A scavenger hunt for fish bait turned into a desperate five-day mission by a West Sacramento man to return home.
If it was not for Mike Vilhauer's quick thinking to fashion numerous sticks and bunches of cypress needles into an 8-feet tall 'HELP' sign, he may not have been rescued. The sign did eventually catch a helicopter pilot's attention.
"There was a time I thought I wasn't going to make it," he said.
But his love for his wife and family, he said, motivated him to keep moving.
From the start, his trip seemed a bit off.
There were no fish in the lake, and a group of trucks circled his car while he was kayaking, prompting him to head back to shore.
Realizing he needed more bait, he grabbed a butterfly net and headed into the wilderness, never tracking his footsteps.
He soon realized he was lost and a storm was quickly approaching.
But the days quickly turned into nights and the search for home grew frustrating.
Along the way, he says he ran into deer, a bear and a wolverine, an elusive animal photographed only a few times in California.
But it appeared no one was listening.
Throughout his journey, there were several instances in which he saw helicopters. He flung his arms to get attention.
His attempts were unsuccessful until Aug. 10, when a pilot finally spotted him and his sign and sent rescuers to find him.
Authorities had even used divers to search the lake, where he had been last seen fishing, he said.
"They returned my faith in humanity," he said.