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.

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Interview with Andrea Lankford

Time stamps & Questions

00:06:00 – Reminders: take the AT hiker survey, support us on Patreon, submit your poop story for a chance to win a BPR RTIC mug, and attend our hiker meetup on December 1st!

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

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