ALL IS WELL
The first hint came around 9:30 pm on my way home from Trinity. It was a text from my 16-year-old daughter, Ellie, saying "Just wait until you get home! LOL!". Hmmm... She had me guessing for miles.
So when I finally drove up our quiet, dark street, there it was: my simple suburban house decked out in Christmas light finery. There were twinkly stars hanging from the roof and rows and rows of white icicle lights suspended from the ceiling of the front porch. Put all together, my little house glowed and shouted out "Welcome Home, Mom!" Tears. (The good kind!)
And there were even more surprises inside: A beautiful, fat, friendly Christmas tree that Ellie chose and put up with my good friends Megan and Harout, as well as lighted greenery spiraling up the staircase.
But my very favorite part was at the top of the stairs in my bedroom. Ellie had done this room all herself. There was a sweet garland of greenery festooned with tiny colored lights that swooped gracefully over the top of my bed. And on my bedside table sat the tiny Christmas tree that I always set up in Ellie's room to make sure there is plenty of Christmas cheer in there. But she wanted me to have it this year. I so love that girl's heart.
So I am home again. Ahhh! And this time for at least five or six months. We weren't able to bring Steve home, but we do have some important clues to follow up on. So over these wet, cold months we will all get some much needed rest, spend time with our too-often-neglected families, and continue to process the information we have gathered.
Then in the late spring or early summer, as the ground warms up, we will plan to go back in. There was so much scattered scent, coming from so many directions, that it seems to have overwhelmed the HRD dogs, making it difficult for them to pinpoint the location of Steve's remains.
But as most of that scent washes away with the snow and spring rains, it should actually be a clearer, simpler task for the dogs. (At least that is my understanding of how they work.) Their amazing noses can locate bones as old as 40 or 50 years, so less than one year should be no problem for them.
But for now, I will put away the bins of search supplies, store away my suitcase, and try to shift my attention back to what has always been the most important thing: sharing with my daughter--and each person I have the privilege of moving through life with-- as much of the love and compassion that I have been blessed to experience from so many of you as possible. You see, you have changed me. You have changed us. We are so blessed.
All is well.
So tomorrow will most likely be our last day of searching this season. There is a howling storm bearing down on California, with flooding, snow and wild winds predicted. We are getting out of the mountains just in time.
We will do our very best to piece together all that we have learned so far from aerial searching, ground searching, tracking, HRD dog searching, scent mapping, behavioral analysis, etc...
And it all still seems to point to a small area. (300 square feet.) So tomorrow we go back in. Nine of us this time. Hoping to make the best use of the day, hoping to tie up all of those loose ends. I am fully confident that God can bring this about if he chooses--even on the last day.
So I would ask you to please pray for closure (once more!) and for continued safety. A dry day would just be frosting on the cake! (It rained all day today, so we are all feeling pretty sloggy, hoping our boots will dry before morning.)
But most of all, please pray for peace in the process, acceptance of whatever the result will be.
Thank you so much!
CHANGING OF THE GUARDS
Well, our HRD dog teams are home with their families tonight in Montana and Arizona. We have so appreciated their time, energy and expertise.
Now, tonight, we have some fresh troops: three men from Sonoma County, as well as Jo (our tracker). Tomorrow Carmen (another tracker) will join us. We are back to ground searching mode-- looking for remains, clothing, etc... in a very small search area compared to where we started.
The rain has returned (though gave us a break all day!). Tomorrow the forecast looks good. So please pray that it remains that way. We want to make the most of the last couple of days we have to search.
As always, so grateful for all of your kind words, gestures of love and caring, and constant prayers.
NO QUID PRO QUO
Everything seems to be all out of balance over the past four months. Many people put all out crazy amounts of time, energy, love, intelligence, research, money, etc... to help us in our search for Steve.
And with most things in life, the better the input, the better the output. If I work hard enough in my job, or my parenting, or my education, or my spiritual life, the results will show themselves to somehow honor all of the effort I have invested up to that point.
The first time I slammed into the wall of this well-hidden fallacy was when, as children, we would go out to dinner with our dad. My parents were divorced, and so we only had the opportunity to do this once every few years. We would get dressed up in our fancy, itchy dresses and stiffly stand to wait for him, sweating in our ruffled dress-up socks.
I don't know about my sisters, but it always felt somewhat like an audition to me. My thinking would go something like this: "If he thinks we look pretty, and we have good manners, maybe he will come back home and we will have a Dad again!"
But then those dinners were often disappointing affairs. Strange food at fancy restaurants where we were surrounded by adult diners and there was a big deal made over which fork you used to stab your shrimp. And clear disappointment on Dad's face if you didn't remember from our last dinner out three years ago.
So what happened there? Did the amount of effort and good faith invested leading up to the meal guarantee us a positive result? Far from it.
Or when Steve and I lived through sixteen years of infertility treatments and procedures--always assuming our intense efforts would be rewarded with that amazing baby we were yearning for for so many years.
But it just didn't work that way. Instead, we basically had to give up on our quest. Then, to our good fortune, God flipped all of our plans up on their heads and gave us something totally different: He showed us that a loving family could be built a whole different way--through adoption. And not long after that "Ah Ha!" we adopted our daughter Ellie, bringing her straight home from the hospital. We have never had a shadow of a doubt that this baby (now lovely, 16-year-old girl) was meant to live and grow up in any family other than ours. She has been absolutely the best "fit" imaginable--the perfect gift.
So did we get what we thought we wanted? Absolutely not! Was the grief excruciating? Definitely! But in the end, I believe God did honor all of those years of love and investment in building a family. He just didn't bring it about in the way we had envisioned. Actually, his vision was bigger and so much better than ours.
So now as we near what could be the end of our search for this year, I am reminded of this hard-learned principle. I need to trust God that the time, love, work, prayer, money, energy, time away from family and my job--not to mention the amazing contributions of so many of you--won't be for naught if we don't find Steve. I have to believe that he will take all that this whole community of people has put into this and spin it into something unexpected, maybe difficult, but undoubtedly loving--surely taking care of our need for closure in some yet-to-be-revealed way.
I am praying for patience to wait for Him to reveal his plan for Ellie and me and for trust: the ability to really trust that His solution (not the one I was so sure must be right) will indeed be the very best, most loving, custom-prepared one for me and my little family.
My hope is that your unexpected twists and turns take you to a new, wonderful place.
The rain is pounding on the roof of our cabin. Normally a soothing sound, but tonight only frustrating!
Our HRD teams have graciously given us one and a half more days of time to try to finish the search. We finished one large area, so now they would like to focus on what is looking more and more like THE location--the place where their dogs have had their very strongest responses (two of them right near each other, but on different days).
Unfortunately, this area lies across the drainage--which is now a torrent. Tomorrow we are supposed to have much better weather, so we will hike in and see if the water levels have dropped enough for us to cross it.
So please pray for safety--especially given the steep terrain of the area we are hoping to search. But also for dry weather. That would literally be a God-send!
And now it's way past time for me to climb in. I think I will follow the excellent example of Zara and Zig, pictured below.
Good night, All
Grateful for your support,
Zara Recuperating from her big day
Zig catching some ZZZZ's
LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
Last night we were visited by a wonderful Ripple Creek neighbor by the name of Suzanne Conrad. She came bearing some of the best-smelling homemade turkey stew and beer bread I've ever had. It couldn't have come at a better time, following such a long, wet day.
It was a great gift to be able to really relax before dinner, instead of running around cooking as soon as we get back from searching!
Tonight I again enjoyed the fresh gingerbread her friend Claudia Lawrence had baked for us (complete with whipped cream. Yummmm!)
So we had a full table--8 of us. We sat around and enjoyed some good conversation (interspersed with "shop talk" about the day's findings and the newest updates for the maps).
After dessert everyone crashed pretty quickly; although none so quickly as Mike Verdooner (pictured below napping with "Roxy" his sweet pooch). We teased him mercilessly, although he had every right to be exhausted, having gotten up at about 3 a.m. to drive from Chico that morning.
So I think this is what community is supposed to look like. Circling around people going through a hard time, giving to them in both tangible and intangible ways, hugging them, looking them in the eye, and saying (sometimes without even uttering a word): "Your pain is important to me. You are important to me".
It's a beautiful thing, and I am thankful to be the recipient of so much love and compassion!
Mike and Roxy after too much good food!!
PEEKING AROUND THE CLOUDS
You should have seen all of us in our rain gear yesterday and today! Longies top and bottom (two pair for some of us!), rain pants, sock liners, wool socks, plastic bags over our socks, then boots. Gloves. Spares for later. Rain coats, packs, rain hats, then rain ponchos over that for those of us whose rain coats seem to let more rain in than they keep out! (I've put a photo below of our gear drying by the wood stove.)
Fortunately, today was a better rain day than yesterday. And tomorrow should be MUCH better. Thank you, God!
The rain makes it more difficult for the dogs to pick up scent from a distance, as it tends to just stay centralized. But if they are "right on top of it" they alert just as well as they normally would. We had several "alerts" from them again today--all still confirming that we are working in the right area.
So this is good news. The team will be pushing all out tomorrow, as it is our last full day before two of our handlers have to return to Montana, and we are expecting more serious rain on Friday.
Fresh ground search and flanking troops arriving tomorrow night, so that will bring some new energy to the team at a point when everyone starts to get a bit weary. Some of these guys have been here at least three times. Amazing!
So I go to sleep with a sense of being so close to resolution. More hope than I've had in awhile. It's a good thing...
And we definitely could not have gotten to this point without all of the many ways you have been there to support us! So thank you, thank you!
Please do continue to share our posts with friends, family and coworkers through email, Facebook and Twitter.
CATS AND DOGS
The rain is pounding on the roof of the cabin tonight as I write this. We had pretty steady rain today--but not a downpour like this! They are predicting about two inches for tomorrow. But is that enough to stop the team? Absolutely not!
So we have plans for a "warm-up zone" in the SUV at Base Camp: towels, changes of clothes, hot coffee & chocolate so our searchers can get their core temperatures back up before they head out again.
We had a very good day today, with much progress being made as the dogs grid searched a large chunk of our search area. They gave quite a few alerts--some very strong--all continuing to confirm that we are looking in the right area.
We are thankful that tomorrow Peter and Mike V. will join us, putting our numbers at 9. We need all of the "eyes" we can get!
So please continue to pray for vision, safety and closure. (Some breaks in the rain would sure be nice, too!)
Sleepily and gratefully,
So the first wave has arrived here at Trinity. Michalle, Cris and Dawn (with canine companions) all arrived here safely. For this we are very grateful!
They have already been hard at work on their mapping tasks, preparing for the first day of searching tomorrow.
We were joined by a new searcher, Mike Weihman, a Sonoma County firefighter. So thankful to have the him up here! He is the only guy here so far, so I think he will be relieved to be joined by Jim and possibly Scott tomorrow.
Then as the week progresses, we have gradually more and more people helping out. Two of the handlers can only work through Friday morning, so we are all praying that the weather will cooperate and they will be given wisdom and vision to be able to find Steve while they are here.
All are asleep now, except me. Tomorrow morning is an early start, so I will head off to bed now.
Thank you again for all of your support and encouragement!
We have all been busy preparing for our next search. Jim has been consulting with HRD dog handlers and Search & Rescue professionals. The online team that analyzes photos has been poring over the ones related to the specific area we will begin searching on Tuesday, looking for clues--anything out of place or unnatural-looking. The men from my church and other friends have been packing their bags and gathering supplies. The women of my church, and even some Trinity community members we have yet to meet are preparing meals and baking for the team. Meghan and Peter have been making sure we have winter forest service gate keys that actually work. (Imagine how it would have gone if they hadn't done this!!!)
Here at home, Ellie and I are working on the plans for where she will stay while I am away, how she will get from place to place, etc... Thanks to all of you who will be hosting and chauffeuring her! You make my absence so much more bearable.
I've been planning food, transportation, sleeping arrangements and other logistics, as well as hauling our bins of search supplies in from the garage to my living room. Right about this point each time, my house looks decidedly more chaotic and my pets start looking a lot more anxious!
We have so much information that Jim has been painstakingly integrating into one map that charts Steve's tracks, most likely exit routes from the drainage, and all of the information from the HRD work showing where the dogs picked up scent, which direction the wind was blowing, what time of day, and how strongly they were "alerting".
He has shared this information with some of the best Search and Rescue and HRD dog handlers in the country. And it seems that they all agree upon one particular (relatively small) area to focus on. This is great news, as it confirms the team's impressions as well. I think we are on the right track.
So off we go, a small volunteer army: HRD dogs and their handlers, committed searchers armed with weapons for protection and GPS devices to help them stay on track, the Base Camp team with coolers of bag lunches and snacks, walkie talkies and crossword puzzles to help pass those long hours of waiting. (We will bring a tent and heater this time, as it is supposed to be much chillier!)
But the most important thing we bring is a sense of shared purpose and --for many of us--the clear belief that if it is within God's will for us to find Steve before the snow stops us, then that's what will happen. We will do the work, because he rarely just "zaps" us, bringing about the results we want without requiring something (or a lot!) of us. So we are moving forward on confidence in His direction, faith in His wisdom and love for us.
Please pray for safety, smooth teamwork, workable weather, and over it all a sense of peace through the process--no matter the result.
Thanks to all of you for your continued support. Please do continue to share our story via email, Facebook or Twitter with friends, family & colleagues. They can google "BringSteveHome.com" or the GoFundMe site to learn more.
There has been a heaviness that sits on my chest and a tight pain at the back of my throat many times over the past three and a half months since Steve went missing. I've gotten pretty good at avoiding it. The secret is to just keep busy. And there is plenty of material to occupy me : parenting, search planning, reorganizing my financial life, etc... So many projects and important things that compete for my attention.
It took me awhile to identify the emotion that was holding such sway as to motivate me to live in a state of constant preoccupation. It's not loss. Not fear. Not confusion. No, instead it is clear-eyed regret.
Regret over things said and unsaid, over actions taken and not taken. Small acts of kindness I could have done for Steve to make his life a bit easier. Simple expressions of love I could have generously lavished on him.
But I especially regret missing some of those opportunities--when his defenses were down and he would let me look directly into those sensitive, beautiful hazel eyes--opportunities to tell him some of the many things I admired about him, like the gift he had for getting our often serious daughter to burst at the seams in laughter. Or his willingness to work SO hard and stretch himself to his absolute limits to support his little family. Or to talk about his dreams, as we used to do in those forever-ago courting days. Or simply to tell him that I loved him...ah, to tell him that just once more!
So please, please... As you prepare for your Thanksgiving celebrations this week, make the most of your opportunity to look your very much alive loved ones in the eye and speak your heart out loud. Because you never really know how many chances you will have, and regret is truly one of the most painful emotions out there. We just can't turn back time
I think we ought to have a national day of reflection on the evening before Thanksgiving. It would be a time set aside to stop and think--REALLY think--about the people in our lives:friends, family, coworkers... And prepare ourselves to look them in the eye and speak the truth about all of those things that make us most thankful to have them in our lives.
Our days and years could be filled with so much more gratitude and so much less regret!
So Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Look them in the eye. Hug them hard. And let your heart start talking!
Literally. Ellie and I are high above the Midwest this afternoon, winging our way to Virginia where my good friend Andrea and family live (having left California to be near family and more familiar territory). They are flying us out to spend the bulk of the Thanksgiving holiday with them. Such a gift, as we miss them more than words can say, and we desperately need to reinvent how we do the holidays this year. This will surely help us avoid being immobilized by that inevitable sense of emptiness that Steve's death has left in its' wake.
And even though the loss of Steve is always with us, all the same we really do want to celebrate "Thanksgiving" in the truest sense. So much generosity we have witnessed. All of that love that continues to come alongside us, making this such a rich time.
Speaking of love "coming our way", Michalle is returning soon for her third Trinity search--this week giving up two weeks of her life to help us find closure. And coming along with her will be Cris and Dawn (from the Minnesota-based Shekinah HRD dog team), who have been here once before. That means we will have triple the canine resources than we had thought just a few short days ago. The timing couldn't be better, as temperatures are dropping and precipitation increasing. So if we are to find Steve this year, it feels like now or never.
So I am hoping this will be the last time I need to ask you for help with covering the expenses of our upcoming search effort. The cost for the handlers' airfare and SUV rental alone will come to about $3,000. Then we have food, supply and miscellaneous expenses as well. This is the most extensive search we have planned yet. Everyone is really pulling together to try to find closure before the snow shuts us down.
You have all been so amazingly generous to us throughout this process. We appreciate all of the many ways you have expressed your love and compassion: practical help, financial support and thousands of prayers.
Without you, we would not have been able to get nearly as far as we have. So thank you, thank you for all of these good gifts! And please do share our story with friends, family and coworkers on Facebook and email.
So less than a week away from the relative structure and discipline of "search days" up at Trinity and my life is just looking so far from neat and tidy!
While up there, I have a truly singular focus (only made possible because of the good folks back here at home who are caring for my daughter, Ellie!). But when I return home to the daily, real-life mix, somehow things get much more complicated!
As a good chunk of me wants to settle in to the natural rhythm of my household and Mom responsibilities, there is another part that is always distracted by the intrusions of texts, thoughts & emails all swirling around the next search (this time beginning November 30th). Planes to schedule, food to plan, volunteers to muster and organize, funds to calculate and raise.
Then these whispers of "life out there" get lobbed over my way, shaking me out of my myopic focus. "Thanksgiving! Family! Gatherings! Travel!". Or I am bowled over by the sound of deep, pure, hearty laughter (my favorite being my daughter's!) Or sweet visits by Steve--remembering sitting on the couch next to me as we watch "Parenthood" together and he tells me, once again, how much I remind him of the beautiful, admirable main character. That's when I remember how much he loved me. What a cool thing to say to your wife.
So tonight is definitely a transitional night. By tomorrow I will have both feet set firmly in search mode. But for now, I leave you with a bit of humor that has snuck in through the windows on butterfly wings. (The butterflies must not have read the sign out there implying only serious, dark material should come into this grieving home.)
Below you will see a few lovely, funny moments from the week: (We do really need to soak these up when they come around. A balm for my soul. Hope they can soothe yours as well!)
Jim the Searcher acquires his target
Success! 1 more tree-slung kong is free!
True courage: Ellie's 1st Heli flight!!
LONG ROAD HOME
It's 12:30 in the morning and my good friend, Steve Frary, is at the wheel as we make our way back to the Bay Area after a week at Trinity.
Hopes were high as we began the day watching Jim, his wife Erica and Mike arrive in Jim's helicopter at Base Camp.
We needed to explore the possibility that Steve may have left the ravine via the southern slope--an area that had not been searched at all yet, but which could possibly explain the particular HRD scent patterns we have been seeing.
Brooke had her strongest alerts yet in that location, but the team agreed that the terrain was just too challenging for Steve to have chosen to hike up there for any length of time.
So now we need to reassess the scent maps and try to figure out where the scent could have traveled from to reach that area in such high concentrations that it would send Brooke into such a frenzy. Jim called tonight, already at work on this question, with plans to do some more ground searching in a few days.
Meanwhile, Michalle and Brooke need to return to their Montana home to rest and recover from this taxing week.
So while we all regroup and decide what the next steps should be, I will enjoy being home with Ellie. We have big plans to celebrate her long-deferred 16th birthday. (It fell just a few weeks after Steve went missing.). Time to celebrate her, to celebrate life.
So here is to my beautiful, smart, strong, loving daughter. I am going to thoroughly enjoy just simply being with her.
So I won't be writing updates for a few days. Just think of us soaking up the chance to do some of those sweet, "normal" things we used to so enjoy together.
Pray that we can reconnect after so much time apart and so many "urgent" things that would distract from the most important!
So many signs converging today! As we head up to the mountain, I have a keen sense that this could be the last time...
Please pray for safety, guidance, vision, smooth team work. I know that we will need all of those things to find Steve and bring him home.
Thank you all for your kind words of encouragement, for your financial gifts that have allowed us--at each step--to continue on. We have never had to stop the process due to financial limitations, and that has been a huge weight off of my mind!
So off we go. Keep praying!!
I am struck tonight at how many people have been contributing to helping us narrow down the possibilities of where Steve is in this huge search area.
So many have helped, for so long now! Over the past couple of weeks we have been gathering information from Jim and Mike's continuing analysis and searches, Jo's tracking efforts, the scent work of the Shekinah HRD dog team out of Montana and Washington State, and most recently a week of HRD work by Michalle & her amazing dog, Brooke.
Now it seems that it is all coming together. I watch Michalle spend hours poring over the four foot-long topo map laid out on the dining room table that Jim created for her. She has marks where every HRD dog has shown significant "interest", indicating the wind direction at the time. Then she has drawn lines to show how virtually every one of these "hits" lies on one of two lines. Then, if these lines intersect, we have a very specific target area. And they do.
Today the team went back into the drainage to see it from Steve's perspective: given how difficult it would be to traverse, when would the first reasonable chance to hike out of it appear? Voila! Located right in that very small target area, there is a game trail on the south side of the drainage that rises with a gentle slope, leading into a conifer forest (not the dreaded manzanita bushes that make movement next to impossible). And Steve loved the woods.
So if he exited on this side of the drainage, it could absolutely explain why the dogs keep showing interest on the other side, but we haven't found any tangible physical evidence there. The scent could simply be spilling down the bank on this side and across the creek to the other side.
Tomorrow Jim Higgins, his wife Erica, Mike Verdooner, Scott Steele, Michalle McMillan and Steve Frary will look for tracks along that trail and any others that seem like reasonable paths he may have taken to get out of that extremely difficult area. If they find them, then they will come get Brooke to direct the group with her scent work.
Traveling up the drainage is beyond my physical resources at this point, so I will stay behind at "Base Camp" to manage communications and emergencies, should they arise.
I will spend my time reading, writing, praying, hanging out with Brooke before she goes to work. Trying to digest all that has been happening here over the past three months, hoping to begin to understand how God would like to take these experiences--the most painful, as well as most moving ones--to weave them into a tapestry more real and beautiful than any I could ever have imagined. Beauty for ashes.
So we hope to be able to have real closure tomorrow, God willing. Please, God, let it be so....
Steve Frary with Brooke at the cabin
Morning at "The Upper Landing Zone"
WALKING A MILE IN HIS SHOES
So today was the first day I searched the woods themselves with our team instead of working "Base Camp". While the guys searched another section of the road, Michalle, Jo and I (along with Brooke, the HRD dog) checked a "high value" section between the road and the Minnehaha drainage.
We headed into the dense forest from an old logging road, Michalle and Brooke leading the way, Jo bringing up the rear, and me in the middle. Definitely a secure position to be in, sandwiched between these two experienced, confident mountain women.
How can I describe this experience? Dark, thick forest, bounded on one side by a steep, high hillside--so high that the sun doesn't have much of a chance in there. A ribbon of steel grey boulders with a creek spilling over them, forming waterfalls and pools, runs along the base of the slope. The sky above is almost blocked out by a canopy of fir, sycamore and sugar pine. Everything feels close in--too close.
It's fall now, so the sycamores have dropped most of their leaves, spreading them out to form a butterscotch yellow carpet below us. Lovely, but obscuring tracks and potential clues. Frustrating.
Brooke shows "interest" at a few spots: here raising her long black snout in the air, nostrils working hard to draw in the scent she's been trained to pick up. Then awhile later, pawing the ground, moving her nose along it like a long, thorough vacuum cleaner. Michalle, exasperated, says "We know he's here somewhere. We just don't know where!" It feels like we must be so close. But as soon as Brooke picks up the scent, the winds shift and she loses it again. She's frustrated also.
And so we continued for a few hours before hiking out for a lunch break in the sunshine, then returning to complete our search grid until we needed to head out before dusk could hit.
Quiet, dark, mocking forest. It holds the secret of where and how Steve spent his last hours. But still beautiful. Lovely, even...
I do believe that eventually (though not in this life), I will know the story--the complete story--of his last hours. But at that point I will be with him again, and we will be viewing it together, from across a huge valley. By the grace of God, removed from the pain. In a place of peace.
So I am glad I went into that forest today with my companions. It gives me just a taste of what it was like to walk in Steve's shoes in that place. That's the nearest I can get to him right now... And I'll take it.
THE BIG SQUEEZE
Thanks to so many of you, we were able to afford the helicopter for today. This was so helpful, as it allowed us to insert our tracker and HRD dog right where they needed to be, allowing them a safe means of getting there and enough time and energy to do an amazing job!
I am happy to report that the search area has shrunk by about 75% since this morning. It has been such a massive area to cover that it has at times been overwhelming for all of us. But now--all of a sudden--it seems manageable!!
Our team all went to bed early tonight, without the usual hanging out to wind down, tell stories & just enjoy each other's company. They just worked so hard, hiking through all of that dense manzanita and scrambling up and down the formidable landscape of the Minnehaha drainage.
I, too, am pretty much done for the day. Got to get to sleep, as tomorrow should be an important day. We will have Michalle and her HRD dog, as well as Jo, our original tracker, working side by side to narrow things even further.
At the same time we will have a small ground search team working: Steve Frary, Dave Berg & me--at least for part of the day.
So I head off to sleep with a keen awareness of the amazing effort and perserverance of this group of people who have all stayed with me---gradually whittling this huge task down to what now seems to represent a potentially do-able thing.
So many good people, so much love coming our way--blessing me and my daughter Ellie in ways we will never forget.
So the day began with a hike with Michalle and her HRD dog, Brooke, along a particular high, circular ridge near the upper landing zone. We had to go early in the morning to observe how the wind was crossing the valley and scooping around the inside of the spoon-shaped ridge as it passed by Brooke's finely-tuned nose.
Bingo. She seemed quite "interested" in the breeze coming her way--directly across the valley from the wooded area where we found Steve's last traditionally tracked footprints and several other important clues.
The only problem is, the only way for Michalle and Brooke to get across to that spot is by helicopter. So we began petitioning the Forest Service to allow us just a bit more time to operate a helicopter in the search zone. (They had been hesitant to extend it beyond October.)
A letter was written & emailed. Paperwork was filed. Calls were made. Follow up calls received. (All of this with very patchy cell service--snatched at key points along the high, dirt road.)
"No" was the response. Unbelievable. How could we come this close, narrow it down this much--over three months' time--to be cut off from exploring the area that seems to hold the most promise of finding Steve?!
So we prayed, and you prayed, and I called them back. After a long conversation, they agreed to give us a few more days of time to operate the helicopter and try to bring closure to our search. Whew!!
So thank you, thank you all....for the prayers, for the financial contributions that are helping us begin to accrue enough to pay for this extra helicopter time. We are so grateful!!
Tonight I go to sleep feeling such a mix: hope that this ordeal may soon be over, but a keen sense of a much less dramatic, yet more painful one around the corner: the grief that lies just beneath the surface, bubbling up regularly--but its' full measure largely held at bay by the adrenaline and busy pace of the past few months of searching.
But if I get ahead of myself, if I live too far into the future--a jumble of anxiety and anticipated pain--I'm going to miss what I need to look at now, what I need to feel now, the people and experiences I need to be most present with.
"Let the day's own trials be sufficient for the day."
So I pray for each of you: for the ordeals you may be facing today, for the grace to endure, and a peace that goes beyond any understanding...
I'm sitting in our mobile (rented SUV) base camp with my teenage daughter Ellie and her best friend, Veronica. (I happily claim her as my "second daughter"!)
Giving the legs a break and having lunch while Anna and our friend Harout search the next section of our assignment today. Music blasting and teenage laughter are welcome sounds--bringing a little levity to otherwise somber base camp.
The mood goes up and down as Ellie asks her questions, fills in the blanks... Difficult to watch, but seems important for healing. One layer of reality at a time.
Thanks so much to all of you who contributed to our search fund yesterday.
It's looking like we will need the helicopter again to get Michalle and her HRD dog into the rugged area where they need to do scent work.
So please pray for two things: The funds to cover it ($2,000 a day) and an expedited, new authorization from the U.S. Forest Service to land in wilderness space (ours expired 10.31.14, and they were hesitant to extend it at that time. )
The prayers of faithful people are a powerful force toward bringing about change. So please do use that power to entreat our God for help with this search--emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially. It seems inevitable that pretty soon here Winter will shut us down in earnest. Please that we find him before then!
Today we are on the up slope...riding on hope and faith.
We are about to head out the door with Michalle and her HRD dog, Brooke. There is a particular area where many factors have come together: possible items from Steve's pack, tracking, and "alerting" by the dogs.
Please pray for vision, clarity, closure. Please, God...
Of course, each of these searches is costly. $1,000 for a couple of days last week, $3,000 plus for this week. So every bit of support that comes in is much appreciated!
Please do continue to pray and "share" our posts on Facebook and email, as your combined networks are so much more vast than mine could ever be!
FULL COURT PRESS
Just got home from Trinity yesterday, and tomorrow we leave again. It's not that I'm so eager to be there, but more that weather and time dictate it.
We are expecting unusually warm days up there this weekend, so we need to take advantage of them before the season shifts on us, making searching nearly impossible. We have a return visit from Michalle McMillan, one of our Montana HRD handlers and her dog, Brooke. I can't believe they are willing to travel so far to help us again! Amazing.
I am sure you have been wondering how our last search went. We found that Steve probably got even farther than we had previously thought. So that expanded our search area even more...just when we thought it was becoming focused enough to find him. Very discouraging, to be honest.
Fortunately, we found some new clues that are pointing us to a couple of areas, in particular. So we are hoping that Michalle and her HRD dog will help us narrow the focus once more. No, actually, we are praying they will lead us to Steve so we can finish this never-ending search and all breathe a huge sigh of relief and gratitude!!
After increasing the frequency of our searches, along with the expense of last-minute transportation, SUV rental, etc... for our HRD team, our costs have definitely been catching up to us. So please do share our updates on Facebook and email. We will be needing more funds to make it through this "full court press" and bring Steve home before the snow blankets those mountains.
Thank you to all of you who have given so generously of your time, money and energy! (It's 9:30 at night here in California, and my good friends Bob & Allie Shoulders just arrived with home cooked food for the search. I only spoke with them this evening, and yet they still pulled it together for us just a few short hours later.) That's real love in a casserole dish!
YOU GOTTA KEEP DANCIN'
This is the title of one of Steve's favorite books. I found it on his bedside and brought it with me this week. (I think this is my third time reading it...)
Today--as we track and search in a very small, focused area, and once again I am aware that this day could be the turning point--I am fed by the poem that opens the book, so I will share it with you:
Giver of life, creator of all that is lovely,
Teach me to sing the words to your song;
I want to feel the music of living
And not fear the sad songs
But from them make new songs
Composed of both laughter and tears.
Teach me to dance to the sounds of your world
and your people,
I want to move in rhythm with your plan,
Help me to try to follow your leading
To risk even falling
To rise and keep trying
Because you are leading the dance.
I hope this speaks to your heart also...
THE ROAD MOST TRAVELED
So once again we converge on the tiny town of Trinity Center. The locals must really wonder about us!!! The next few days will be focused on tracking a particular trail Jim has been following. Jo will come in to confirm and help manage--hoping to preserve those all-too-delicate prints enough to allow them to lead us to Steve.
(This is an area that would be directly in line with the area the HRD dogs showed "interest" in the other day.)
Jim will arrive in grand style , landing his helicopter in a pasture near the cabin. (I like to tease that it's all "very James Bond" of him!)
My arrival will be nothing as glamorous, but good all the same. It's tough to be home when Jim and the team are up there searching on our behalf.
My "ride" is my trusty Subaru, with almost 140,000 miles on it, driven by a relatively new friend, Chris Huber. He is the kind of guy you can call at 8:00 the night before and quickly get a gracious "of course"!!
It's people like this that I know will be lifelong friends--friendships forged in such an intense, crazy, challenging time. And there are so many of them: Jim, Jeff, Peter, Jo, Megan, Cathy, Bergie, Steve F., Jeff G., Dave D., Dale...and on & on. I am so thankful for these faithful friends--some of whom barely knew me before all of this happened.
Already I am seeing beauty rise up from these ashes.
I don't have a lot to report this morning, but don't want to keep you all on "pins and needles"! Thankfully, all of the searchers are safe and sound. I so appreciate your thoughts and prayers for them last night.
The team found one new potential "clue" yesterday. So far the clues still add up to an image of Steve making it awfully far down the hill...just don't know where that final step was taken.
I must admit that the closer he gets to his car--the one we had to have towed 8 miles down a dirt road and another hour and a half into Redding--the more anxiety rears it's ugly head.
I'm here where I need to be this morning (at home with Ellie), but it's difficult to be so far from the search... Prayers for peace would be much appreciated.
Please hold our searchers in your thoughts tonight, as they are about to work through the night. Prayers for safety, above all!
This morning Jim, Jeff and Mike are headed back up to Trinity to meet Peter and continue the search. (They hardly had a chance to catch their breaths in between this time). Talk about determination!
Their tenacity and generosity inspire me daily. I am sure that by this point they have put in hundreds of hours of thought, preparation, driving and coordinating--not to mention searching!
How could I ever begin to repay these guys--and all of you who have supported us in a million different ways? Not possible. I'm just one very limited person.
So I pray that God (who is surely up to the job) will come alongside each of you in exactly the ways you most need it--just as he has been doing for me.
"Thank you " just doesn't begin to say it! There really are no words...
A FEW IMAGES
Thought you might like to see a few photos from this past week. More to come...
K-9 Handlers and Searchers start the day
Handlers & Pups relax after search
More than two miles. That's how far my injured husband hiked down that mountain.
I just got home late last night from our most recent search--this time with Human Remains Detection dogs and their handlers. So we had Jim, Jo & Mike tracking while the handlers grid searched much of the Minnehaha drainage East of Billy's Peak.
I so appreciate all of the sacrifice, skill and determination of this amazing team of people--all of them focused on helping us find Steve!
The good news is that the search is progressing, with more clues and more narrowing of what has been an immense search zone.
The bad news is that, while every footprint we discover bring us closer to closure, it also means Steve made it that much closer to the goal of making it out--yet didn't. Tragedy multiplied.
But while there are still tangible clues to follow, we feel compelled to continue. We need to solve the mystery, but--more importantly--we need to bring him home.
So please do keep up those prayers for guidance, for resilience, for the energy to continue. I am convinced that, were this effort up to mere human energy, we would have all fallen on our faces long before now. The only thing that makes sense to me is that we are carried forward by the very hand of God. Every step.
Good evening, All
Well, Jim and the K-9 team worked hard again all day today, looking for tracks and "sign" as well as moving the dogs through more areas.
Unfortunately, no Steve yet. The dogs continue to show some "interest". But with the particular
thermodynamics of the drainage, ridges alongside, and the peaks at the top of it all , it is very difficult to tell where a scent originates.
As they say: "What goes up, must come down". So as the warm air rises up the drainage during the day it carries scent with it from areas below. But when the air cools and the air drops back down the ravine, then it carries scent from areas above. So if the dogs alert in a given spot, it is difficult to discern whether the origin is above or below that spot.
It's all a much more complicated science than I would have imagined (definitely nothing as simple as it appears in the movies!!)
Tomorrow morning the K-9 team will have about four more hours to search before they return home to loved ones and jobs.
We are so thankful for all of the effort, dedication & sacrifice they brought to our search for Steve. Their hearts seem almost as heavy as mine tonight, as we all had great hope that they could solve this mystery before they had to leave.
So may tomorrow be the day... Please, God!
Thank you again for all of your support. Please do continue to share our story, as we may need our resources to last even awhile longer than any of us could ever have thought.
NOT OUR NEWS, BUT GOOD NEWS ALL THE SAME
Our very own pilot, Casey Ross, made the news today by locating a missing hunter from Covolo in good condition. This husband and father, Dave Stornetta, was missing for seven days in the same county where we have been searching for Steve. Due to cold, rainy weather and a very large search area, hopes were not high for finding him. Search and rescue looked for five days.
Then yesterday, when our Air Shasta pilot wasn't needed for our search, he went to look for this other missing man. After only a few hours of searching, he and his colleague Dave located him by spotting the smoke from his fire. We are so happy for this family and for Casey!
I know that we are all waiting to find Steve, but in the meantime, this good news made my day!
Meanwhile, our 5-handler HRD dog team has been working diligently to narrow the search area. The dogs have expressed strong "interest" in several areas; although the challenge seems to lie in the varying wind patterns that carry scent up and down the ravine.
Meanwhile, Jim Higgins and our tracker Jo have been discovering more tracks even further down the mountain.
Between the skills and experience of these two different approaches, I have a strong sense of hope that they will be able to finish this never-ending process tomorrow before the handlers and dogs have to return to their homes and families.
We are all bone weary by this time of the night, so my words today need to end here.
Please do hold your loved ones close. Breathe in their sweet (and even not-so-sweet) smells. Because nothing is better in this world.
It's all coming together today. We are converging from Montana, Washington State & California to take the search to a whole new level.
WE HAVE HRD DOGS! The K-9 teams have arrived in Medford, Oregon and will be driven to the cabin by two more of my heroes, Dave Berg and Kevin Tompkins.
Then the dogs will go to work right away this afternoon, scent checking in some very specific zones to further clarify the plan for tomorrow.
So this is the resource we have been (literally!) begging for for over two months. Now we have access to not one, two or even three K-9 teams, but five! Talk about receiving even more than you ask for!
These women are "praying people", as they put it. So I really do believe that it is no coincidence that they are here. Thank you so much to everyone out there who has been supporting us through your prayers, donations and encouragement!
I feel a sense of hope that this ordeal may soon be over.... of course, some anxiety about what's around the corner. But if I have learned anything in this process, it's that I need to surrender and trust that no matter what is down the road, I won't be alone in it. Far from it.
Through the help of SO many people, we have been able to arrange transportation for the K-9 teams from Montana and Washington State. We can't begin to express how appreciative we are toward all of you who have helped in myriad ways!
As I write this, my sisters-in-law and the women of my church & others in the area are pulling together food for 20 people for four days. Yikes!
More to come later, but I thought you would want to know all is progressing. Amazing!
THE SWEET "NORMAL"
So happy to be home for a couple of days before our next (and possibly last) search.
I felt sweet, healing pleasure at being able to sit and watch my daughter swim tonight. Feel the cold, hard bench seat. Smell the chlorine. Ahh... little things that used to irritate are somehow welcome now. The "Search Manager" life I've been living has really been such an altered universe!! So it is right and sweet to spend at least a bit of time in "normal" life...
There is a lot of hub bub around the search team members today. Excitement about this 5 handler K9 team due to start Sunday afternoon. Such an answer to so many desperate prayers!!
Since time is running out to set something up, and we haven't been able to secure donated flight hours, we have decided to go ahead and book them on commercial flights.
They will all fly in to Medford and then drive down from there. Jim and Jo will carry out a briefing and orient them to Base Camp and some of the scent zones we have discovered on Sunday afternoon. Then the search begins in earnest on Monday and continues through Wednesday.
We are so thankful for this group! It feels like just the right kind of resource, at just the right time! Whew!!
Now I will see who can help me plan and prepare meals as well as organize supplies for all 14-16 of us during the course of the search.
I'd better get to sleep so I can wake up early and get going!
A huge "thank you" to all of you who have supported us so generously! It is such a relief to know that we are going to be able to get those K9 teams here!!
First of all, I want to thank Kevin Fagan of the San Francisco Chronicle for his thoughtfully-rendered article (see SFGate.com for today's online version or the front page of the Chronicle for print version tomorrow.)
He definitely took the time to "get it", and for that I am very grateful. Steve would be pleased.
You will see "John"'s name revealed in the Chronicle article. Our mystery lead searcher is really Jim Higgins. (He didn't want this blog to be about him, but the paper needed real names for real people!)
So on to Today's Update:
Another full day of tracking by our tireless team. (Well, actually, a couple of them were looking forward to nice hot baths to soak those weary hiking muscles!)
Thank you to Jim, Peter and our trackers for working so diligently through a long, chilly day spent on those punishing slopes and climbing around in the rocky drainage (the creek that carries runoff from the surrounding peaks down toward the road and culverts below).
Disappointingly, the prints became virtually unsearchable in the higher zones today. We feel there have just been one too many rain storms obscuring them. It is actually amazing that they have been visible this long after Steve passed through there.
On a positive note, Jim and Peter found some possible "sign" near the water below through standard ground searching.
Because tracks have become impossible to follow with any regularity at this point, and Winter is fast approaching, what we really need at this are Human Remains Detection dog teams to help us finish up the search. Our eyes just aren't good enough anymore, so it's time to bring in those excellent canine noses!!
A team of five volunteer handlers & dogs stand at-the-ready (from Washington State and Montana). They could start as soon as the 26th, but we do need a way to get them here!!
Since it's ten "bodies" in all, a mid-size plane would be ideal (or 2 smaller ones). No luck so far finding volunteer pilots, so please pray that we would find this resource and ask around in your own personal networks.
If we can't find volunteer resources, then we will have to fly them in commercially. You may notice I have increased our goal to reflect the added cost of getting all ten of these important team members here. (And as always, if we bring in more funds than we need to finish the search, we would be thrilled to use that money in service of other families going through similar situations, or possibly to begin a hiking safety education campaign in the schools.)
So it was a disappointing day in the sense of seeing the clarity of tracks diminish, but hopeful at the same time, in that we may soon have just the right kind of help to finish up this never-ending process!
Thank you to all of you who have donated so generously to help us bring Steve home. Every evening when I get back to the cabin and see your kind notes and evidence of your generosity here on GoFundMe, I feel that very palpable reality that I am far from alone in this...
So thank you all!
As to today's search, John and Peter searched with our trackers for another 1500 feet. Amazing! The tracks are definitely becoming less clear as the weather continues to be wet, so they had a few frustrating points when they could not find the tracks. But then they were able to relocate them and continue on. Still only one set of tracks heading down that lonely mountain.
We are so thankful for them!
Probably our greatest request tonight is help with finding someone who could fly the 4-6 Human Remains Detection Dogs and their handlers from Montana out to Trinity Center, CA. Please spread the word through your facebook and email networks. Also, do let us know if you have any resources along these lines!
IN SUCH GOOD HANDS
After several days of discouragement following the news that our Human Remains Detection dog handler had to postpone her trip here, today hope that we can find Steve before Winter is once again stirring in me.
When our trackers met us at the cabin before sunrise this morning for our trip up the mountain, they came bearing good news! A 6-strong Human Remains Detection Dog team along with 6 handlers from a private nonprofit group in Montana has volunteered to come out to California and help us finish our search.
I so feel the hand of God in something like this... Here is another group of experienced, selfless people willing to give time, talent and energy to us without asking for anything in return.
I am just surrounded by so many caring, skilled, unassuming, determined people... I'm in such good hands.
So how did it happen that this suburban mother and psychotherapist now has this network of such excellent searchers, pilots, trackers and dog teams when my personal circle was so much more small and routine only this past July?
I feel like the message to me is "Trust me, Carrie..I've got this!" And while He never promised to spare me pain, I find He does come alongside me, carrying my heart when it has fallen through the floor. I'm in such good hands.
Thank you, thank you to all of you who have contributed so far to our search effort! Without you, we would have had to give up long ago...
We are back up on the mountain tonight, preparing for two more days of searching (weather permitting).
Please pray for two things: First, that the weather would hold through Wednesday...and second, that we would be able to obtain Human Remains Detection dog assistance SOON before Winter sets in in earnest.
We have requested this multiple times from the Trinity County Sheriff's office, usually receiving no response whatsoever. We are baffled at this lack of action on their part.
The handlers work on a volunteer basis, so all that is required is a call from Sheriff Haney's office to authorize them to come and help us out (as many of them have said they would love to do! They are "just waiting for that call...").
Please pray for a change of heart on the sheriff's part. We would love for him to become a part of the solution and help us bring Steve home. It would bring closure to us, to him, and to this wonderful small community that has been following our story for months, expressing support for us at every turn.
This week the press (broadcast and print) will be putting out stories about our search. We hope that this will help spread the word even more, allowing us the opportunity to raise enough funds to continue the search--but at an accelerated pace. Time is just running out...
So good to know you are all supporting us, in every kind of way imaginable!
P.S. I hope to have some good news to report to you tomorrow. At the very least, I will give you an update on our progress as we narrow the search field even more...
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE HOPEFUL...
So at the end of another day of tracking & searching, the GOOD news is that it looks like Steve survived his first night in the wild.
The BAD news is that this means he made it even farther down the mountain than we thought, and we don't know how much longer it will take us to come to the end of his trail. (We really did think we would find him today.)
So we are all feeling somewhat discouraged at the daunting possibility that he could have made it another 5,000 feet (or more...).
How many more days of searching will it take to find him? So painful to imagine all of that determined effort on his part, traveling all of that distance, but still never making it totally out. Ugh.
So now for the HOPEFUL: We will probably be able to bring in an excellent scent dog and his handler early next week. She will be traveling down from Oregon to lend a hand--and some paws. This new resource could be just the thing we need to find Steve. It's my understanding that they can track scents one half to three quarters of a mile...quite a ways!
So there you have THE MIX again: some very positive things (my sister Anna, who continues to support me through every step of this crazy-making process; all of you who have gifted us with your financial support and prayers; the skilled, professional trackers and handlers, helicopter pilots, searchers working together to help us find Steve).
We take in the gift of all of these amazing, loving people right alongside the most discouraging events we could ever imagine. That crazy mix that life is.
So we try to soak up the good and lean on all of these wonderful, supportive people as we try to keep standing with each new bit of hard news... Lends a whole new meaning to the word "supportive". Thank God for them!
Just as we don't know how far Steve made it down that awful mountain, we also don't know how far our funds will have to last. So if you haven't had a chance to "share" our story to friends, family or colleagues, please take just a moment to do so via Facebook, email, twitter, or the good, old-fashioned telephone!
Thank you so much for all of your support. We surely do "feel the love"!!!
Steve Frary, removing road obstacles!
WILL TOMORROW BE THE DAY?
Please pray that it will! We know there must be an end to this, and I feel all involved are growing weary (though still resolved to see it through).
Dear God, you already know where Steve is and how we will find him. Please do lead us to him soon!
5000 FEET AND COUNTING...
It's been a wild (& productive) couple of days!
Our team of two trackers accompanying our searchers spent the past Monday and Tuesday painstakingly tracking Steve even further down that steep slope. (5000 feet all together now.)
The days begin at 5:15 a.m. with breakfast here at the cabin, gathering supplies, eating breakfast, and heading out by 6:30 for the 40 minute trek up the dirt roads to the Landing Zone. From there our team loads into the helicopter and heads over to the search zone to begin their 10 hour day of scouring the ground for prints, all the while just trying to stay erect on that unforgiving slope. Very draining!
The good news is that the prints were not washed away by the recent rains (more weather to come this week, but not expected to be heavy). We had prayed that we could get in at least two days of full searching and were able to do that. Such a relief!
They have now reached the area where they feel Steve would have been hiking on the verge of darkness, then probably bedding down. This is the most likely area for us to find Steve.
Their interpretation of the tracks leads them to believe that he was experiencing extreme fatigue at this point, on top of an injury. Hard words to hear, but they make sense...
On the positive side, we have been so grateful to have such a wonderful place to stay where our team could enjoy a great meal together (made by my sister Anna's loving hands), relax and rest well enough to have the energy to get up early and do it all again.
Now the team members have left to recharge in their own homes while Anna and I have a day to rest here in this beautiful place before the next search (Thursday) begins. We hope, as always, that this will be the last one.
Casey, the helicopter pilot that has been helping us, is amazingly skilled (tonight landing with his skids just barely resting on the side of the mountain while the team oh-so-carefully climbed on, hoping not to unbalance the helicopter).
We are paying a very high (though fair) price for his time and use of the helicopter. So thank you so much to all of you who have supported us with your generous donations and through sharing our story with your Facebook and email friends and family. Please do keep that up, as it is definitely helping.
It is looking like we will need to use all of the money we have raised, and then some... John told us tonight that we have to load the helicopter "hot", as it costs $15 per minute. Yikes!
Then next week we may bring in a dog and handler from out of state, along with 2 searchers from Idaho. Always a next phase--though obviously what we all really want is to just find Steve this week.
So please do keep sharing our story with friends, family or coworkers. We are so close to our goal and definitely will need the help of as many people as possible to make it all the way!
Carrie & Ellie
PARENTING FROM THE TRENCHES
I don't know how well you parent when you are in crisis-- distracted and way too busy---but I definitely don't do it well!
Here I am on the eve of another trip up to Trinity--away from my 16-year-old daughter. This could be the longest one yet. She bravely assures me she will be fine. She's got lots to do, plenty of people to help her get around, to spend time with. "After all, if you were here I would just be studying or swimming anyway..." Ouch.
She has no idea the enormity of this week, how much I just want to wrap her up in memories and bear hugs--all to protect her from what I fear may be the most painful days of all...
Because, you see, once we are done with all of this frantic search activity, all of that adrenaline, then the too-quiet, too slow rhythm of our house will demand to be absorbed, and our grieving will begin in earnest.
So I have been very consciously seeking out moments of connection before I have to abandon her again. It was going pretty well, but then a mis-step on my part. Ugh. So now she is angry--passionately so--feeling misunderstood, overcontrolled. So much emotion. So much pain.
Definitely not the way you want to part before this all too difficult week...
So please pray for my little family as we find our way through what this week holds for us, as we find our way toward our mysterious, unwanted "new normal".
Grateful for your support,
Carrie (& Sleeping Ellie)
Please pray for NO rain!!!!
HOPE IN FRONT OF ME
I've been spending much of the day trying to wrap up lots of details in preparation for our next search: transportation, landing zone access, finances, etc..
Then there are the logistics for my daughter, Ellie's, care while I am gone. And (more importantly), trying to find moments to connect before I disappear again.
I do know that eventually there will be resolution to all of this. I pray that it will be soon.
I was listening to Danny Gokey's song "Hope in Front of Me" today on the radio. He lost his wife at a young age and writes from a place that resonates with me:
"I've been running through rain
That I thought would never end
Trying to make it on faith
In a struggle against the wind
I've seen the dark and the broken places
But I know in my soul
No matter how bad it gets
I'll be alright
There's hope in front of me
There's a light, I still see it
There's a hand still holding me
Even when I don't believe it
I might be down but I'm not dead
There's better days still up ahead
Even after all I've seen
There's hope in front of me..."
Couldn't have said it better...
I'm thankful for all of you who have given so generously that we can now head back up to the mountain, in hopes of finally finding my elusive husband and bringing him back home...
AND LIFE GOES ON...
I spent the morning dealing with the little meal moths that have infested my kitchen.
They first made their presence known the week I heard that Steve was missing and dashed up to Trinity. Denial worked well for me then, when more important things
absolutely demanded my attention.
But now, when I open any cupboard out they fly. So they have to go. Way too symbolic. Their little moth days are numbered!
So my sister Anna and I spent the day deconstructing, cleaning, treating, then reconstructing my kitchen. Actually, it did feel good to get something very tangible done.
So tomorrow life should return to "normal": last minute search details and preparations. Packing the suitcase again. Working on meals and supplies. Maps. Strategy discussions, etc...
I do look forward to the day when those pesky life challenges are my new normal and this surreal search organizer role is past. That day will come. It needs to come.
In my heart I do see a small light at the end of this dark tunnel. Hope and dread. Such strange bedfellows. Fortunately, "Hope does not disappoint us". So this is where I will focus my heart.
Steve, elated at the end of HIS marathon
In the midst of emails, list-making, phone calls and gathering supplies, I thought I would take a breather and share about a few more of our team members...
There are two men on the team (Jeff Gospe and Mark Hurty) who have amazed me with their broad range of skills, their creative minds, and their extra large hearts.
Both of these men are the kind of people you definitely want around you in a crisis.
First, there is Jeff Gospe (on the left, below) who did some challenging searching with the team, followed by helping us manage communications back at our base. On the night that the rest of the team decided to stay out and keep tracking, he volunteered to stay at Base Camp by himself ( a solitary spot on a very remote logging road). He knew there were mountain lions and a fair amount of fresh bear scat in the area, yet still stayed out there by himself. (When I asked if he got much sleep he said "Well, I did get a whole lot of reading done!")
This is the same Jeff who has been helping me wade through some of the complex insurance and financial issues that have come up with Steve's death. He's also the same guy who, with his wife and 5-year-old son, drove a total of 8 hours up to Redding and back to retrieve Steve's car.
Then there is Mark Hurty (my brother-in-law, pictured beaming below with his grandkids). Ever since Steve went missing, Mark has been working behind the scenes on all kinds of things: communicating with the Forest Service for us, researching topography and GPS locations, and thinking through possible scenarios with John.
He came on one of the searches with us and--when the sun was getting ready to set at "Base Camp" and we were getting word that a couple of our teams were having a hard time finding their way back--helped them use their GPS navigational tools to make it in safe... all without panicking. Whew!!
I love these guys and the way they have used their keen minds and willing hearts to be of service to us in so many ways.
You just never know how many great gifts and resources the people around you possess until you go through a tragedy like this and see them circle around and offer up their very best to help ease your burden.
Mark and his Grandkids
Thanks so much to all of you who shared our link with your networks! It definitely helps!
Today our team is busy finishing up our plans for the next search effort. Planning food, paying the helicopter company, looking over maps and learning more re how to read the "signs" in bird and wild animal behavior. The list goes on....
My sister Anna and I are sitting at my kitchen table (a.k.a. "Command Central") with laptops humming, phones at the ready, while my 83-year-old Mom (another one of my heroes!) is out running the errands I would have needed to do myself. Everyone is doing their part (and more!!).
Please pray for energy and judgment as we continue with what seem to be 1,000 decisions a day (at a time when decision making does not come easy for me...)
We so appreciate knowing that you are all standing behind us. We look forward to the day when we can send you one last "update", telling you of a successful outcome.
So please do keep "sharing" our page... every new donor helps us get that much closer!
"WHERE WOULD WE BE?"
The photo you see below is as much as I can show you of our fearless leader, "John", alongside my good friend Dave Dyslin, another searcher. Other than the shiny attire, you would think this was just an image of two guys enjoying a beautiful sunrise. It is that, and more...
It depicts two of the most selfless people I know who (along with my equally-valued friend Jeff and two trackers) have just spent the night out in the deep, dark cold of the Trinity Alps without so much as sleeping bags. Only three "emergency blankets" for five people. Cold. Tired (on this, their fourth day of searching). Hungry. (Because they had granola bars & nuts for dinner--& will have them again for breakfast).
When I heard their scratchy walkie-talkie announcement earlier that day saying they were still following Steve's tracks and wanted to keep tracking through the night, I was sure I must have misunderstood.
"How can you track at night?"
"We've got plenty of lights."
"What will you eat for dinner?"
"We'll be fine. We have plenty of stuff."
"Won't you freeze? You don't have sleeping bags!" "We've got stuff to keep us warm. " Now I know what kind of "stuff" they were talking about (the aforementioned thin "blankets")!!!
These grown men would have none of my mothering. They had already made up their minds. So I sat back and started praying.
Where would I be without the help of these unassuming, focused, courageous people? I would be left forever wondering if I had done everything I possibly could to help bring Steve home. Stuck with those gnawing questions about where his body could have "disappeared" to. So few answers for myself, for my daughter...
Now, thanks to all of them (and all of you!), I have hope that those questions won't have to follow me the rest of my life. And I won't have to leave my husband's battered body in that unforgiving, wild place.
We have raised almost enough funds to get us through the next (and what we hope will be last!) phase of searching, to begin early next week. But we do need enough to finish the job. It would be agony to get even closer--but not be able to continue and find closure--because we couldn't pay for more helicopter time, or supplies, or lodging.
You see, there is no "deep pocket", no wealthy benefactor in our circle. Only a small band of loving, tireless, heroic friends and family members who are each supporting us in any way they can.
So please don't stop telling our story to others who might help. If you "share" these updates on your facebook pages or with email contacts, you could reach many more people than I would ever be able to...
Thank you, thank you for all of the generous gifts you have sent our way so far. Where would we be without you?
Carrie & Ellie
Steve Morris went missing on a church camping trip in the Trinity Alps wilderness on August 2, 2014. Official search and rescue efforts have turned up nothing and they suspended the search after 5 days.
A private search team has located Steve's tracks. Money is needed for helicopter access to the search site due to its remoteness. Funds will also be used to hire a human remains dog and for supplies. A team of 5 searchers will continue to track Steve until he is located. Any funds left over will go to fund searches for other families.
It is important that you don't go into the search area. It will spoil the tracks and there is an aggressive mountain lion in the area.
There is a facebook page called "Steve Morris Search" where you can follow the progress.
Thank you for your help.
The Morris family