Missing Labrador West snowmobiler walked 8 hours overnight before being rescued
Brady Slade's long walk resulted in exhaustion and delerium, but thankfully a happy ending
Brady Slade was forced to make a life or death decision on Saturday night.
I said, 'Nope. I can't. I can't die here tonight. I got up.- Brady Slade
Stay in one place and face the chances of freezing to death before being found, or walk for hours in 30-below temperatures to find shelter.
When the sun came up Sunday morning, he wasn't sure he'd made the right decision.
He was still walking.
"It was quite the long night," Slade said with a shaky laugh.
The 20-year-old Labrador West man did something he rarely does on Saturday — he headed into the woods on his snowmobile by himself. He knows the area well, and knows the limitations of his VK 540 sled.
But on a fine April evening, he pushed it a little too far.
Slade was about 90 km from home when the sun began to set, and his snowmobile broke down.
With no hope of getting it going again, he waited on the side of the trail for someone to come by.
"I knew my mom wasn't going to let me go too long without coming home," he said. "I knew eventually someone was going to come looking. I wasn't sure when it was going to be."
He lit a fire and laid down next to it. But when the bitter wind began howling after sundown, Slade had a hard time keeping the flames going.
The longest walk
At first he was dead set on staying in one place. But then the thought of walking began to creep into his brain until it was all he could think about.
"It was on my mind all night," he recalled. "Do I stay or do I go?
"I was curled up by the skidoo and the fire and I was shivering and freezing. And I snapped out of it, I said, 'Nope. I can't. I can't die here tonight. I got up and that's when I decided I had to walk. I had to do something."
Slade had a general idea of where he was and where he needed to go to find shelter. But he knew it was going to be a long walk.
When he set out at 1:30 a.m. to find warmth, he had no idea it would take him eight hours to reach the nearest warming shelter.
"I spent the night walking through the snow and falling down and your mind is playing tricks on you, thinking you're seeing stuff."
He thought he could hear things in the trees. He thought he saw things on the shorelines of lakes that weren't there. He was fighting off not only the cold, but his deep desire to lie down and rest.
"I had a million conversations with myself, telling myself, you know, you can't go to sleep. Keep walking," he said.
By 9:30 a.m., he stumbled upon what he was looking for — a bright red shack along the trail with a wood stove inside.
He lit a fire, laid down and fell asleep.
Rescue thwarted by delirium
Not long after that, three men came inside the shelter and stirred him awake. They asked if he needed anything — food, water or a ride home. In a delirious state, Slade told them he was fine, and that his friends were on their way to pick him up.
He doesn't remember anything about that encounter.
In the early afternoon, a friend of his really did arrive.
I don't even remember seeing them.- Brady Slade
The man had been at his cabin all weekend, disconnected from social media where there were Facebook posts and news articles being shared about the 20-year-old missing man from Wabush.
After he explained what happened, the man began to give him a ride home. Less than 10 minutes later, they ran into Slade's stepfather and two uncles, who were out searching for him.
That's when they told Slade about the three men who had reported seeing him in the shelter that morning.
"I don't even remember seeing them," he said.
Not keen on walking
Aside from a few pulled muscles and some lingering exhaustion, Slade said he is doing fine at home.
He thanked a former teacher of his at Menihek High in Labrador City — Burt Gillis — who taught a course on survival in the wilderness.
"I'm not saying it's what kept me alive, because I've been in the woods all my life, but I definitely thought back to a couple things he said."
He also thanked all the people who went out searching for him on the weekend, from friends and family to complete strangers.
Slade said he'll rethink going in the woods alone at night, and as for exercising again any time soon — well ...
"I never want to go on a walk again," he said.