Salas family celebrates a very special Thanksgiving


Joseph “Joe” Salas will have no complaints if he’s served fastfood for Thanksgiving this year.

The Salas family will sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with one thought foremost in their minds—gratitude to God and everyone that helped and prayed for their patriarch’s safe return after being lost in a hunting trip in October.

Joseph “Joe” and Cathy Salas. (Contributed Photo)

Joseph “Joe” and Cathy Salas. (Contributed Photo)

Joe, a former Saipan resident and president of the island’s Little League program, was lost in the Idaho wilderness for six days before being miraculously found, a few hours before a cold front hitting the area would’ve made his chances for survival next to impossible.

Joe’s wife, Cathy, said she hasn’t forgotten to thank God everyday for His divine intervention in keeping her husband safe and out of harm’s way.

“Since Joe has been found, I thank the Lord everyday for hearing each and everyone of our prayers. I am everyday thankful for the love and support that we have received both near and far. This ordeal has taught me not to take life and loved ones for granted and to live life day by day appreciating each and every minute.”

Cathy said the family’s harrowing and torturous experience of not knowing the fate of Joe made her a more compassionate person.

“It also opened my heart to give more to those in need in any form and without prejudice or ever judging them,” she said.

For his part, Joe said trust and faith in God was what sustained him through those brutal six days in Payette National Forest.

“When I was without water for one day, I prayed that evening and the next morning there was an abundance of water and I thanked the Lord. From my experience, the most important thing is to have faith. Faith and pray more but above all believe in the Almighty Father from above.”

Joe said Thanksgiving this year is definitely different because his family is viewing it from another plane, one that incorporates what could’ve been.

“Let us not only celebrate Thanksgiving but share it with everyone, we are all the same in the Lord’s kingdom. When we see people that are homeless or having hard time, don’t look the other way but help them out. I am thankful for all the prayers from all walks of life including our CNMI where most if not all the churches were open and parishioners prayed for my safe return to my family. The outpouring and thunderous prayers was heard by the Almighty Father and it returned me back to my family. Happy Thanksgiving to our great CNMI and we are all in it together.”

Asked what has changed most since her husband was lost and eventually found, Cathy said they have to get used to being semi-famous in their neck of the woods now.

“The celebrity part on Joe was hard to ignore and so we acknowledge the attention as our means of showing appreciation. A couple of schools in Idaho spent some instructional time having students learn more about the Payette National Forest (where Joe was lost) and its terrains, and incorporating some lessons on survival skills.”

In an interview with a local news channel (KTVB), Salas said he initially lost his way back to camp when he tried not to cross other hunters’ path.

KTVB reported that the following days Salas tried to hike, but he was “trapped in between two mountains so he tried to move in a direction where he thought he might hear cars driving on a road or maybe hear a dog bark.”

Because of the rough terrain, Salas eventually ran out of water as well as lose his rifle, backpack, light jacket, and a water bottle.

Fortunately, he was able to find a creek. He also narrated a time when he thought he was hallucinating with hazy encounters with a pair of hunters and even what he suspected was a bear.

As other news outlets already reported, Moses Sablan finally found Salas near the creek and his almost weeklong ordeal in the wilderness of Idaho was finally over. Save for an injured foot and visibly having lost weight, Joe was relatively unscathed and his only request on the ambulance ride to a local hospital was for a cheeseburger, milkshake, and fries.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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