You can get lost in the American wilderness. Forget about your work, the stress, the commute, and just concentrate on you and the basics. For some people, this is a magnificent experience that transforms them forever. But some never come back.
To this day, we have not been able to find missing hikers Christopher Steven Sylvia or Kris “Sherpa” Micha Sattem Fowler or David Lawrence O’Sullivan. But they have not been forgotten. Not by Andrea Lankford and the many investigators and volunteers who are introduced in this book.
This book comes out August 22, 2023 with Hachette Books. I have been fortunate to receive an advanced reading copy for review from the publisher.
There is so much to mention. I really need to restrain myself because you should read it with fresh eyes and be as amazed as I am. The three hikers mentioned above all disappeared from the same footpath at the Pacific Crest Trail. I learned about hiking, trails, safe spots, logbooks, and trail names. The searches for all three mentioned hikers are discussed in detail. Lankford meticulously discribes the bureaucracy involved, the misunderstandings about missing people especially hikers, and the uphill battle family members fight to keep their loved one’s case in the media.
The stories of the three hikers’ families will tug at your heart. How they find the strength to search and then have to leave the area without having found their loved one, is one amazing journey to witness as a reader. How everyone kept the investigation going while holding on to their jobs, battling health issues, and even violence against their family, almost seems superhuman. And then there’s Lankford herself who as a former law enforcement ranger with the National Park Service went on the trails herself to search for these hikers. She got badly injured but that didn’t stop her.
The moment you ask for help online you get a flood of information ranging from not useful to not impossible. But you also get offered the generous, selfless help from people who offer their private planes to fly over the area, people drawing maps visualizing where the hikers were last seen, volunteers scanning aerial pictures to see if anything stands out, people offering their scanners, drones, and most importantly, people who offer their time to join the volunteer teams that search the Trail. Mile by mile, walking the grid, hiking the trail where the missing were either last seen or from their last know place of contact, such as a cellphone tower triangulation point.
The book has a great pace, the chapters are well structured, and there are black and white copies of the three mens’ missing posters. Lankford expertly switches between explaining search and hiking techniques and gives us insight into the people conducting such searches. Many other cases are discussed in the book and all are heartbreaking. We also meet the many volunteers who help in the search for the missing. This book shows how social media and the Internet are invaluable to help trace missing people. It also shows the pitfalls and why some families decide to not use social media.
There is a table of content, author’s notes, maps, bibliography of books and articles, and a listing of useful websites. I have not seen the final version of this book.
Highly recommended reading for everyone interested in the Pacific Crest Trail, the cases of Christopher Steven Sylvia, Kris Micha Sattem Fowler, and David Lawrence O’Sullivan, or those who are interested in learning how these searches are conducted and what obstacles get in the way of finding missing hikers.
Should you have any information about the three cases mentioned above please contact:
For Christopher Steven Sylvia
San Diego County Sheriff’s Department
9621 Ridgehaven Court
San Diego, California 92123
Tel: (858) 565-5200
Agency Case Number: 15109721
For Kris Micha Sattem Fowler
Yakima County Sheriff’s Office
Randy Briscoe, Sgt.
1822 South 1st Street
Yakima, Washington 98903
Tel: (509) 574-2500
Agency Case Number: 16C-18926
For David Lawrence O’Sullivan
Riverside County Sheriff’s Department
4095 Lemon Street
Riverside, California 92501
Tel: (951) 955-2400
Agency Case Number: D172130037