MOAB — A 15-year-old Boy Scout who took a wrong turn on his first mountain biking trip Friday spent the night alone on the side of the trail near Moab before his rescue.
What Kyler Wood lacked in outdoor experience, the Vineyard Boy Scout made up for with endurance.
Even after a helicopter hovered overhead Saturday morning, the boy continued to pedal back to where he'd come from on the popular, 34-mile Gemini Bridges trail, said his father, Treven Wood.
"I said, 'OK, the helicopter found you. What did you do? Did you stop and wave your arms?' He said, 'I didn't know what to do, so I just kept riding!'" Rescuers in the chopper yelled at the boy through a speaker to stay put, the father said.
Kyler was sunburned and covered in dirt but in good spirits when he reunited with his parents and grandparents Saturday in Moab, his father said.
Despite the positive outcome, the night was harrowing for the teen's family.
Before he was found, the father recounted a sleepless night during which he tried not to think of the worst. Authorities told him that the search could be "like a needle in a haystack," he said.
The bike trip was the last leg of an adventure that had included river-rafting. The teen had just taken pictures with the troop in front of the trail's iconic red-rock arches, trip leaders said, reporting that "he was there, and then he wasn't."
Kyler never came around a bend. He later told his father that all of a sudden, the group was out of sight. He kept pedaling, thinking he would catch up. At dark, he found "soft, squishy ground" and laid down. It was cold and he didn't sleep much, but when daylight came, he began pedaling back the other way and spotted the helicopter about 7 a.m.
The boy, who had been without water and food since 1 p.m. Friday, was flown to a command post on Gemini Bridge Road, where his family met him. Medical crews evaluated him before he returned home to Vineyard Saturday. The boy is a talented piano and viola player, but had never taken a mountain biking trip, his father said.
The Grand County Sheriff's Office was notified about 2:50 p.m. Friday that the missing teen had last been seen 45 minutes earlier mountain biking near Gemini Bridges. Teams from from the sheriff's office, Grand County Search and Rescue and National Park Service assisted in the search, along with a Department of Public Safety helicopter and a personal helicopter.
Treven Wood said he is grateful and was reminded to let loved ones know how important they are. When the boy returns to school and is asked how his summer went, his father asked him, "Which story are you going to tell? That I got lost or that I rode in a helicopter?" The son replied: "I don't know."