CIRCUMSTANCES: Still Missing
Kris Fowler was completing his NOBO thru-hike in Washington. On October 12, 2016, he was dropped off near the trailhead at White Pass. His last cell phone ping was in that area around 5 p.m. Considerable amounts of snow and rain were expected over the next few days. The authorities and volunteers have diligently searched much of the trail between White Pass and the Canadian Border. Yet Kris Fowler is still missing.
Age: 34. Last Seen: October 12, 2016. LKP: Mile 2294 (White Pass/Packwood, Washington)
Kris Fowler was born in 1982 in Norfolk, Virginia to Sue (Sattem) and Mike Fowler. Mike was stationed there in the Navy. They moved back to the Dayton, Ohio, area when Kris was about two. Kris was a happy young man that made friends easily, even from an early age. His parents later divorced but still raised him together. Kris’s Mom sadly passed away when Kris was 12. His Dad married Sally Guyton the following year, and they moved to Beavercreek, Ohio, where Kris went to school starting in the 7th Grade. Although Mike and Sally were no longer married, they stayed friends and both had a close relationship with Kris. Kris stayed close with his Mom’s family, his Dad’s family and Sally’s family, too. He was loved by many.
Kris was a natural athlete. Just about anything he set out to do, he did it well. Kris never played on a football team, but one day when he was 12, he came home and wanted to go compete in the local Punt Pass and Kick competition. He did and won in his age group two years in a row, and even went as far as the semifinals at the Cincinnati Bengals stadium. This was incredible because he never played football! He was just a natural athlete!
Kris loved the outdoors. He and his family camped and hiked whenever possible. Kris also loved photography, so the two went hand in hand. Kris’s love for camping and hiking continued as an adult, where he frequently would seek out new places to hike and photograph. He would travel outside of Ohio to find more challenging places to hike as well. In 2000, he graduated from Beavercreek High School where he played baseball all through school and was a very skilled pitcher. He played ball with the same group of guys all through school and ended up going to Wright State College with several of them. In College, along with some high school friends, he joined and was active in the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. He often had full-time jobs all through college and graduated in 2006 with a B.S. in Marketing. He made many friends along the way and stayed in touch with many of them after college.
Kris was very easy to be around and people liked him. He was laid back and intense at the same time! He had a great sense of humor, he loved to travel, loved the outdoors and loved to have fun. Kris got married in 2008 and moved to Cincinnati. He had a good marriage for many years, but sadly they divorced in 2015. Kris had a job with a logistics company and they moved his job to Florida, but the company was not stable. He left the company in 2015 and moved in with his Dad in Beavercreek, Ohio, where he was trying to decide what he wanted to do for work. An opportunity came up for him to do some hotel construction in Wyoming and make good money with no expenses, so he moved to Wyoming in February 2016.
Kris loved the outdoors and thought of this as a way to see a different part of the country and do more hiking. Over the years Kris had become an avid Disc golf player where he traveled to different states to play in tournaments. Once again, he made many friends and once again, he was very good at this sport, too. He made friends with a man named Colin Hurley who lived in Colorado. Even when Kris was married, he would visit Colin and they would go on hiking trips. Colin and Kris talked about doing the Pacific Crest Trail one day.
In 2016 Colin was preparing for the PCT. Kris decided that he had very few bills, a little money in the bank, and no permanent job to disrupt, so that was the time to do it. Kris left Wyoming at the end of March, moved to Colorado to stay with Colin, and started training and preparing for the PCT. I didn’t even know what that was! Kris told both his Dad and I about his plans, and once we saw how prepared he was, we supported him on his new adventure although we were nervous.
Kris and Colin set out on their journey on May 8, 2016. It was Mother’s Day. He sent me a text and picture saying, ” Happy Mother’s Day from the PCT. I love you,” and the journey began. Kris had mailed himself over 20 packages of food and supplies to locations along the trail. He sent his Dad and me a list of all of the locations in case we also wanted to send him packages and so that we could see his journey.
Soon into the hike Colin and Kris started hiking alone, which is normal, as each one had their own pace. They stayed in touch along the way. Kris had a little slower pace, and as an amateur photographer, he was spending a little longer in some areas, hiking off trail to take pictures of things he thought no one had seen or photographed before. As in all stages of his life, he was making friends and leaving lasting impressions along the way. Kris was taking longer on his journey than he planned because of these side trips and “stopping to smell the roses” along the way.
He made a deal with his parents to check in every two weeks and he kept to that plan the entire trip. Kris was also frequently in touch with some of his friends and cousins. Kris last spoke to his Stepmom on the phone on September 30, 2016, where he said he was doing good other than being tired. He told her he still planned on making it to Canada.
Two weeks later we had not heard from Kris and his dad grew a little worried. I reached out to a lady friend Kris had been hiking with, and although she had left the trail the first of October, she was still in touch with Kris. She said he had texted her on Oct 12. Kris told his friend that he was having phone trouble and was trying to get a new charger. Once we learned that we felt better since he had spoken to someone. After another week went by, we started worrying more.
Mike and I started contacting the authorities and all of the places where Kris had mailed his packages. By Oct 23, it was becoming clear Kris was missing, and now we had to convince authorities of that as well. Not easy to do from Ohio to Washington State. By Oct 31, after much self detective work, authorities agreed to list Kris as missing and began searching. After a five county, two-week long search, the official search ended due to inclement weather. I even traveled to Washington with my boyfriend, John, and my brother, Rick, and spent 11 days following leads and tracing Kris’s last footsteps. Still no Kris. Sadly, Mike passed away in 2017, due to cancer, without ever knowing what happened to Kris. There have been many searches over the past 3 1/2 years, and so many amazing people volunteering to help find any sign of Kris, but nothing has been found yet.
Many of the 2016 PCT hikers that hiked with Kris said he was a strong hiker. He often liked to take his time and maybe not cover as many miles in one day as some hikers do, but if he wanted to, he could do 25 miles a day. One hiker even stated that they had never seen anyone plow through the snow as fast as Kris did and they could not keep up with him. By the time any hiker gets to Washington State, they are skilled at hiking. Kris was having the time of his life. He was already making plans to get a job to save money so that he could do another through hike the following year. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.