Susan Clements - Strange disappearances from U.S. National Parks

Update October 3, 2o18

Search crews found the body of Mitzie Sue "Susan" Clements approximately two miles west of the Clingmans Dome parking area and three-fourths of a mile south of the Appalachian Trail on the afternoon of October 2nd. Why did she walk away from the parking lot when she separated from her daughter and then what happened? Authorities have dismissed foul play.

Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, disappeared September 25th, 2018, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North carolina/TENNESSEE

susan clements disappearance

Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, 53, was hiking with her 20 year old daughter on Tuesday, September 25th, 2018 near Clingmans Dome in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains, when she mysteriously vanished after they lost sight of each other.

Susan, a mother of three, disappeared around 5pm in an area close to the parking lot, about 1/4 mile from Andrews Bald, on the Forney Ridge Trail in the National Park after her daughter decided to hike ahead a short distance with the intention for her to turn around and meet up. Susan’s daughter wanted to climb up to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower (6,643 feet in elevation), and because she was hiking faster, she told her mother she would go ahead and then meet her back at the parking lot. They weren’t separated for very long but when when she arrived back at the lot, she couldn’t find Susan. She waited a short while, walked around, retraced some of her steps and then contacted the park authorities when her mother failed to arrive some hours later. The two of them intended to do a day hike only so were not carrying supplies or heavyweight clothing.

Clements is white with light brown hair and blue eyes, 5'6" and 125 pounds. She was last seen wearing a green zip-up sweater, black workout pants over black leggings, a clear rain poncho and gray Nike running shoes with light green soles.

Susan from Cincinnati was on vacation in North Carolina when she disappeared. The Great Smoky Mountains lies on the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, and Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park

forney ridge trailhead Great smoky mountains

125 trained searchers with drones, sniffer dogs and helicopters from 30 “search and rescue agencies” helped park staff in a large-scale search of the area but nothing was found including clothing or other clues. The weather was poor with rain, fog, wind and low temperatures in the 40s which hampered search efforts due to limited visibility. Clingmans Dome Road was closed to accommodate the infrastructure needed to manage and expedite the search. The area also has poor cellphone service so Verizon set up a portable cell tower. In a news release, officials said the cell booster is “providing the critical cell and data coverage needed to effectively manage and support the search effort in this remote location.”

As of October 1st, searchers had hiked more than 500 miles on trails and conducted intensive off-trail “grid-searches” of approximately 10 square miles in the steep, rugged terrain that straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border. The searchers were left frustrated by lack of evidence given the resources deployed in the area where Susan disappeared.

search for susan clements morning briefing

Susan Clements disappearance is in the same area as that of Trenny Lynn Gibson who also vanished from the Forney Ridge Trail in 1976 and was never seen again and was believed to have been abducted.

Susan’s disappearance from the trail is strange given the limited time she was away from her daughter and proximity to the parking area. Maybe she was bundled into a car and driven away or left the Forney Ridge Trail for some reason and was lost in the wind and rain? Another disturbing story from the Great Smoky Mountains.

Sources

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article219306345.html

https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/hamilton-county/cleves/search-intensifies-for-cleves-woman-missing-in-great-smoky-mountains-national-park

https://eu.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2018/10/01/great-smoky-mountains-searchers-missing-hiker-clingmans-dome-smokies/1486631002/

https://heavy.com/news/2018/09/mitzie-sue-susan-clements-missing/

https://eu.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/10/02/body-cleves-hiker-mitzi-susan-clements-found/1505507002/

Paul Miller - Strange disappearances from U.S. national Parks

Paul Miller, disappeared July 13th, 2018, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Paul Miller disappearance, Joshua tree national park

Paul Miller, 51, and his wife, Stephanie, from Ontario in Canada, were on vacation in California and Nevada including Las Vegas to celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary.

A typical vacation for them was camping in the backwoods, hiking and kayaking and they had hiked across Canada, North America and Mexico.

They were getting ready to leave their hotel room in Twentynine Palms on July 13, 2018, but Paul wanted to take one more short hike in the hope of  photographing some bighorn sheep as he was a keen hiker. He left the hotel alone at around 9am and drove to the 49 Palms Oasis trail in Joshua Tree National park and promised to be back later that morning. Stephanie was going to accompany her husband on the morning hike, but with time constraints pressuring them on the morning of their last day, she decided to stay at the hotel and pack.

The couple had both hiked in the park on the day before the solo excursion and July 13th was the last day of their trip. He hasn't been seen since. 

49 Palms Oasis Trail, Joshua Tree national park

According to the NPS "The 49 Palms Oasis Trail offers a three-mile round-trip hike to a fan palm oasis. It requires two to three hours and is rated moderately-strenuous, ascending about 300 feet each way. This well-maintained trail climbs to a ridge where large numbers of barrel cacti dot the landscape. After winding around the ridge top, the trail descends steeply to the oasis located in a rocky canyon. Towering palms create a canopy over clear pools of water. Large boulders provide a place to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of this small ecosystem." George Land from the park said “It’s not a real difficult trail. You go in and come out the same way. However, it is a little bit of a rigorous trail.”

When he hadn’t returned by 11 am, his wife grew concerned, but decided to give him another hour and at noon, when she still had not heard from him, Stephanie called park officials who began a search by 12.30 pm. Paul's rental car was quickly found at the 49 Palms Oasis trailhead. His cellphone was left behind at the hotel, but apparently this was not unusual for him.

He was wearing dark shorts, dark grey, almost black Hi-Tec Altitude VI WP hiking boots, black hat and carrying sunglasses, CamelBak hydration pack and a Nikon D5300 camera.

Despite an extensive search involving 600 people putting in 6000 hours in total (90 people at peak), up to twenty dog teams, an ATV search team and a helicopter no sign of Paul has been located and no other evidence other than his car that he was in the park such as his camera has turned up. Park Superintendent David Smith said that "We have a witness who saw (Miller) at the trailhead that morning, but that’s all.” The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputies, detectives, search and rescue and emergency services; California Rescue Dog Association; Nevada Search and Rescue; and the National Park Service with personnel from the Investigative Services Branch, Mojave National Preserve, Death Valley National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Joshua Tree National Park all participated in the search. Due to steep ravines and cliffs, technical specialists with high-angle rescue skills were also deployed.

Despite the large number of K9 teams, the dogs were unable to pick up a scent. The search was scaled back on July 18th after no sign was found.

Park Superintendent Smith said as of mid-August 2018 there were no new clues as to what happened to Paul Miller sating “I assure them, the park service will not forget about Mr. Miller. We are doing all that we can. The FBI is called in only if there is a murder or homicide and at this point, there is no indication that is the case ... nothing to indicate this was a planned disappearance.” 

Stephanie said during an interview "Maybe he finished the trail and came out and something happened. We really don’t know. But if they can’t find him in the park, then what’s to say he’s not out of the park?”

Another national park solo hike with a mysterious disappearance.

Sources

#findpaulmiller on Twitter

https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/upload/49siteMap.pdf

https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/2018/07/21/missing-without-trace-family-friends-canadian-hiker-paul-miller-hold-tight-hope-hes-alive-joshua-tre/813118002/

https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/2018/08/18/guelph-ontario-canada-resident-paul-miller-missing-hiker-joshua-tree-national-park/1032363002/

https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/missing-guelph-man-s-family-urges-search-to-continue-1.4062417

https://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/8854051-wife-of-missing-guelph-hiker-remaining-hopeful/

Samantha Sayers - Strange disappearances from U.S. mountains

Samantha Sayers, Disappeared August 1st, 2018, Vesper Peak, North Cascades Mountains, Washington State

Samantha Sayers, Vesper Peak disappearance

Samantha "Sam" Sayers, 28, went missing whilst on a solo hike on the Vesper Peak trail in the North Cascades mountains in Washington on Wednesday, August 1st, 2018.

Sam left on the trail at around 8am and was expected to head home and check in with her boyfriend, Kevin Dares, that evening by 6pm. He couldn't accompany Sam because he was working but headed to the trail that evening with darkness coming to search for her when she hadn't returned. Around 1am the following day her family reported her missing.    

The Washington Trails Association describes the Vesper Peak Trail as "Vesper Peak is definitely not for the novice hiker, but for those thirsting for one step beyond hiking into backcountry adventure, it's a good leaping off point. The potential consequences of stumbling here are decidedly lesser than they are on other summits along the Mountain Loop. Some hikers have said that the Vesper Peak trail is “hard to follow,” implying that Sayers might have accidentally strayed from the trail.

Vesper Peak, Washington

She was last seen wearing light grey hiking pants and a black sports bra with green eyes, and bald due to alopecia, that causes hair loss. She was an experienced hiker and had hiked the Vesper area before. 

The Snohomish County Sherrif's Office undertook a search which was one of the longest and largest rescue efforts authorities have undertaken in years. 70 searchers, fourteen dog teams and helicopters searched the area to no avail. At one point, drone operators and the sheriff’s Marine Unit were involved. In addition, volunteer searchers from around the state spent thousands of hours of time, leaving bags with a note saying "Stay Strong! We're looking for you. Everyone is thinking of you" with a poncho, socks, energy bars, compass, flashlight, fire sticks and a lighter. The sheriff’s office spoke with witnesses who saw Sayers the day she went missing, but none saw her come back down the trail.

Her boyfriend said she had lunch with an unidentified male before she disappeared. This unidentified person checked in with searchers and reported that after seeing the news of the disappearance that he had lunch with Sam near the summit on that day at roughly 3 pm. He also said that after they parted ways he later saw her from a distance making her way down the west side of the mountain towards Spada Lake.

The sheriff’s office said since August 2, search operations had included 357 hours of air operations from the sheriff’s office and other agencies, 105 hours for drone operations in the search area, 82 hours for the marine unit to support search teams in Spada Lake, 329 hours for sheriff’s office search-and-rescue personnel and thousands of volunteer hours from search and rescue teams from around the state.

Sam's car was found parked at the trailhead, 27 miles south of Darrington on the Mountain Loop Highway in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

After three weeks, on August 23rd, 2018, the official search was called off with no sign of the hiker. Search and Rescue Sgt. John Adams said “We have exhausted all leads and tips. We’ve interviewed all witnesses who have come forward. We have checked and double checked the possible routes we believe Sam could have taken. If there was a place we thought she could get to, we put people there to look for Sam, often putting our volunteers and personnel at great risk due to the rugged, remote, and dangerous terrain.”

Vesper Peak Area, Washington state

Family members however continued the search, with private helicopters, dog teams and a professional tracker using the $39,000 raised on a GoFundMe page. Members of a Facebook group set up by the family helped with tasks such as searching through hours of drone video for any signs.

Despite the extensive search, no evidence relating to Sam's whereabouts has been found as of the time of the writing of this article. Another baffling disappearance. 

Sources

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/official-search-ends-for-seattle-hiker-missing-since-aug-21/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6071107/Search-Seattle-hiker-missing-two-weeks.html

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/08/23/missing-seattle-hikers-family-friends-remain-hopeful-despite-suspension-search-operations.html

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/vesper-peak

https://heavy.com/news/2018/08/samantha-sam-sayers/

Thomas Mullarkey - Strange disappearances from U.S. mountains

Thomas Mullarkey, disappeared March 14th, 2018, Bear Valley Ski Resort, california

Thomas Mullarkey disappearance

UPDATE May 15th 2018: Body discovered May 2018: See link

Thomas Mullarkey, 65, went skiing March 14, 2018 in California's Bear Valley Ski Resort, south of Lake Tahoe. He failed to return from the trip, which he had made many times before. For Tom this was very unusual as he was an advanced skier, experienced outdoorsman and backcountry visitor. Bear Valley has been the scene of several strange disappearances and deaths including that of Dr. Katherine Wong in June 1999.

He was last seen boarding a chairlift up the mountain in the morning. At 11.30 pm that day, his wife, Jane Drummond-Mullarkey, informed authorities her husband failed to return to his Arnold cabin. He was last seen wearing a blue ski outfit with yellow and red details. Tom was considered to be in good health.

Teams were unable to search the area that night due to extreme avalanche conditions, but at around 7 am on  Thursday, March 15th, rescuers began searching for Mullarkey. 

Authorities located his vehicle at the resort with a cellphone inside shortly after the search began. Efforts were concentrated within the 1,700-acre ski resort. But no other clues emerged, including no sign of his gloves, ski poles or other equipment. He was not known to go off piste or into areas areas prone to avalanches and searchers believed he did not leave the resort area voluntarily.

Heavy snowfall hindered the initial search efforts and searchers were limited to using skis and snowshoes during daylight hours only. A Blackhawk helicopter from the National Guard and another helicopter volunteered by the California Highway Patrol were grounded for two days because of the weather.

Around 150 representatives from El Dorado, Tuolumne and Marin counties, the National Ski Patrol, Bay Area Mountain Rescue, the California Office of Emergency Services, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office and others assisted in the search.

When the weather improved, a fixed-wing military RC-26 surveillance plane with infrared imagery was used to search the hillsides outside the boundaries that had been covered the day before.

Bear Valley Ski resort California

After five days the search was called off on Tuesday March 20th as a storm dumped heavy snow in the area.

The authorities thought it  was unlikely that Tom was hit by an undiscovered avalanche which may have occurred within the boundaries of Bear Valley, where ski patrollers clear likely avalanche spots on a regular basis.

Tom's nephew, Markus Mullarkey said "He's been at this mountain many times. We've been snow camping literally at Tamarack right around the corner here. So there's still that possibility that he can survive this, and build a snow cave and stay warm enough until we find him."

Thomas mullarkey disappearance Bear Valley

"A lot of people in the family have said, if there's anybody in the family who could figure out how to weather this and make it through, it would be him. But it's tough you know, obviously (for) the family. It's nice we have a very big family, so there's a lot of people up here kinda holding it together with each other as much as we can."

His niece, Andrea Mullarkey, says he was skiing alone and may have been in the backcountry. "There's a lot of country out there and it's really hard to get around in this weather but we're really hopeful because we know he's smart and has experience and there are lots of people out looking. He has a really good head on his shoulders. He knows a lot about being outdoors."

Alpine County Undersheriff Spencer Case said “Search and Rescue personnel have conducted a thorough and methodical search operation during periods of heavy snowfall, white-out conditions, and single-digit temperatures.” 

Following the end of the search on March 20th, Tom Mullarkey remains missing somewhere in the  Bear Valley resort. If not an avalanche, what caused the disappearance of this outdoors savvy guy in good health?

Sources

http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/news/article_4c5ddddc-2d57-11e8-81a4-ab3be1e124f1.html

https://www.tahoedailytribune.com/news/crime-fire/more-aircraft-sought-in-search-for-skier-missing-in-bear-valley-copy/

https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/03/17/searchers-to-bring-in-drone-airplane-to-aid-in-search-of-missing-east-bay-skier/

David Blake - Strange disappearances from U.S. parks

David Blake, disappeared March 9th, 2018, Kennesaw National Battlefield Park, Georgia

David blake disappearance

On March 9th, 2018, police found David Blake’s car parked near an overflow car park off Old Highway 41 in the Kennesaw National Battlefield Park with his hiking bag and keys in the cup holder. David was nowhere to be seen.

David, 25, was an avid hiker and outdoorsman and very familiar with the park and its 16 miles of trails. His camping gear was left behind in the apartment indicating he wasn't planning to spend time camping in the wilderness. 

Kennesaw Battlefield Park preserves a Civil War battleground of the Atlanta Campaign and also contains Kennesaw Mountain. It is located at 905 Kennesaw Mountain Drive, between Marietta and Kennesaw, Georgia. The name "Kennesaw" derives from the Cherokee Indian "Gah-nee-sah" meaning cemetery or burial ground. The area was designated as a U.S. historic district on October 15, 1966.

Search and rescue first assumed he walked to one of the park's trails and may have been somewhere up on Kennesaw Mountain.

David's mother Neill last saw him on Wednesday March 7th and said he was his normal, calm, easy-going self. "He said, 'Love ya mom, see ya later' like we always do,”  His mom, dad and older brother called it completely unexpected and said David would never just walk off. David Blake’s dad, Bill Blake."No one, roommates, coworkers, family had no inkling we would be standing here."

The family said David wasn't into any high-risk behaviours, or illegal activity and called him quiet and relatively boring. "All they do is stay up till 3 a.m. playing their video games, watching movies, no indication anything was going on from that perspective,” said Stuart Blake, David Blake's brother.

David's phone was last used to send some text messages early on Thursday March 8th. He never showed up to work that day and didn't call in. Since that time there was no activity on his phone or from his bank or credit cards.

Dozens of searchers scoured the Kennesaw area including sixty members of Cobb County’s Community Emergency Response Team, which investigated a wooded area not far from where his car had been found. The area for the search was chosen based on location data from David's cell phone.

“With the county, we organized a search because the family had search volunteers that really wanted to help,” said Chief Ranger Anthony Winegar with the National Park Service. “We organized a search of a couple of small areas over near Stilesboro Road and Barrett Parkway. Evidence early on in the search had pointed us in that direction.”

On March 9th a Georgia State Patrol helicopter was deployed and a bloodhound from the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office that searched from the ground. On March 10,  cadaver dogs found no indication of a decomposing body within the search area.

“At the end of that search (Thursday March 15th, 2018), we sat down with the family, and said, ‘This is all the evidence we have, including concrete, solid evidence, and Facebook tips and everything else. We have exhausted all of that,’” Winegar said. “We haven’t come up with anything new, any sign that he is here. He has left no evidence that he is here with the exception of the car.”

On-duty park personnel continued the search for Blake on Friday, March 16th, but were expected to go back to normal daily operations the following day unless credible information on his whereabouts is reported. 

Chief Ranger Winegar said “We have a very good idea of where people go in this park, and where people seldom go, and we are concentrating on the places where people seldom go. This place is so busy, my theory is that if he were here and he were hanging out somewhere near the busy places, he would have already been found. So we’re going to the places where we know people don’t go very much, and there aren’t that many of those.”

So far no sign of David which seems a very out of character disappearance. Why leave his keys and bag behind in the car. Foul play perhaps?

Sources

http://www.mdjonline.com/news/no-new-evidence-at-kennesaw-mountain-park-of-missing-marietta/article_2c7c1f76-2968-11e8-a061-4b6056116f00.html

http://www.wftv.com/news/trending-now/missing-georgia-hikers-car-found-with-keys-in-cup-holder/716259367

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennesaw_Mountain_National_Battlefield_Park

Steven Paul Thomas - Strange disappearances on U.S. mountains

Steven Paul Thomas, disappeared April 12, 1976, Mount Marcy,  Adirondacks, New York State.

Steve Thomas Mount Marcy disappearance

Steven "Steve" Paul Thomas, 19,  was hiking with a group of five college students in the vicinity of Mount Marcy on April 12, 1976. The group was composed of Mark Seymour, James Thackaberry, Ken Sherwood, Robert Bromley and Bruce Weaver. At the last minute, Bruce Weaver had invited his childhood friend, Steven, making a group of six. 

On Sunday morning, April 11th, the day Steve left Kayuta Lake to begin the hike, his mother, Mary Thomas, had put too much baking soda in the pancakes whilst cooking breakfast and saw it as a bad omen. She was worried over Steve camping with a group he didn’t know, except for Bruce Weaver and also concerned with the snow. 

When Steve left Kayuta Lake with Bruce Weaver and Kenneth Sherwood, the three drove to Lake Clear to meet the rest of their hiking companions, Mark Seymour, Robert Brom­ley and James Thackaberry. According to reports from the group, Steve didn’t like these guys and he wouldn’t talk to them. Steve's family also said he could have an antagonistic manner. The result was that when Steve and Bruce left Lake Clear for the Adirondak Loj, 37 miles away, they parked the car and hiked the 2.3 miles to Marcy Dam for the night. They stayed in a lean-to which was 87 yards from the junction of the blue (to Indian Falls) and yellow (to Avalanche Lake) trails and 28 yards from the water behind the dam.

Indian Falls trail mount marcy

Steve woke early at 6am, but Bruce only woke at 8am and they followed the blue trail to Indian Falls to meet the rest of the group, Robert, Ken, Mark and Jim.

The six of them hiked from the Adirondack Loj, a lodge near Lake Placid and Thomas had some Colombian marijuana buds which they smoked on the way up to the mountain summit. Apparently, Steve was quiet and hardly talked on the hike, lost in his thoughts for some reason.

By 3.30 pm,  they'd climbed to a the Lower Plateau lean-to (Hopkins), heading for Upper Plateau and could see the summit, about a mile away. But by now, they were cold and wet and the group decided to stay put, build a fire and tackle the summit the next day.

But Steve didn't feel like calling it a day. As the others made camp, Steven lit his Svea stove to make Darjeeling tea and looked at a map. He hung his rucksack in the back right corner of the lean-to and asked Bruce “You want to go for a walk?”. Bruce didn’t want to go.

He then told the rest of them that he going alone out further along the trail . He was wearing just a t-shirt and jeans with a yellow rain slicker over his blue down jacket and boots. He left his backpack with the others and took no provisions or equipment apart from his knife, having not eaten since breakfast. He was without a pack, snowshoes, compass or map.

Mount Marcy is the highest point in New York State, with an elevation of 5,343 feet (1,629 m). It is located near the Town of Keene in Essex County and is is in the heart of the Adirondack High Peaks Region of the High Peaks Wilderness Area. April is the toughest month for hikers on Mount Marcy with extreme weather changes. Marcy's upper trail wanders on and off the crest and at that time of the year the cairns and yellow-paint blazes that mark the trail are buried under snow. Hikers who reach the summit can easily take a wrong turn coming down and can hike into a dangerous 50-foot snow dump known as Panther Gorge.

mount marcy

At that time in April 1976, the snow was hard packed and offered ideal walking conditions with a full moon aiding visibility. It was around 10 degrees, but windy. 

When Thomas walked away from the lean-to, nobody gave it a thought. "As far as I know, he was just checking to see how far he had to go to the summit," Sherwood said. "We just started putting up tents and talking and having a good time. Then it started getting late, and it was like: `Where is he?'"At 6 pm, Weaver told the group not to worry since Steve knew what he was doing.

When Steve didn't return the Robert and Bruce tried finding him by setting out at around 10 pm with flashlights with 55-60mph gusts of wind howling around them.  But with no luck. With a wind-chill of minus 40, exposed skin could be badly frost bitten. They were quickly driven back by the freezing temperatures and unfortunately obscured Steve's trail with their footsteps. On the way back down they took a wrong turn but found their original trail and fortunately made it back to the lean-to.

They had a dog with them "I remember the dog freaked out that night," Sherwood said. "He just kept whining. He wouldn't leave the tent." They got into the lean-to in their sleeping bags and hoped that Steve had found shelter. Nobody slept that well.

As daylight broke on Tuesday the group decided to keep searching for Steve. Weaver said. "The thought was, rather than burn up four or five hours" hiking for a ranger, "with someone who's hypothermic, it would be better to find them right then."

They formed two groups to look for him. Bruce and Ken followed the red trail to Bushnell Falls, looping back to the lean-to along the yellow trail. The others climbed to the top of Marcy, circling as they searched. Neither group found any trace of the lost hiker. 

At 3 pm, Thackaberry, Bromley and Seymour decided to hike out for help as Weaver and Sherwood were exhausted and they decided to stay at the lean-to in case Steve returned.

The three tired members of the group went to get help and hiked back towards the Adirondak Loj where shortly after they met Ranger Gary Hodgson at 8.45 pm on April 13, 1976, to report Steve missing. Unfortunately, it had been two nights since their companion vanished, reducing the chance of a succesful rescue. 

Searchers didn't reach the mountain until the morning of Wednesday April 14 leaving Steve with no gear or food, if he was still alive in the cold temperatures.

Retired DEC ranger, Pete Fish said "You've got 360 degrees to choose from. About 2 degrees are right. If it's snowing, you haven't a clue where to go."

Depart­ment of Environmental Conserva­tion (DEC) rangers and volunteers searched on foot with specially-trained German shepherd dogs and three helicopters. DEC’s chopper flew five days, the State Police’s for three and the Air Force’s for two. The choppers dropped men to likely spots where they’d be fresh to fight through the vegetation. The searchers searched the area around Little Marcy, the Ausable Lakes, the stream valleys of Johns Brook and Feldspar. On the first day of the search, the state helicopter made an air search of the Marcy area, twice circling the area between the Ausable Lakes and Mount Golden. “There was no track,” a ranger said afterward, “no sign of him.”

Steve's brother, Bob Thomas, returned again and again to the mountain after the authorities failed to locate him or his body after 2 weeks of official search and rescue operations finished on April 21, 1976. He walked a total of 2,500 miles and reached the summit of Mount Marcy 600 times, dropping down each time to search the terrain in the area. “Sometimes I’d do it five or ten times a day,” he said, “just back and forth, back and forth, up the trail to the summit and down again. I was possessed. …You’ve got to understand, no longer are we normal human beings.”

Steve's hiking companions were questioned in detail about his disappearance but the authorities did not believe there was anything suspicious about their story. 

There was some speculation that Steve had vanished intentionally as he had returned from an extended western trip only a month earlier and was secretive about it, hinting at future plans which he would not reveal. But there has been no sign of Steve elsewhere in the United States. A cassette in the tape deck of Steve’s car was pushed in weeks after his disappear­ance. Bob said “It was a strange song. It ends, ‘all you hear is the blowing…the lonely wind blowing.’ Weird. It really struck me.” He be­lieves the song was called “Obscured by Clouds.”

Steve's brother Bob said the family was annoyed with the search effort. His frustration had begun with the late notification of his brother’s disappearance. “I was mad about that,” he says. “They took so long to contact us, up all day Wednesday in the helicopter and we didn’t hear about it until night.”

When the intensive search ended, the Thomas family continued to press state and federal officials for more organised efforts and they got four helicopters, which extended the search area, although unsuccessfully.“You know how guys can endure,” Bob said. “I thought Steve hurt himself way the hell out there and he’s just waiting…I could feel what he’s going through, just waiting for somebody to come.” He respected the rangers but still holds a bitterness toward some deskbound officials who called off searches.

Still refusing to give up hope, the Thomas family continued their own efforts. With Sue, sister Marilyn and William Gurley, Bob found the camping gear and then later the remains of a man missing for more than three years.

What happened to Steve? Was it similar to the story of Captain Lawrence Edward Grace "Titus" Oates, British army officer, and later an Antarctic explorer, who died during the Terra Nova Expedition with Captain Scott. Oates, who had gangrene and frostbite, walked from his tent into a blizzard and famously said to his companions on March 17th, 1912, "I am just going outside and may be some time". Like Oates, Steve seemed unusually quiet that day on the hike. Did he walk onto the mountain and intend to disappear and commit suicide. Alternatively, did he intend to start a new life somewhere and vanish off the mountain, but why did he leave his backpack and other gear behind lessening his chances of survival? Maybe it was just bad luck as the wind whipped up that day up to 60mph? The dog in the lean-to seemed very uncomfortable and distressed that night indicating something more sinister. A strange, sad and disturbing story.

Sources

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2001-05-20/news/0105200003_1_mount-marcy-paul-thomas-ken-sherwood

http://www.adirondacklifemag.com/blogs/2014/07/23/search-steven-thomas/

http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/4418dmny.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Marcy