By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Hiking is great exercise and exposes you to nature, however it can also become the gateway to death.
Even tour guides are not impervious, as one got lost during a group trip. His name was Morgan Heimer, 22, of Cody Wyoming. On June 2, 2015, the National Park Service received a report he had disappeared at Pumpkin Springs. The group was on the 6th day of an 8-day trip. He was last seen wearing a flotation device and carrying a water bottle. The search continued into late July, seven weeks after he disappeared.
Between 2018 to February, 2023, 1,180 persons have been reported missing from US National Parks. However missing doesn't always mean dead, and some were found injured but alive, however others were deceased either through accidents, exposure or suicide.
Data showed that Grand Canyon National Park had more deaths, missing persons reports and suicides compared to any other park. The cause of death though are known. Most of them are from falls over the canyon, helicopter crashes or overheating.
Such is the story of Robert Woodie, 74, who on October 22, 2016, didn't return from a 4-day, solo, backpacking trip in Kings Canyon National Park. The last signal from his satellite device showed he was in the area of Barrett Lakes. Cold weather came in, and overnight temps dipped below freezing. A search with over 60 officials and two helicopters covered the area where he was trekking through.
Woodie was described as an experienced hiker who was familiar with the area, however by the end of October the search was scaled back due to 2 to 3 feet of snow falling, and winds of about 75 mph making the conditions inhospitable for a search.
It wasn't until July, 2017 that Woodie's body was discovered by a group of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail. The body was 300 feet off the Bishop Pass Trail on a slope with debris and rocks. His family believe he was the victim of a rock slide.
Charles Lyon was last seen in June 2021, and Jonghyon Won like Lyon, left his car parked at the South Rim of Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park as the only clue.
In 2016, Floyd Roberts, 52, traveled all the way from Florida to disappear while participating in a backpacking trip with a group of hikers. The terrain where he disappeared near Kelly Tanks at Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument is considered rugged.
Resolution sometimes takes years, because that's how long it takes to find a body, especially if it fell into a canyon.
Scott Walsh disappeared in 2015, but it wasn't until 2021 that he was found accidently by a search group looking for another person. Walsh was last seen stepping off a shuttle bus at the park's South Rim. His clothing had blended in with the surroundings.
The crew was searching for Gabor Berczi-Tomscanyi a Hungarian national who lived in Hong Kong. Las Vegas police had received a report in late July, 2021, that he was missing while traveling in the Southwest. His auto was found in the parking lot at the Grand Canyon in August. His body was found a few days later, 430 feet below the canyon's rim at Yavapai Point. The ME determined he had died from injuries due to a traumatic fall, but an investigation was opened as to what led up to it.
In December 2017, rafters on a day hike found the remains of a California man last seen in June 2017.
In 2015, rafters hiking through the canyon came across the wreckage of a small aircraft with human bones scattered nearby. This was about 30 miles northwest of Grand Canyon Village. The plane was stuck between two boulder and naturally concealed.
It was a homebuilt plane piloted by Joseph Radford who crashed in the canyon in March 2011, possibly on purpose.
In July, 2020, Barry Tragen, 68, disappeared from Glacier National Park in Montana. The only clue found was a pair of sunglasses that were thought to belong to him.
The same month Matthew Silveira, 32, disappeared from the Cape Code National Seashore where his car was abandoned. Inside was camping gear and his cellular phone.
In 2019, James Pruitt, 70, drove from his hometown of Etowah, Tennessee to Rocky Mountain National Park. On March 3, rangers found his vehicle which didn't have an overnight parking permit. They searched for him until March 11, but by then two feet of snow had fallen at Glacier Gorge. They searched for him throughout the summer but without any success.
In 2016, Peter Jackson went out to Yosemite National Park. He text his son, and had paid to park at White Wolf Campground until September 21. He's never been heard of since then.
In some cases decades go by before a discovery is made, and the mystery of a hiker's whereabouts is laid to rest. In August 2017, police in southwestern Switzerland found the remains of a German hiker who went missing 30 years before. Two hikers found a hand and a pair of shoes sticking out of the Hohlaub Glacier, six miles east of the Matter Horn. The man went missing on August 11, 1987. The month before authorities found the bodies of a Swiss couple who went missing 75 years before on the Tsanfleuron Glacier. Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin set off on foot to feed their animals on August 15, 1942, but never returned.
On June 5, 2023, two brothers went to scatter the ashes of a loved one near a tree they had planted as children near Molalla, Oregon. They became separated. Search and rescue volunteers went out into the area and located the body of the missing man, which appears to have died form some type of medical condition.
On the same day, an unidentified man, 33, fell 4,000 feet to his death from the edge of the Grand Canyon Skywalk. The attraction is operated by the Hualapai Nation. It extends out 70 feet over a precipice, with a 10-foot wide, horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that tourists can walk over. It’s unclear if the man fell or leaped from outside the barrier.
On August 25, 2023, Bryce Canyon National Park announced that Jeanne Roblez Howell, 64, from Sedona was dead. She was an experienced hiker, however it seemed she was caught by a flash flood caused by heavy rains as she trekked through Fairyland Loop, an 8-mile trail.
In September, 2023, a man that went missing from Glacier National Park's Reynolds Mountain in Montana was found. Adam Fuselier, 32, was overdue to return from a hike, which prompted the search. His vehicle was found at Logan Pass the highest elevation reachable by car. His cause of death has not been clarified. In May, 2023, a student from University of Kansas drowned in Glacier National Park's Avalanche Creek, after falling from a rocky overhang.
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