Gilbert "Dewey" Gaedcke III decided to search an active volcano while on vacation. But heand wound up walking aimlessly on the massive lava field for five days.
He was rescued Friday when 15-year-old Peter Frank, who was on a helicopter tour with his family, spotted Gaedcke signaling for help with a mirror from his camera.
He told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm Tuesday he came through the ordeal with cuts, bruises, infections and blisters on his feet, and cuts on his hands. All in all though, Gaedcke says, he's dong well.
But he says surviving wasn't easy: "It was pretty vicious. The older volcanic rock is like glass. It's hollow inside. It collapses when you step on it. It's really rough terrain to walk on. But the main ingredient to survival was water, which is pretty rare supply out there."
Gaedcke says he sucked on moss from trees to get the precious liquid: "It was an accident. I stumbled on it. I don't think anybody really knew that was out there or available. Most people thought that you couldn't survive out there because there wasn't water. It goes through the lava. I was crawling through this dense jungle, licking drops of water off of leaves. And I happened to set my hand on a tree and found something that felt like a sponge. And I discovered that I could survive on that."
What was going through his mind all that time? It varied widely: "I think I was probably dehydrated before I started the hike. I think that was part of the poor judgment of having gone out there. When I couldn't find water, I was panicked. When I knew how to find water, I felt relaxed. I thought I had plenty of time to get rescued. Then, I noticed infections growing on my foot, which of course I couldn't control. So, then I was panicked again."
Finally, he spotted the helicopter that had spotted him. Then, says Gaedcke, he was "really excited."
He recalled, "I had had my worst night the night before, and I did not want another evening like that. So I was really grateful."
Frank, the teen on the helicopter, told Storm he first noticed "a little flash. If you can imagine a flash from a camera, that's how I would describe it."
It was Gaedcke using his camera's mirror to reflect the sun in an effort to attract attention.
Frank mentioned what he'd seen to the pilot, who circled around to take a look.
Franks' mother, Diann Kim, says she didn't pay much attention to what Frank had seen. "Fortunately," she added, "(the pilot) did, and went back to check it out."
Frank's sister, Hannah Frank, told Storm she and a friend dropped bottles of water to Gaedcke, cushioning them in airsickness bags.
That water, Gaedcke says, "was great. There was no mud or moss in it."