Thursday, November 17, 2016

Into Thick Air

Where are you, Kris Fowler?

I can't say what it is about this story that has obsessed me. Maybe because I am a PCT hiker too. I remember White Pass in August, a nightmare of the worst mosquitoes I have ever experienced. We pushed our hiking speed past three miles an hour on the flat, boggy sections, and two southbound hikers were right: after Snow Lake the bugs inexplicably let up. There was also a maze of connecting trails where we had to remain vigilant to stay on the main path. Easy, in August.

Climbing up from Chinook Pass, the worst camping night of my life at Sheep Lake, hurricane force winds bending the trees. An exposed ridge with brutal wind as we came around to see Mount Rainier staring us in the face. But as the PCT goes, a relatively benign section. Except in air thick with rain. There are so many things that could go wrong.

There are more questions than answers. Why didn't a southbound hiker, camped less than 20 miles away from White Pass, run into Kris the second day? If the sightings are real, why did it take 10 days to hike 63 miles? Where are you, Kris Fowler?

The snow is piling up in the Cascades.  I think of all the chances I have taken.

I remember what it was like when I first started hiking solo. There were no cell phones. No beacons. The GPS technology, when released to the public in the 1990s, was inaccurate. What I learned was that if I got myself in a fix, I had to get myself out. I still have that mentality. It's why when my friend shows up with a fanny pack for a hike I am lugging a backpack with essentials.

The good thing about long trails like the PCT is that you can temporarily disappear. The bad thing is that you can permanently disappear. Circumstances prevented me from joining in on the search, but I wish I could have. The pictures some of the last finishers shared were breathtaking. They crossed slopes that clearly were ready to avalanche. There is such a thing as wanting something so much that you disregard the weather.

I try to fill this space with reports about fun adventures, but I just don't have the heart for it today.

Come home, Kris Fowler.

This photo was taken by the people who dropped Kris off at White Pass October 12.


  1. I can see why this is heavy on your heart. You know the area and can visualize, unlike the rest of us, just where he hiked and what may have happened. His friends and family must be so heartsick.

  2. I feel for you and his family and friends!

    1. I didn't know him. But still feel sad and helpless. Could have been any of us.

  3. It certainly has given many of us reason to ponder our own situations. A friend posted this link and the comments regarding delayed search is exactly why we love being in the wilderness but it sure creates a fine line between freedom and responsibility to friends and family. "He often took off for weeks at a time and that it was not unusual for him to be gone without contact."

    1. It's fine to live your life this way as long as you accept risk and your family is OK with it. Usually they aren't

  4. Funny I should read your post because just today I was googling about any updates. And none!!! My heart is just broken over this! Wonder if we'll ever get answers.


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