Forest Disappearances

Jean McDonald - Strange disappearances from U.S. state parks

Gloria White Moore McDonald, disappeared 26th January 2001, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Polk County, Arkansas.

Gloria mcdonald

On Friday, January 26, 2001, Gloria White Moore McDonald (Mena, Arkansas), aged 68, her husband Daniel, her husband's son, and the son's girlfriend, went for a hike on the Lover’s Leap trail in Queen Wilhelmina State Park, in Polk County, Arkansas, arriving at around 12.25 pm. Daniel McDoanld’s son from a past marriage, Sean McDonald, was visiting from Florida with his girlfriend, Erin Jemmott.

Located on top of Rich Mountain, Arkansas’s second highest peak, Queen Wilhelmina offers some of the most breathtaking views in the state from the fully renovated lodge. The original lodge was built in the late 1800s as a Victorian resort named Wilhelmina Inn to honor the young Queen of the Netherlands. The park is located 13 miles west of Mena.

The hike along Lover’s Leap trail was along one of the nature trails that borders the lodge property near Rich Mountain. The attraction of this loop trail is an overlook on a high rock bluff with a sweeping view of the surrounding Ouachita National Forest. It is described as moderate difficulty, and with a 1.3 mile, 1 hour duration.

Queen wilhelmina state park.jpeg

About 150-250 yards down the trail the group found several tree limbs and debris blocking it, caused by a recent winter storm, and Gloria decided she did not wish to walk any further as she wasn’t a “woodsy” person (according to her husband) and returned to the park's gift shop and restaurant whilst the others continued onwards. Around a half hour later, when the group returned and went to the lodge they could not find Gloria, she had disappeared without a trace. To this day, no sign of her has ever been found.

Lovers leap trail arkansas

The car the group had used was parked where it had been originally left and the possessions were all locked inside. A search of the car indicated none of Gloria’s personal belongings were missing.

A red head, she was wearing a blue plaid flannel shirt, a glossy bright yellow hooded jacket, blue jeans, sneakers, rose-tinted sunglasses, a plain gold wedding band, a platinum ring resembling two balls intersecting one another, a three-and -a-half carat sapphire ring, a necklace with a cross pendant and possibly a small-sized gold filigree ring. She weighed about 120 pounds and was 5 feet, 6 inches tall. She was also carrying a Minolta Riva Zoom 90 camera (serial number 40907425).

Lovers leap train arkansas
Lovers leap trail, arkansas

On January 27th, Arkansas State Police Special Agents were contacted by Polk County Sheriff's Deputies at Mena after a search of the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge area failed to turn up any sign of Gloria. A thorough search of the area was done using sniffer dogs, helicopters and search and rescue teams.

McDonald was a court reporter for the Mena Star newspaper and there was a theory that someone she had written about had abducted her. But some friends reviewed her notes and articles to see if a clue might exist about her disappearance and found nothing. The family had the theory that she may have “walked up on something” involving illegal drug activities and been killed to silence her.

Gloria was born in New York and raised in the Texarkana, Texas area. McDonald led an active lifestyle and enjoyed aerobics. She graduated from Texas High School and attended Beech Street Baptist Church.

Arkansas State Police senior special agents Lynn Benedict and Hays McWhirter conducted the state police investigation along with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department the Polk County Sheriff at the time. Mike Oglesby, said only one room at the lodge had been rented and “There were about six guys there who work for the state park, the kitchen help and waitresses. Add to that a few men who were piling brush and cleaning up after the storm and that’s it.” , "This woman disappeared without a trace in 30 minutes. We have no motive, no evidence of any kind. We've got nothing."

McWhirter said during the same time period bloodhounds searched “all over the mountain” and no remains were ever found, “The bloodhounds followed a scent which led down to a paved road below the lodge, but they lost the scent at the road. There are no suspects and we don’t know what happened to her. “

What happened on January 26th, 2001, has baffled authorities and there are many theories online about kidnapping, murder and even a Big Foot attack. Some believe she just got lost and fell somewhere, others that she ran away intentionally given her husbands behaviour after her disappearance and was picked up an accomplice/friend. Police even wondered if she ever was in the 460-acre park.

Daniel McDonald, 63, Gloria’s husband said at the time, "I was the No. 1 suspect. I demanded to take a polygraph test.” State police investigator Lynn Benedict confirmed that Daniel passed this. Daniel complained that authorities spent too much time questioning him before bringing out search dogs the next day.

Gloria’s family were certain she was dead at the time, speculation that disturbed investigators who say they can't link anyone to a crime. "In my mind, she's dead," Daniel said. "I think she saw something she shouldn't have seen ... so they took her. Or maybe she was snatched up by someone and tossed in one of these buildings."

Less than a week after his wife's disappearance, Daniel said he would move back to Florida. "I don't want to be the guy in Mena whose wife was killed on the mountain," he said. The sheriff says he hasn't ruled out Daniel as a suspect, but authorities didn't have any evidence against him. In an interview, Daniel said he couldn't imagine anyone abducting his wife "for her body" because she could not be considered pretty. Gloria was Daniel's second wife and they had been married around a year. His first wife died in her home of natural causes, according to a funeral home in Chiefland, Florida. Sean McDonald said in a telephone interview from Florida that sometimes his father can come across the wrong way: "He's a great man, but he'll say whatever's on his mind and he doesn't care what anyone thinks." Still Daniel’s comments and his fast departure to Floria were baffling and somewhat suspicious.

Sean said all three family members were interrogated separately the day after Gloria disappeared. Police seized his camera and found pictures taken the day of the hike, but there were no shots of Gloria. "They were so focused on us but we didn't have anything to do with this. You see this stuff in the movies and on the news, but this one hit home."

A maintenance worker says he may have spotted a woman in a yellow jacket but can't be sure. Authorities said the worker was the only person who was able to place Gloria in the park, except for Daniel, Sean and Erin.

The scent trail detected by the sniffer dogs indicated that Gloria may have been taken off in a car, either intentionally or by force but no firm evidence supports this theory.

Kerri, Gloria's daughter from a previous marriage said, "The first thing I think is that more than likely, she's dead. I know my mom. If someone did get her into a car, she would've mouthed off so much they would've had to kill her."

If she was lost on the mountain in a bright yellow jacket and fell, it seems she might have been fairly easy to see from the air since the forest is primarily deciduous and it was January. But no sign was ever found, even 18 years on. Authorities did not find any clues relating to foul play or that she had intentionally disappeared. If she was never in the area in the first place, then where could she be? A baffling, strange case from Arkansas.

Emerson “Red” Carbaugh - Strange disappearances in U.S. forests

Emerson Edward "Red" Carbaugh, disappeared November 11, 1985, Robertsdale, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania

Emerson "Red Carbaugh disappeared

64-year-old Emerson Edward "Red" Carbaugh, of St Thomas, PA and his brother-in-law, Ralph Issett of Saxton, PA went turkey hunting in the mountains of Robertsdale, Pennsylvania.  They headed to a field off an old logging road on Broad Top Mountain on the afternoon of November 11th, 1985.

Broad Top is a plateau located in south-central Pennsylvania. It extends into Huntingdon County to the north, Fulton County to the southeast, and Bedford County to the southwest. It is bounded to the west by Saxton Mountain and Terrace Mountain, and to the east by Sideling Hill. In Bedford County, Harbor Mountain forms the southern boundary. Trough Creek Valley lies between the mountains.

The men split up at around 2 pm, each taking a different path through the woods on a drizzly afternoon and planned to meet back at Carbaugh’s truck at a specified time.

In the late afternoon, Ralph came out from the woods alone. He waited for a while but, with darkness coming and thinking that perhaps Red had lost his way, Ralph fired 1/2 dozen rounds from his gun into the air hoping Red would hear the gunfire and follow it. Still nothing. He then walked to get help. Ralph Issett's hunting partner was never seen again.

It was too dark already to search that evening, but a search party was formed the next day at a nearby volunteer fire company. For almost two weeks, more than 1,800 people would search 12 square miles of woods for Carbaugh. Volunteers walked arm and arm through the tough, isolated terrain. Two different types of search dogs were brought in as well as scuba divers and a helicopter with heat-sensing FLIR technology. Despite this large search no evidence of his whereabouts was ever found - No hat. No gun. No body.

In 2004, Red's wife, Ida Carbaugh-Stevens, was contacted by someone claiming to have information about his fate. According to this source, Red had been killed and buried on a farm in the Robertsdale area. The person also claimed to have dug up a bone on the farm which was turned over to the State Police at Huntingdon, along with the information the person possessed. The State Police turned the bone over to the Pennsylvania DNA lab in Greensburg, but because the bone was only a small fragment and degraded, it was impossible to extract any DNA from it.

Ida said there were other hunters in the area that afternoon, that her husband had seen five men loading turkeys into the back of a truck near where the two men were planning to hunt. However, no one could ever prove that there was a connection or that the men had been identified. She also said the events of that day ended her brother-in-law’s days as a sportsman.

Red Carbaugh was declared legally dead in 1992. His case remains unsolved and another case of a missing hunter mysteriously vanished in the wilderness, leaving no trace of a gun or clothing.  If he was murdered, why?

For other Hunter's stories see:


Donnell Vista Point - Strange disappearances in U.S. National Forests

Nita Mayo, 2005, Patricia Sue Tolhurst, 2014, Breck Phelps, 2016, Donnell Vista Point,  Highway 108, Stanislaus National Forest, Tuolumne County, California.

Donnell Vista Point, california

Three people, Nita Mayo, Patricia Tolhurst and Breck Phelps have mysteriously disappeared in the area of California's beautiful Donnell Vista Point in the last 12 years. Though the area has dangerous terrain it seems possible that foul play was involved in one or more of the cases. To date, no sign of these missing visitors has ever been found despite huge searches in the area.

Summit District Ranger Molly Fuller said “It is dangerous, but there’s a lot of dangerous places in the forest. There’s really no explanation for why people have parked there and disappeared. I have no explanation.”. Strange cases indeed!

Donnell Vista is 15 miles east of Strawberry and 12 miles west of Kennedy Meadows Vista point in Tuolumne County, California. Between them is a backcountry with Highway 108,  situated close to it. 

The viewing vista is down a winding quarter mile trail from the parking lot and is a surrounded by meandering tracks of pines and cedars, granite rock formations. It is a picturesque location to catch amazing views of the Dardanelles, the Middle Fork Stanislaus River Canyon and the Donnell Reservoir. It is at the top of a steep, rocky slope with slippery rock. It’s a day-use area, not a campground, so you can’t stay there overnight.

The tract of land around Donnell Point id described as “large and vast” with “extreme changes in elevation, deep canyons with heavy foliage and cold, fast, running water that filled crevices and ledges."

Donnell Vista Point Sign
Donnell Vista California

Nita Mayo

Nita Mayo Donnell Point

Nita Mayo, 75, was last seen at the Strawberry Store near Pinecrest on Monday, August 8th, 2005, and her vehicle was found at Donnell Vista.  She left her home for a day trip over Sonora Pass to do some shopping and sightseeing.

Nita Mayo was born and raised in England and married an American soldier in the Air Force. The couple moved to the states and settled in Oklahoma.

She would drive over to Yosemite or go over the pass to Tuolumne County, take a picnic basket, and she was writing her life story.

A Caltrans worker saw her car that Monday night and again the following morning. Because backpackers often park at Donnell Vista overnight, the worker didn’t think too much of it.

When Nita didn’t report for work Tuesday, August 9th, her co-workers at Mount Grant General Hospital called the Mineral County Sheriff’s Department in Hawthorne, as well as the Tuolumne and Mono County sheriff’s’ departments.

On Wednesday, a Tuolumne County sheriff’s sergeant spotted Nita Mayo’s 1997 Mercury Sable station wagon at Donnell Vista and began a search of the immediate area before nightfall.

By then, Mayo’s children, Cindy, Shelley, Tracy and Pete, had flown in from Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota. When they heard she was missing, they figured she had run off the road somewhere, but then they got the call her car was found at Donnell Vista on Sonora Pass.

Nita had bought souvenirs from the Strawberry General Store on August 8th that were found in her locked car, along with her purse, wallet, glasses and the keys to the car. The car was locked via a keypad on the door. Missing from the car was her camera and prescription sunglasses.

When dogs searched the vista point area, they picked up no scent of her other than right at the car. Nita Mayo’s children searched for her for three or four months. Large, organised searches with volunteers were held every weekend, and Pete Mayo said he was out every day searching for his mom.

The family think she met with foul play, and have always suspected a man who had been a patient at Nita’s clinic in Hawthorne who showed up there claiming he’d heard Nita Mayo had disappeared but had been found. The man later failed a polygraph, but no arrest was ever made. Her daughter Tracy, said “They hadn’t even started the searches yet. He was really weird.”

Tracy drove 21 hours from her home in North Dakota to Midland, Texas, where the person of interest now lives. “I didn’t tell him I was coming,” she said. “I went alone, which probably wasn’t too smart. When I had some questions that needed answers.” She went to his place of work, sat there and waited for him. “When he saw me, I didn’t say a word,” she said. “He said, ‘Hello, Tracy. How are you?’ ” He was nervous as they talked, she said. But she extracted no new or potentially incriminating information from him.

Her family maintain that Nita was scared of heights and so wouldn't have likely ventured to a precarious point for photographs.

Search teams found no trace.

News reports about Nita Mayo’s disappearance appeared in California, Nevada, Oklahoma and on news wires. Nita's sister in Cornwall, England, was interviewed by British news agencies. The search was also broadcast on “America’s Most Wanted” television show.

Pete her son said “I know she’s not right around Donnell’s Vista. I crawled on my hands and knees around that place for weeks and found not one scrap of evidence,. I know that place better than most locals. I scoured it for months. It’s hard to live with the fact that you let her down.”

She was declared legally dead in 2013.  A bench was installed at the Vista dedicated to Nita, located in the rock overlooking the vista point, which took over two years of work and organisation to have installed. There is, additionally, a dedication plaque for her outside the Strawberry Store, which she visited on the way to Donnell Vista.

Patricia Sue Tolhurst


Patricia "Patty" Sue Tolhurst, 48, the owner of Patty’s Shack, a restaurant in East Sonora, was last seen in Twain Harte on April 18, 2014. On April 20, she sent mailed letter to some friends saying she was going to go hiking in the area. Her abandoned white Toyota 4-Runner car with her keys and personal identification inside was found at Donnell Vista on April 22nd.

A friend told authorities Patty planned to visit Kennedy Meadows Resort, 8 miles further east. An over-weeklong search yielded no clues to her whereabouts.

Thomas F. Kelley, Patty’s father, said Pat had been raised in the Bay Area but always had a fascination with nature. “She loved that whole area up there ever since she was very young,” he said. “She liked everything that had to do with the outdoors.”

She has never been heard from again.

Breck Phelps

Breck Phelps Donnell Vista disappearance

Breck Phelps, 68, disappeared from Donnell Vista while on a fishing trip in early October 2016. His Nissan Versa car was found a quarter-mile away near a trail leading down to the Stanislaus River. On October 5, the search was officially “scaled back” after a four-day search.

His cellphone had been powered down so he was unable to be tracked by searchers. Tuolumne County Search and Rescue was assisted by the National Guard out of Sacramento, a Black Hawk helicopter, an unmanned Stanislaus County aerial vehicle, heat-sensing equipment, boats, and California Highway Patrol helicopters and six dog teams, over the course of the search. Boats were used to search the Donnell Reservoir.

Search and Rescue Sgt. Jeff Hunt said his crew approaches each search by the same procedure, but the terrain at Donnell Vista does “make it difficult to search. That area has extreme elevation changes within short distances which can limit areas people can travel in, due to cliff faces, and trying to access areas over the top of large sections of granite to search. So access does pose a challenge."

No sign of Breck was found. 



Ronald Allen Ohm - Strange disappearances from U.S. National Forests

Ronald Allen Ohm, disappeared August 9th, 2012, Mount Jefferson Wilderness, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Ronald Allen Ohm disappearance

Ronald Allen Ohm, 52,  who was last seen near Russell Lake in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness on Thursday, August 9, 2012 whilst hiking with two friends. On a ridge above the lake he told them he would stay a while to take pictures while they set up camp down below.

The group had departed from the Breitenbush Lake campground trail head and planned to spend the weekend at Russell Lake, which is south-west of Portland.

But Ohm never showed up at camp that Thursday night. The friends looked for him Friday, then hiked out Friday evening and reported him missing.

Ron was an experienced hiker, familiar with the area, and was equipped with a blue and red backpack, tent, sleeping bag and provisions to last for several days. He suffered from a medical condition that required daily medications and he had taken four days supply of tablets with him.

In addition to Marion County Sheriff’s officials, searchers from Linn, Benton, Deschutes, Lane and Polk Counties, as well as Portland Mountain Rescue took part in the six-day search. Search crews are looked for Ohm on foot, on horses, on SUVs and on ATVs focusing in the area between Russell, Scout and Bays lakes. 200 searchers dedicated approximately 3,500 hours to search 300 square miles of the Willamette National Forest north of Mount Jefferson. Efforts were hampered by the smoke and the approaching "Waterfall 2" forest fire, which was moving west from Warm Springs. 

Russell Lake and Mount Jefferson

Russell Lake and Mount Jefferson

The area around Russell Lake is heavily forested and has many ridges and valleys with some snow cover. Daytime temperatures occasionally reached 90 degrees. The elevation of the search area varied from 5,000 to 7,500 feet above sea level.

Salem based helicopters from the Oregon Army National Guard and Cessna 182 aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol flew numerous hours over the search area, but were unable to spot any sign of Ohm. Many hikers were contacted during the search, and fliers were posted at trail heads and along the Pacific Crest Trail.

In August 2013, a year after Ron's disappearance, MCSO Search & Rescue volunteers from Team 18, along with personnel in Jeeps and on horseback, returned to the area to search again in the hope of finding his  remains. A total of 54 people were involved in the search; camping two nights in the wilderness to maximise the time available to search. The search was focused along the Pacific Crest Trail, between the Brietenbush trail head and the White Water trail head. But a  total of 1135 man-hours of searching failed to find any evidence of Ohm.

To this day, no evidence of Ron Ohm's remains, clothing or equipment has been found. Another case of someone vanishing in Oregon and someone taking some pictures in the wilderness that mysteriously disappears despite a large search. Did Ron take his own life and walk off, giving the story to his friends that he planned to take pictures? Did a bear or mountain lion grab him? - but no clothing, camera or equipment left behind. 


Gerren Kirk - Strange disappearances from U.S. National Forests

Gerren Kirk, disappeared December 3rd, 2014, Frog Lake Campground, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon.

Gerren Kirk, Mount Hood disappearance

Gerren Kirk, 31, was an experienced outdoorsman and often took solo trips in the woods. He left home on December 3rd, 2014, to hike in the Mount Hood National Forest, with plans to return December 6th. However, on this occasion, he didn't leave family members with any details. Kirk’s sister Whitney Kirk Altman filed a missing persons report on Sunday, December 7, but the search was delayed until Monday because search and rescue crews couldn't be dispatched until the vehicle was located to establish a starting point.

Kirk grew up in the Milwaukie area and graduated from Portland Public Schools' Vocational Village High School. He lived for a number of years in Arizona, working in admissions for the University of Phoenix. After returning to Milwaukie, he enrolled in Portland Community College, studying business. He had recently transferred his credits and completed his first term of online courses with National University. He planned to complete his bachelor's degree and then go on for a master's.

Kirk was married for several years, but he and his wife Kristin were divorced, shared joint custody of their daughter, five year old Gabriella.

Gerren's gold Pontiac Grand Am was found in the parking lot at Frog Lake Campground off U.S. 26, by a family member on Monday, December 8th, focusing the search on the heavily wooded areas nearby.

Gerren Kirk's gold Pontiac Grand Am was located Monday at the Frog Lake Campground near Mount Hood.

Police also were able to ping his cell phone and locate it east of Frog Lake heading in a SW direction. That route would have brought him from Clackamas County into Wasco County, so jurisdiction for the search switched over to the Wasco County Sheriff's Office.

Gerren Kerk disappearance Mount Hood

An estimated 170 volunteers from across Oregon joined in the search around Frog and Twin Lakes, which lasted for around nine days and was co-ordinated by the Wasco County Sheriff's Office. Sniffer dogs and surveillance aircraft with heat detecting infrared also participated. The weather on the mountain was mostly damp over the period of the search and slightly above freezing, with unusually low snow levels for December.

Mount Hood from Frog Lake

Mount Hood from Frog Lake

Frog Lake Trail Mount Hood National Forest

Frog Lake Trail Mount Hood National Forest

Searchers included Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue, Mountain Wave Emergency Communications, Clackamas County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, Multnomah County Search and Rescue, Klickitat County Sheriff's Office, Lake County Search and Rescue, Wallowa County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, Clatsop County Sheriff's Office, Salvation Army, Trauma Intervention Program, businesses in Government Camp, Zigzag, Welches and Sandy, Bud's Towing of Oregon City, Milwaukie Presbyterian Church.

Mount hood national forest Frog Lake

Despite the search efforts, no trace of Gerren has been found. It was strange that his cellphone was pinging to the South West of Frog Lake, in the direction of Clear Lake, but search efforts seem to have focused on the area to the north east, in the area of Twin Lakes, unless the media misreported the location.

To this day, Brian and Annette Kirk, and siblings keep his memory alive at the FB page Inlovingmemoryofgerrenkirk


Arvin Nelson - Disturbing disappearances in U.S. forests

Arvin Nelson, Disappeared August 6th, 2014, Ventana wilderness, Los Padres National Forest, California

Arvin Nelson disappearance Los Padres National Forest

Arvin Nelson, 55,  began his solo backpacking trip to Big Sur Station in the Los Padres National Forest on August the 6th, 2014, starting his hike at the China Camp Trailhead.

Arvin was dropped off by a friend at China Camp near Tassajara Road and planned to hike the eastern side of the Ventana Wilderness, including the Pine Ridge Trail, an area he had never visited before. He was expected to arrive at the Big Sur Station on August 14 and when he didn’t arrive searchers were notified and they began Search and Rescue operations on August 16th in the area. Nelson was an experienced hiker and he told friends that if he didn’t make contact with them at the time agreed they should report him missing

Monterey County Sheriff’s deputies, the National Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, the California Highway Patrol and other agencies were all involved in the search with the help of three helicopters and approximately 30 foot searchers on the ground every day. 

Arvin Nelson search los padres national forest

The last known sighting of Arvin was on August 6th, when he met Jack English, who lived for 13 years in an isolated cabin in the Ventana Wilderness, and his son Dennis. When the father and son were picked up by helicopter two days later on the 8th, Arvin stayed and saw them off. He told them he was planning to stay and hike 11 miles to Sykes on August 10th.

Nelson had taken a lot of gear and food with him because of the length of time he had planned for this solo hike. For this reason, the authorities continued their search for longer than they normally would as his chance of survival were higher.

Arvin Nelson Los Padres disappearance

To this day, no sign of Arvin has been found. Another solo hiker lost in the American wilderness.