Born in Denmark, Hansen settled in American Fork in 1861 after coming to Utah with Mormon pioneers. He was a teamster and logger in American Fork Canyon, and as the demand for lumber and firewood increased, Hansen had to climb higher up the steep slopes to reach ideal timber. According to family records, Hansen ended his working day in October 1887 high on the canyon wall, setting his ax down against a tree and heading home. The next day he returned to collect his ax and noticed mountain lion tracks in the freshly fallen snow. Taking his ax, he followed the tracks and found the entrance to a cave, exploring only as far as daylight allowed.