By Marcy Stamper
Okanogan County has joined a search for a Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through-hiker who has been missing for almost a month.
Kris Fowler, age 34, was last seen near Packwood in the White Pass/Mount Rainier area on Oct. 12, according to Rick Avery, coordinator for Okanogan County Search and Rescue.
A helicopter with Washington Civil Air Patrol flew part of the trail route on Tuesday (Nov. 8), one of the first days the weather has allowed them to fly, said Avery. Searchers intend to fly again on Wednesday. They plan to cover the entire PCT route in Washington, he said.
Searchers from Yakima and Lewis counties have hiked 52 miles along the trail and many groups, both official and volunteer, have joined in the search, said Avery. Search and rescue crews hiked the main PCT as well as side trails, according to an article in the Yakima Herald.
Avery has been working on the case for about a week, joining search and rescue agencies from Yakima, Snohomish and Chelan counties. Searchers in Kittitas County called off their search on Nov. 8 after finding no trace of Fowler, said Avery.
While Fowler was last seen a few hundred miles south of here, an employee at the Mazama Store reported seeing someone matching his description on Oct. 22. Avery reviewed four days of video from the store, covering Oct. 21 through 24, but did not find Fowler on the tape.
The tape only keeps data for a certain number of days, and data on the tape from before Oct. 21 was already recorded over, said Avery.
Avery met with Fowler’s mother, Sally Guyton Fowler, in Twisp and Winthrop last weekend. Guyton Fowler came to the area from Ohio to help with the search.
Avery said Fowler, who is from Ohio, had been hiking with a girlfriend until Oct. 6, but she became sick and went home. Fowler planned to continue on his own, but was not seen until six days after that, he said. PCT through-hikers often adopt trail names. Fowler’s trail name is Sherpa.
In a posting on a Facebook page dedicated to finding Fowler, a woman said she had given him a ride to White Pass on Oct. 12 and that he was eager to get back on the trail.
A lot of snow fell in the mountains between Oct. 20 and 25, making conditions very difficult, but weather has warmed since then, said Avery.
Searches expanded their efforts to this area because Fowler was headed north to the Canadian border, although some reports suggested he had changed his plans when weather became bad.
Fowler was reportedly carrying a SPOT satellite-communications device, but it has never transmitted any information and does not appear to have been used, said Avery.
A sergeant with the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office is coordinating the search. He plans to meet with Avery and deputies from other counties on Thursday (Nov. 10) to plan their next steps, said Avery.
Anyone with information about Fowler should call the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office at (509) 574-2500.