Short Nature Hike Turns Into 3-Day Ordeal for SC Family

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Missing South Carolina Hiking Family Saved

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The story had all the makings of a nightmare. A family of three set out for a short little hike, but things went wrong fast, turning it into three long nights in the wild.

After spending 60 hours lost in the wilderness, the South Carolina family is safe today. And now, J.R. Kimbler, 43, says he knows what to do next time.

"I feel like the world's worst father. But I guess I did pretty good because I kept everybody alive for three days," Kimbler told reporters Tuesday.

Kimbler and his two children – Dakota, 10, and Jade, 6 – set out for a nature hike Saturday in Congaree National Park. They soon found themselves lost in the 27,000-acre park with no food, water or supplies.

Kimbler sent a text for help before his cellphone died.

That text set off a desperate hunt for the missing family, with 80 people scouring the park by foot, boat and helicopter.

Kimbler is a taxi driver with no Boy Scout or survival training. "Closest I got to that was watching the 'Survivor' series on TV," he said.

During the ordeal, the family drank dirty rain water collected in puddle, and even tried unsuccessfully eating wild turkey eggs.

Despite the predicament, he tried to stay positive.

"I've got to stay strong for them because if I start crying or freaking out, it is going to make it ten times tougher for them," Kimbler said.

After 60 hours of waiting and wishing, the family was finally rescued. A park ranger, Jared Gurtler, was passing nearby. Kimbler heard Gurtler's voice and responded.

"I eventually got what I thought was a human voice saying, 'Please come help us,'" Gurtler said.

The family was dehydrated but OK, and Kimbler is at least able to have a sense of humor regarding his next weekend adventure.

"Somewhere indoors," Kimbler said. "Next time, I'm going to Google it first."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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