mode after that. The focus was just getting home no matter what.” With that in mind, the future dad finally received a big slice of luck following five days in the wilderness.
In the early hours of the morning, Kaden saw a campsite that was lit up by a car’s lights. As it turned out, the people there had been searching for him, before heading to bed. It was an incredible stroke of fortune that could well have saved the hiker’s life in the end, given how long he’d been lost.
Unsurprisingly, Arden was elated when the news filtered down to her. The mom-to-be told TV program Shepard Smith Reporting, “I had a very frank conversation with God five minutes before we found out that Kaden was safe and alive. I just said, ‘I need my husband home, and I know You can provide that.’”
Arden added, “And so five minutes later, I heard screaming downstairs that we got a message that [Kaden] was alive. And, I just fell on my knees and was just sobbing that that was true.” After all of the uncertainty and concern, a rescue party took Kaden to see his loved ones later that day.
As we heard a little earlier, though, Kaden certainly had his doubts about escaping the wilderness with his life. In fact, he actually felt compelled to write up a note for Arden during his time away. Once he was found, the Provo resident then revealed what he wanted to say to his wife.
Speaking to Fox 13, Kaden recalled, “I wrote a little text in case [a search party] found my body cold. I just said, ‘In case I don’t make it out of here, I love you. I loved my life with you and I’m so sorry I left you to be a single mom.’”
Meanwhile, Kaden wanted to make something else clear during a conversation with KPAX-TV in August 2019. He explained, “I really hope the take-away isn’t that I’ve done this amazing thing. I was very gifted, blessed and protected. As much as a lot of things went wrong, a lot of things went right.”
Over the course of those tortuous five days, a Facebook page was started up as well, titled “Search for Kaden Laga.” The group was inundated with financial donations, alongside some other helpful items. But after Kaden was found, Arden then provided an update to the users on social media.
Arden wrote, “My Kaden is finally home. He was cracking jokes the whole time and was so excited to take a shower, which was about an hour long! [We will] be donating all [the] leftover supplies and food back to the community.” The update didn’t end there, though, as she touched upon some additional points.
“We have been using donation money to reimburse travel and efforts for Kaden’s search,” Arden continued. “And [we] will be getting Kaden new hiking shoes, a new phone (he completely obliterated his phone to try to start a fire) and a trip to the doctors to check him physically and mentally. We are so grateful he didn’t need to go to the hospital!”
In addition to that post, Kaden looked to address everyone who helped out too. The father-to-be sat down with his wife to record a short video, which was picked up by NBC Montana in August 2019. At that stage, the television station shared the clip on its official Facebook page.
In the footage Kaden says, “So I’ve been a little off the grid in the last couple of days. But I’ve been absolutely amazed at how much everyone has just come together across the nation, which just blows my mind. People have been very generous in making donations, [and] tons of people have been donating their time in any way they can.”
On that note, Kaden then directs a message to these individuals. He adds, “I have been just overwhelmed coming back and just seeing all the effort that everyone has put in. And just the love and the care for, [to] a lot of people, a total stranger, honestly. So, thank you so much, for all your love and support. I’m happy to be alive!”
“Me too!” Arden happily responds, before the clip comes to an end. Since being posted on social media, the brief video has earned over 7,100 views and more than 110 likes from online users. Furthermore, Kaden’s pregnant wife also offered up another update via the previously-mentioned Facebook group.
In that particular Facebook post, Arden spoke about her husband’s overall health since he escaped the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. She touched upon their future plans as well, which included a relaxing vacation away. And despite everything that happened to Kaden in Montana over that summer, they didn’t intend to cancel it.
Arden wrote, “Kaden (and I) have been resting and reconnecting since returning, and he’s doing great. We are expecting some physical and emotional abnormalities to start showing up in the next few days. We had planned a trip to Hawaii four months ago that we are still planning to take to help us rest, reconnect and take things easy.”