Backpacker Radio #225 | Andrea Lankford on the PCT’s Three Missing Hikers
In today’s very spooky episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are joined by Andrea Lankford, author of “Trail of the Lost: The Relentless Search to Bring Home the Missing Hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail.” Andrea’s book, and thus our conversation, keys in on the story of three missing hikers on the PCT, all happening in consecutive years between 2015 and 2017. We talk about the specific details of each of these cases, how the official authorities could’ve done better in their searches, how the community rallied to offer their assistance, Andrea’s speculation of what ultimately happened in each case, specific search and rescue tactics, and much more.
We wrap the show by sharing a couple of stories about spooky incidents that have happened to us on trail, the triple crown of Halloween songs that slap, and we offer some details of the holiday hiker meetup.
We also touch on the deeply saddening news of Donna Sauffley’s passing, who was not only a beloved guest on this podcast but also a renowned trail angel.
Download this episode.
Vargo Outdoors: Use code “BACKPACKERRADIO” for 20% off at vargooutdoors.com.
Katabatic Gear: Use code “BPR15” for 15% off at katabaticgear.com.
Gossamer Gear: Use code “TAKELESSTREKMORE” for 15% off at gossamergear.com.
Darn Tough: Use code “DTLOVE-BACKPACKER” for 10% off plus free shipping at darntough.com.
Interview with Andrea Lankford
Time stamps & Questions
00:10:40 – Introducing Andrea
00:11:12 – Tell us about becoming and being a National Park Service ranger
00:14:00 – At what point did finding missing people become a primary interest of yours?
00:16:45 – Do rangers get trained on communicating with the families of missing hikers?
00:18:04 – What stood out to you in the Grand Canyon case that you carried with you?
00:19:47 – Tell us the basics of the Chris Sylvia case
00:23:03 – How did you supplement the initial search?
00:24:45 – What made you want to step in and assist in the Sylvia case?
00:26:42 – What did his family think had happened?
00:27:30 – What was his roommate’s part in it?
00:29:01 – Why didn’t the police release the report to his family?
00:32:17 – Are you investigating as part of a larger organization?
00:34:15 – Have you dealt with reigniting families’ hopes for finding answers?
00:36:06 – Why does the federal government lack data about people who go missing from public land?
00:38:00 – Tell us about the Fear Gender Paradox
00:40:20 – Did you get involved with the Sylvia case before the others had gone missing?
00:42:00 – If you had to guess, what do you think happened to Chris Sylvia?
00:43:36 – Tell us about the Twelve Tribes
00:48:26 – Tell us the basics of the Kris Fowler case
00:50:44 – What were the various witness sightings of Kris Fowler?
00:52:07 – What do you know about Kris’s mindset before he disappeared?
00:55:00 – Why was Kris Fowler’s case the most prominent of the three?
00:57:10 – What did the investigation into Sherpa’s disappearance entail?
01:02:00 – Tell us the basics of the David O’Sullivan case
01:04:00 – What’s the compelling evidence related to David’s case?
01:06:20 – Why was David’s case so much less well known than Kris’s?
01:07:57 – What were some of the mysterious sightings related to David’s case?
01:09:00 – Tell us about the various search methods used in these cases
01:12:52 – What kind of signs do people leave while hiking?
01:13:50 – Were cadaver dogs used in all three of the cases?
01:15:00 – Tell us about using drones and “squint” searching
01:17:37 – Did anyone go missing in 2018?
01:22:37 – Zach is in the book!
01:25:17 – Do you see any more information or evidence coming to light in any of these cases?
01:26:00 – How can listeners get involved?
01:27:30 – Tips for hikers preparing to thru-hike
Trek Propaganda: Beloved PCT Trail Angel, Donna Saufley of Hiker Heaven, Succumbs to Brain Cancer by Owen Eigenbrot
QOTD: What’s the spookiest situation you’ve ever been in?
Triple Crown of Halloween songs
5 Star Review
Check out our sound guy @paulyboyshallcross.
Support us on Patreon to get bonus content.
Follow Backpacker Radio on Tik Tok.
A super big thank you to our Chuck Norris Award winner(s) from Patreon: Alex & Misty with Navigators Crafting, Andrew, Austen McDaniel, Austin Ford, Brad & Blair (Thirteen Adventures), Brent Stenberg, Bryan Alsop, Christopher Marshburn, Coach from Marion Outdoors, Dayne, Derek Koch, Eric Casper, Erik Hofmann, Greg McDaniel may he bring honor to his name, Ironhike endurance productions, Liz Seger, Matt Soukup, Mike Poisel, Patrick Cianciolo, Sawyer Products, SPAM, Timothy Hahn, and Tracy “Trigger” Fawns.
A big thank you to our Cinnamon Connection Champions from Patreon: 12 Trees Farms, Dcnerdlet, Emily Galusha, Jeanne Latshaw, Jeff LaFranier, Joann Menzer, Keith Dobie Jr, Peter, and Ruth S.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.