The search for Pacific Crest Trail hiker Kris Fowler continues nearly three years after he disappeared without a trace in Washington’s wilderness.
Sally Guyton Fowler still communicates every day from her home in Ohio with people who might be able to find her stepson, Kris Fowler. His trail nickname was “Sherpa.” The last confirmed sighting of the then 34-year-old came Oct. 12, 2016, near White Pass, where it’s believed he grabbed coffee before heading toward the Canadian border to complete the last 366 miles of his 2,600-mile journey.
Since the snow melted earlier this year, Yakima County Search and Rescue volunteers have again conducted multiple searches, led by Sgt. Randy Briscoe. Fowler said another 15 to 20 volunteers form what she calls her “team behind the scenes,” a coordinated effort dedicated to combing through areas they know well.
“Several of them have already been out individually or in small groups of one to three,” Guyton Fowler said. “Anything anybody’s willing to do is amazing to me.”
She’s returning to Washington this August for the first time since November 2016, when she visited for 10 days to explore the area and learn more about the initial search. Guyton Fowler said leaving without Kris was the hardest thing she’s ever done and caused a “full-on meltdown” that made her reluctant to come back to the Pacific Northwest.
It’s likely some of those emotions will resurface when she goes to the trailhead to meet with searchers, some of them for the first time. Details for the volunteer search — scheduled for Aug. 22-24 — will be released on the “Bring Kris Fowler/Sherpa Home” Facebook page at a later date.
Nearly 7,300 people have joined the Facebook group, which features a link to a detailed map for searchers along the PCT from White Pass to Canada. Group members share ideas, plans and hopeful messages, often ending with the words, “Kris, Call your Mom!”
“It’s amazing,” Guyton Fowler said. “I’m not even sure how we could have gone this long without so much support and encouragement.”
Volunteers will keep raising awareness at the annual PCT Days festival Aug. 16-18 in Cascade Locks, Oregon, by passing out flyers and bandannas emblazoned with a selfie Fowler took while in the forest. Guyton Fowler said her stepson loved bandannas and always wore them in different ways, so she wants through hikers to take his image to the PCT’s northern terminus.
Her determination, combined with Fowler’s inspiring story and his ability to leave a lasting impression on everyone he met, have attracted the attention of many in the hiking community and beyond. So far, they’ve shown no signs of giving up.