Trenten Fish and his grandfather Jeff are like two peas in a pod, and after spending a night huddled together in the freezing cold wilderness above Sunburst Falls, they're even closer.
The two Waynesville men were out enjoying an afternoon of fishing when they lost track of time and noticed the sun was quickly drawing behind the ridgeline.
"We weren't lost," Jeff noted. "We just stayed in there too long and it got dark on us."
Cutting their losses, they decided to try to hunker down for the night amid the cold, rainy weather. But first, they had to climb up away from the creek to seek a dry spot.
"There were pretty big rocks," Trenten, 21, said. "We had to be careful and I had to help him up a few times."
After climbing along a large waterfall, which the two estimated is between 30-40 vertical feet, Trenten spotted a rock that hanging was over some dry dirt. Once out of the rain, Trenten said he and his grandfather "cuddled" to prevent succumbing to hypothermia.
"Anytime we'd turn over, we'd turn over together so we wouldn't lose any heat," Jeff, 71, said.
At one point, Trenten tried to build a fire for warmth. While he was able to spark up a small flame, the surrounding area was too wet to collect the fuel needed to build it up and keep it going, and within about five minutes it died out.
There were other concerns, too, besides the cold. Although Jeff said he was fairly confident they could scare off any bears, they still had their fish with them and there had been a large tuft of black bear fur and tracks earlier in the day not far from where they hunkered down.
"It was bigger than my hand," Trenten said of the tracks.
By 8 p.m. Sunday evening, Bucky, Trenten's father and Jeff's son, decided to go check out the spot he anticipated his son and father to have parked their vehicle. When he got out there and didn't see the vehicle, he continued up above Sunburst, where he eventually located the vehicle near the Three Arches Bridge.
Bucky set out to searching the immediate vicinity. In fact, he was so close that his presence didn't go unnoticed by Trenten and Jeff, who could see the bright beam from Bucky's flashlight. But their attempts to signal him back failed as he continued moving up the creek.
"We yelled back and shined flashlights, but it didn't work," Trenten said.
"I whistled until I couldn't whistle again," Jeff said.
Bucky searched the creek all night looking for Trenten and Jeff under the assumption that perhaps one or both may have fallen in. He admitted he was frightened of what he might find.
"That's the worst feeling, walking the creek with a flashlight looking for your son and dad," he said.
However, despite that fear lingering in the back of his mind, Bucky knew that his father was familiar with that territory, as he recalled spending a lot of time in those woods with his dad as he was growing up.
"He went through Vietnam," Bucky said, adding that the laurel thickets and steep terrain gave him a sense of comfort after the war. "When I was a kid, he used to take us there all the time because that was his stomping ground."
Jeff said that although he knew the area well, it'd been a while since he'd been up there. And he hadn't had to wait out a night in the bush like that since the war.
"It'd been many, many years since I was in that position," he said.
Trenten's mother, Tonya Oldham said she didn't find out her son was missing until early Monday morning, and by the time she arrived at the Lake Logan Fire Department, word had been passed down that her son and his grandfather were found safe.
"I am very proud of him that he used common sense and he knew what to do," she said.
Oldham added that she experienced a whirlwind of emotions over the course of Monday and that she is ultimately just happy that her son is home.
"I don't even know how to explain it really," she said. "I can't imagine my world without my children in it. I'm very grateful for the search teams and everyone who helped. There's no way to express my gratitude for all they did."
Mike Street helped lead the rescue effort. He said that in addition to deciding to stay put, the men made the right choice to try to find a dry spot and hunker down.
"His thought process was pretty dang solid," Street said of Trenten. "They made some good decisions."
When asked where he learned to be level-headed and apply situational awareness in those kinds of situations, Trenten said from his father, and of course, his papaw.
Street said that in any rescue like this, there is usually a tremendous team effort with multiple agencies from around the region pitching in. This rescue was no different. Aiding in the effort to find the men were the Haywood County Sheriff's Office, Lake Logan Fire Department, Henderson County Rescue Squad, Haywood County Search and Rescue, and Buncombe County Rescue Squad. In addition Cruso Fire Department offered its help and was on standby throughout the night.
"There were a lot of people involved in this. It's not like a one-agency show when things get to this level," he said. "There were a lot of people involved that did really good work."
Street said that members of the search and rescue team made contact with Trenten and Jeff at about 8:15 a.m. Monday morning. By 2 p.m., after hours of bushwhacking a 1.5-mile trail through the woods, Trenton made it out, guided by members of the search and rescue team who found them, and at about 4:30, Jeff was out, and although his vitals were getting weaker due to dehydration and exhaustion, he is recovering well.
"They carried me right out of there," Jeff said, noting that he couldn't walk more than a few feet at a time because his leg gave out.
Although the rescue was a success, it didn't come without its own challenges. A two-man team that tried to approach Trenten and Jeff from above went into the woods at about midnight facing worsening weather conditions.
"They searched from midnight to 6 a.m. and the decision was made to shelter in place instead of coming out because the weather got so bad," Street said.
"They thought they heard somebody when they were sheltering down … but they couldn't tell where it was coming from," he added.
Street also said the rescue was difficult because of the terrain. The 1.5-mile path rescuers took to get to the men saw about an 800-ft. elevation change, and because of the weather, the ground was slick and unstable.
When Trenten and Jeff finally spotted the yellow helmets of the rescuers, they were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
"I said, 'papaw let's stay right here. They'll come get us,'" Trenten said.
Once Bucky heard the news they'd been located, he was ecstatic.
"All I could hear the man say was they found him, and I jumped up and ran out of there," he said.
A day after the rescue, following a full night's sleep and some much needed family time, the Fishes looked back on the whole situation with levity.
"I said, 'I told you we'd get out,'" Jeff told his grandson through a full grin. "I knew we would."