Glen and Bessie Hyde - Strange disappearances in U.S. National Parks

Glen and Bessie Hyde, Nov. 17, 1928.

Glen and Bessie Hyde, Nov. 17, 1928.

Glen and Bessie Hyde, last seen, November 18th, 1928, (Last Diary Entry November 30th, 1928),Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Bessie Hyde and her husband, Glen, set off on a honeymoon trip on the Green and Colorado Rivers in October 1928. In those days, the Grand Canyon had no commercial river trips and the rapids were for seasoned explorers and professional expeditions only. They had no life jackets or specialist wet weather gear. Certainly not a trip for a pair of honeymooners in a homemade scow called Rain in the Face. Confirming the dangers, early in the trip, Glen fell out of the boat on a rapid.

The Hydes met on a passenger ship travelling to Los Angeles in 1927. They were married on April 12, 1928. 

Glen was an expert boat builder who built the 20-foot-long wooden sweep scow and had rafting experience on the Salmon and Snake rivers in Idaho a couple years earlier. In contrast, Bessie was a novice to rivers and rapids. Glen was determined to set a new speed record for travelling through the Grand Canyon, and he wanted Bessie to make history as the first documented woman to run the canyon.

Bessie Hyde, 22, was an aspiring poet, artist and bohemian. According to the late Otis "Dock" Marston's library,  the Hyde's plan was that they would run the canyon, then go on the lecture circuit and make money retelling their adventure. 

The couple were last seen on November. 18th, 1928 and their scow was found in early December, around three weeks later. It was found floating upright around River Mile 237, and filled with belongings and the supplies were fully strapped in. But Glen and Bessie were nowhere to be seen. There is evidence they made it as far as River Mile 225 where they may have made camp. A huge search turned up no trace of the couple.

Glen and Bessie Hyde scow

Starting on October 20th, 1928, the Hydes started their adventure in the city of Green River in Utah and made a successful run through many major rapids of the Green and Colorado rivers. They estimated it would take them no more than a month and a half to complete their journey. Almost a month into the trip, they spent a few days restocking at Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim on November 16th. At this time they talked with a reporter from the Denver Post assuming that their final destination, Needles, in California was just a few weeks away.

They hiked along the Bright Angel Trail, where they met brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, famous photographers who ran a cliffside studio. Glen and Bessie went to the studio and introduced themselves to the Kolbs, explaining that they were honeymooners who had been rafting on the river for 26 days. The Kolb brothers said that the couple asked to have their photo taken on the canyon rim, and they would return to retrieve it after the trip was completed.

Emery Kolb

Emery Kolb

According to Emery Kolb, Glen said that they did not have life preservers, a comment that evoked a warning from Kolb that Glen responded to with a laugh. Kolb offered the couple life preservers but they refused, saying they could swim anything. Bessie, Emery Kolb said, looked nervous about the remaining journey ahead. As Glen and Bessie prepared to depart and walk down the trail to their boat, Emery Kolb’s daughter Emily appeared, nicely dressed. Bessie remarked, “I wonder if I shall ever wear pretty shoes again.” People who encountered the couple during their layover would later claim that Bessie seemed to want to leave the trip. 

Glen and Bessie Hyde

It is said that a man named Adolph G. Sutro accompanied the couple back into the canyon, taking photographs and even riding a short distance with them in the boat. If this is true, Sutro was likely the last person to see them alive.

By early December, Glen and Bessie had not been heard from. Emory Kolb initiated a search of the area that included a small plane that flew through the inner gorge of the canyon. The pilot saw the intact Hydes’ scow caught in the rocks on the river 15 miles south of Diamond Creek on December 20th, 1928. The assumption was that somewhere in the canyon they were on a ledge waiting to be found after 21 days.

When the rescue party reached the boat, they found food, clothing, books and Bessie’s journal as well as a camera which revealed the final photo to have been shot near river mile 165 on or about November 27. The last entry in Bessie's journal was on November 30th written near Diamond Creek.

Reith Hyde

Reith Hyde

Glen’s father, Reith Hyde, aged 70, hired a group of men to search the canyon within the area where Glen and Bessie likely travelled near Diamond Creek. He even enlisted Ellsworth and Emery Kolb to help. But after 41 days of searching, they had no success. Not a trace.

Since the couple's disappearance, there have been plenty of mysterious stories. What happened out there on the river? The obvious answer was that they both died in the rapids but why was the boat found intact and upright? Perhaps Glen Hyde was a bully who forced Bessie to continue the journey when she didn't want to, and perhaps even killed her in a fit of frustrated rage.  Alternatively perhaps Bessie killed Glen and disappeared.

Some friends of Georgie Clark, a woman who gained fame for her rafting adventures in the Grand Canyon, speculate that she was Bessie Hyde. A potential link between Georgie and Bessie started when friends were looking through her personal items following her death in 1992. People who had known her for decades had never been invited into her home. Upon looking at Clark’s personal effects, her friends learned that her birth certificate indicated that her real name was Bessie DeRoss, not Georgie. Clark or Georgie White (which was another surname she sometimes used). The latter two were the last names of husbands she had divorced.

Her friends’ curiosity was raised when they found the marriage license of Glen and Bessie Hyde at her home, and a pistol in her lingerie drawer. Colorado River historian Brad Dimock – whose book, “Sunk Without a Sound – The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde,” investigates the couple’s story and the subsequent theories examined the items from Clark’s home and concluded from photographs that Clark and Bessie Hyde were not the same person. The two women didn't even resemble each other and it's more likely the items were souvenirs.

Liz Cuttler

Liz Cuttler

On a 1971 commercial boat trip, an elderly woman called Liz Cuttler announced over the evening campfire that she was Bessie Hyde. "What did you do with Glen?" a boatman called George Billingsley asked, half-joking."I killed him," the woman answered without looking up. The honeymooners had a fight, she added; she stabbed Glen and hiked out to Peach Springs, Arizona then caught a bus back East to start a new life. Further investigations failed to prove a link between the woman and the disappearances and she was identified as a psychology professor from Ohio who liked to play mind games.

In 1976, a male skeleton was found on the property of Emery Kolb hidden in his garage and was believed to be Glen's, but analysis of the bones showed it was too young to have been him and it was determined it was a manual labourer due to the high muscle mass exhibited by the remains. The skull's features did not match Glen.

To this day, the disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde on the Colorado River remains a mystery but it is likely they were lost in the area of Mile 232, 45 miles from the end of the Grand Canyon.


Further Reading and viewing

"Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde" (Fretwater Press), by Brad Dimock

The Grand Canyon Mystery

Michelle Vanek - Strange disappearances from the US mountains

Michelle Vanek, disappeared September 24th, 2005, Mount of the Holy Cross, Eagle County, Colorado.

Michelle Vanek, Mount of the holy cross

On 24th September 2005, Michelle Vanek, a 35 year old mother of four, went to climb one of the famous Colorado "fourteeners" for the first time. She chose Mount of the Holy Cross, a relatively difficult hike with an elevation of 14,005 feet.  But she was in very good physical shape,  being a triathlete and marathoner. By the end of that day, it was the last time she or her possessions were ever seen.

There are 54 mountains in Colorado that are over 14,000 feet in height and these are known as "fourteeners". These are challenging hikes given the possibility of acute mountain sickness  (AMS) and the rapidly changing weather conditions above treeline.  Each year the mountains claim victims from falls, avalanches and weather. AMS can cause headaches, nausea, shortness of breath and lethargy. Some fourteeners are relatively easy, but others are more technically challenging, requiring decent fitness or technical abilities in climbing. 

Michelle was also accompanied by a friend who had hiked 38 fourteeners, Eric Sawyer. The two of them had planned for more than a year to hike one of Colorado’s fourteeners and Michelle left all the planning to Sawyer.  They set off together on the hike and she was wearing a jacket and pants, a hat and gloves, hiking poles and a CamelBak backpack. But her and Eric carried no maps, compass, GPS or personal locator beacon.

Mount of the holy cross, Colorado

Things quickly started to go wrong on the hike. Michelle was complaining of a headache as they started from Half Moon Campground at 6.30am, intending to approach Holy Cross from the north on Half Moon or North Ridge Trail. Sawyer told police Vanek was moving slowly but not having any problems. The sign indicating the easier North Ridge Route and the more arduous Halo Route was reportedly being replaced by park services. Near the trail to 13,000-foot plus Notch Mountain, Sawyer consulted his map and found they were on the wrong trail. The two were on the Halo Ridge route, a circuitous 9-mile route that approaches Holy Cross from the southwest. The Halo Route can take up to 2 days to hike due to its length, distance above treeline, and the up-and-down path of the last few miles

Behind schedule, Sawyer chose to push on, later telling police the two would not have time to summit the peak if they turned back to look for Half Moon Trail. Soon they came upon a hut where they stopped for 10 to 15 minutes to take shelter from the cold and wind. At any given time, Vanek lagged behind Sawyer by up to 60 feet. Sawyer told investigators he had to help Vanek keep up with him so they would not fall even further behind schedule.

Holy cross ridge, Colorado

They also soon realised that Eric had left their food and his water purifier in the car. Unfortunately there's no way to reduce the length of the hike on Halo Ridge without serious climbing or taking a very steep off-route slope down.

By the time Eric and Michelle reached the top of Notch Mountain on the way to Holy Cross, Michelle was already slowing down. By 1.25pm, Michelle and Eric had run out of water - not good.

Within half a mile (and 500 feet of altitude gain) of the top of Mount of the Holy Cross, Michelle decided she couldn't finish the hike and she told Eric to continue to the summit, despite his objections to her suggestion. He told Michelle to traverse what he estimated to be about 600 feet to the North Ridge Route for an easier descent, an area covered in large boulders. It would have taken another 45 minutes to get off the mountain if Vanek didn’t start toward the trail.

Holy cross ridge, Mount of the holy cross, Colorado

Eric hurried to the summit, arriving at 1:42pm. After spending only a few minutes at the summit he headed down back towards the North Ridge Route to meet Michelle. Eric continued down the trail back towards Half Moon camp looking for Michelle but to no avail. He never found her and she had completely disappeared. 

A small team of rescuers began looking for Michelle that evening. The route to the North Ridge is where rescuers have speculated Vanek headed west and might have fallen off the ridgeline into the Cross Creek drainage, where large pine trees could have blocked the views from search helicopters. The area consists of a series of steep, wooded cliffs rescuers said would be too difficult to explore without some sign of where they should look.

A huge search and rescue effort, led by the Vail Mountain Search and Rescue team, was quickly started the following day and involved around 700 searchers who combed the area the following week. It was the largest search effort in Colorado's history. Dogs were used but the search was hampered by torrential rain. Tim Cochrane, head of the Vail SAR team said "It's truly a mystery as to where Michelle is. That's probably the most baffling thing. We've put five search dogs in the area where we know she was, and they haven't found anything". That night rescuer Brenda Parks and her partner ran into a man who refused to talk to them and hid behind a tree to hide his face. He ran down the hill.

The possibility of foul play was explored, as a shotgun was found in a duffel bag on the mountain on Wednesday, September 26, 100 yards past the Cross Creek trailhead and there were reports of a suspicious man in the area. Later that day, a dog team spotted what appeared to be blood in the snow. No footprints were found and teams could not follow up on the blood because of bad weather.

Rescuers confronted a suspicious person in a yellow tent with a light on inside. The individual refused to unzip the tent or respond. Later,  rescuers and deputies found a man coming off the trail they believed to be the person in the tent. The man reluctantly told deputies after prodding that his name was Peter Martin. He offered vague details about where he lived and told deputies he had no identification. Unfortunately, he was never investigated further. Was he involved in Michell's strange disappearance?

Michelle's sudden disappearance from the Mount of the Holy Cross is a baffling case. Minutes before she vanished she had been with her hiking partner. Was the stranger in the tent, the man spotted hiding in the woods, gun in the bag and blood connected? Foul play certainly seems a possibility and if not altitude sickness may have been a big factor exacerbated by dehydration.

Keith Reinhard - Strange disappearances from US mountains

Keith Reinhard, Disappeared August 7, 1988, Silver Plume, Rocky Mountains, Colorado.

Keith Reinhard Rocky mountains disappearance

In 1988, 50 year old, journalist Keith Reinhard went off to seek a new life in a remote part of Colorado called Silver Plume, became obsessed with the strange disappearance of the previous owner of the bookshop he was renting and started writing a book about it and then he himself vanished without a trace within weeks. 

Silver Plume, a town with less than 200 residents, is located close to Denver in Colorado and situated along Clear Creek in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Founded in 1864, it was originally meant to be a gold camp, but instead, silver ore was found. Today Silver Plume is referred to as a “semi-ghost town,” or a “living ghost town.”

Keith was a sports writer for the Chicago Daily Herald and hated big city life suffering a mid-life crisis and desperately trying to find a way out. He was married to Carolyn with a daughter, but he was keen to try and start a new life away in the backcountry. A friend of Keith's, Ted Parker, lived in Silver Plume and he had often heard from him of the different sort of life there away from everything and everybody. Reinhard made up his mind to take a 90-day leave of absence from work and try out living there for a while on his own without his wife Carolyn, explaining to her that he wanted to write a book in peace and quiet and rediscover himself. His plan would be that, eventually, Carolyn would join him and she reluctantly agreed with his plan.

Keith relocated to Silver Plume in the summer of 1988  and rented a simple storefront from his friend Parker on the town’s main street for his antique business and began writing his book. Within a short time he began to experience "writer's block" and to try and stir his creative juices he began taking regular hikes out in the rugged Rocky Mountains.

Silver plume, rocky mountains

Then Reinhard discovered around this time that the storefront’s previous owner, Tom Young, who had run a bookstore had mysteriously vanished with his dog on September 7, 1987. Young had suddenly told his friends and family that he was travelling to Europe for a vacation and disappeared. He was last seen walking off with his dog Gus, with which he was said to be inseparable, and no one had seen him since. No trace of the missing man or his dog had ever been found despite intensive searches.

Thomas J Young Silver Plume

Keith was intrigued and asked Parker and other locals about the case and then decided to abandon the subject of his original novel and start writing a fiction novel using Young as its basis.The book featured a character that was a composite of Young and Keith.

On July 31, 1988, some local hunters found Young's skeleton, propped up against a tree out in the wilderness about an hour from Silver Plume and with a bullet hole in the head with a pistol, a backpack, and the dog Gus who was also shot. Young had purchased the gun just 4 days before his disappearance and local police believed it had to be a suicide. Locals were sceptical though as they said that he would never hurt Gus and many suspected foul play, 

Around a week later, on August 7, 1988, Keith closed up his shop and told friends that he had decided to go hiking up the nearby Pendleton Mountain. What made this strange it that it was 4pm and the round trip to the mountain was around 6 hours, a mountain he had tried to climb before but was thwarted by its steep and rugged terrain. He also had no proper hiking gear with him and didn't appropriate clothing for the cold temperatures up on the mountain. Ted Parker, thought he was just messing around when he came to his café to tell him of his plans that he would be back in town by 10pm and he later said "He was in the café and told me he was going to make it to the top of the mountain. If I don’t come back, call on the rescue and he said that in jest, I felt. I have this picture of him pointing to the mountain and saying goodbye. That was the last time I saw him."

At 4.30pm Keith was seen walking off towards the mountain without a coat or even a backpack and after that,  he vanished. The next day, a huge search and rescue operation was called out when he failed to return to Silver Plume, involving planes, helicopters and sniffer dogs. The search went on for a week but nothing was found. The head of the rescue team, Charley Shimanski, said at the time, "The Reinhard search was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. This haystack is 3,000 vertical feet of 60 degree slope. This was about as difficult a search terrain as we cover. We were at a real disadvantage because Keith went into the mountains wearing no more than blue jeans and a flannel shirt and tennis shoes. He had no backpack. He had no equipment. A typical subject of a search will leave lots of clues for us to trace. Keith didn’t leave many clues. He didn’t have many with him to leave behind."

The search was called off on August 12 when a Cessna aircraft carrying two rescuers crashed, killing one of them and seriously injuring the other. The only clue left behind was a piece in his book found by friends on his computer, concerning the main character Guy Gypsum, which said "Guy Gypsum changed into some hiking boots and donned a heavy flannel shirt. He understood it all now, and his motivation. Guy closed the door, then walked off towards the lush, shadowless, Colorado forests above."

In the years since Keith Reinhard’s mysterious disappearance there have been many theories proposed as to what happened to him. One is that he had gone off to the mountain with suicide in mind like Tom Young. But he had not mentioned any suicidal thoughts to friends or his wife. Another theory was that Reinhard was trying to emulate the adventurous character of his novel, and had gone off to get a feel for it, but with every intention of coming back to write more but had gotten lost or injured in the mountains. Perhaps the move to Silver Plume was not enough and he wanted to escape and start a completely new life away from family and friends, but this seems unlikely as he was close to his wife and daughter Tiffany. 

He also might have just wanted to disappear for a short while to see how everyone reacted, either as a joke or for research for his book, and then either met with some unexpected accident. But others believe that just like with Tom Young, foul play might have been involved. One man disappears without a trace, his body is found shot a year later, and then another man who happens to rent the same storefront and is writing a novel about the previous owner also vanishes.

What happened to Keith Reinhard? Creative obsession whilst writing a book, suicide, murder or the Rocky Mountains terrain and weather or living a new life somewhere else in the United States? A very mysterious disappearance. 

Michael and Makana Von Gortler - Strange Deaths on U.S. Mountains

Dr Michael and Makana von Gortler Missouri Mountain disappearance

Dr Michael and Makana von Gortler, Disappeared June 21, 2011, Bodies found June 27, 2011, Missouri mountain, Colorado.

Dr Michael von Gortler, 53, was a 53-year old ER physician, and his daughter, Makana von Gortler were both keen hikers in the wilderness.  Makana, Hawaiian for "gift," was a 20-year old student at the University of Colorado and had recently graduated from Boulder High with honours. She was studying ecology and evolutionary biology and hoped to be a Veterinary Surgeon.

The last that was heard from the two of them was early on June 22, 2011. At 6.15 pm on June 21st, Makana texted her boyfriend, Paul Kasemir, to tell him she was going hiking up the Missouri mountain with her father and that they were due to return on June 23. Her text message said, "I just got back to Buena Vista with my dad. I left my phone here, its on roaming so i cant talk. We had a great time and were gonna try a 14 er tmrw. Ill be able to see you in a few days, Ive missed you too."The last texts from Makana came very early on June 22 at 12:23 am, she texted, "Were hiking Mt Missouri tmrw, staying the night here and then driving back the 23rd. I will help my dad pack the next day, so I can see you the 25th and we can celebrate whatever month were in now."The last message came a minute later: "Love you so much."

Paul Kasemir and makana von gortler

They never showed up on June 25th as promised, and their bodies were eventually found several days later about one mile from the summit of the mountain, about 500 feet above the main trail. 

Missouri Mountain is a 14,074-foot (4,290 m) high mountain summit in the Collegiate Peaks of the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains of the USA. It is northwest by west of the Town of Buena Vista in Chaffee County, Colorado and it is separated from its eastern neighbour Mount Belford by the Elkhead Pass.

Dr von Gortler often went hiking in the mountains and was known to go off the beaten track but always carried emergency equipment with him. His daughter accompanied him on this trips since she was a little girl. Both were experienced climbers and Michael had even written articles about climbing techniques and safety. On June 22nd, 2011, the weather was perfect, there was no rain or wind on the mountain. For the von Gortler's certainly not a day to be concerned about to be leaving on a trek.

Makana's mother, Melani Holton, called the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, June 26th to report them missing after being concerned that she had not heard from her daughter. She and Mike had been separated for some years. This was not the first time they had got lost. Once, on a similar climb with another father and daughter, the Von Gortlers had decided to go off-trail. The friends remained on-trail and grew worried when Mike and Makana were nowhere to be found at the bottom. They contacted mountain rangers, who fortunately found Michael and Makana six hours later.

The next day June 27th, rescuers launched a large, five-day air and ground search in the area after finding the pair's vehicle parked at the mountain's trailhead. 24 skilled searchers, canine searchers, technical climbers and three helicopters were eventually deployed.

Mount Missouri Colorado

Authorities heard from a fellow hiker who bumped into the Von Gortlers around 11:30 a.m. on June 22, and is believed to be the last person to see them alive. Mike and Makana were well below the timberline when they were last seen they may have begun their hike much later than advised as it's recommended that hikers begin their climb around sunrise.

A few family members experienced in climbing went to the mountain on Wednesday to search, including Makana's cousin and close friend, Nicole Box. Nicole said, "If you stay on the logical trail, you're good, but once you go illogical, it can be really dangerous.". She describes the terrain as rocky, steep and covered with dense forest.

Finally, a helicopter pilot noticed the bodies whilst dropping off a ground search and rescue team. Rescue crews deployed a helicopter to recover the bodies from a steep, grassy area. 

Coroner Randy Amettis conducted autopsies and reported that."Dr Michael von Gortler and his daughter, Makana, both died from blunt-force trauma injuries to the head and neck. There was no indication of injuries from lightning.". Amettis said the conditions of the bodies and other factors indicated that the von Gortlers died on June 22, the day they began the hike."No crime is believed to have been committed," Amettis said. He declared the deaths an accident. While Amettis could not say if the hikers had fallen, he said their injuries are not inconsistent with a fall.

What caused the blunt force trauma to the head and neck and deaths for these two experienced hikers? Relatives believe the two were likely blown off a cliff but there were no reports of high winds on June 22nd. Why did the coroner say that he could not tell if the von Gortlers had fallen, surely these sort of injuries would have been obvious if you fall off a steep cliff? During this time of year, the snow from the top of the mountain is melting, which causes rapid-like rivers down the mountainside. People can lose their footing and be pulled into these when trying to get water. These deaths are most likely caused by the conditions on Missouri Mountain but are still shrouded in a little mystery.