Despite the ever growing sprawl of civilization and the advent of smartphones, the American wilderness is still vast and treacherous. There are dozens of ways to die, hundreds of parks and forests to get lost in, and a million places that can easily conceal a corpse. Consequently, author Andrea Lankford, a former award-winning park ranger and investigator with the National Park Service’s law enforcement team, is never surprised when someone disappears from the trail. She has led rescue missions across America; from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon; searching for lost hikers, downed aircrafts, flash flood victims, homicidal fugitives from justice, and suicidal subjects. Most cases were eventually resolved, but the loose ends that remained—the hikers left unfound—haunted her. Growing frustrated with the service’s bureaucratic idiosyncrasies and limited resources, Andrea reluctantly left the force after twelve years.
Two decades later, however, Andrea stumbles across a mystery that pulls her back to where she left off. Three young men: Chris Sylvia, Kris Fowler, and David O’ Sullivan have vanished from the 2,650-mile trek of the Pacific Crest Trail and no one has been able to find them. Andrea’s concern leads her to the wild environment of missing person Facebook groups, and she joins forces with an eclectic team of amateurs who are determined to solve these cases by land and by screen. Through reports, news articles, screenshots, photographs, and maps of points where the hikers were last seen; readers will be taken along for a breathtaking true crime adventure as the cases of the missing unfold. At once intimate and sprawling, TRAIL OF THE LOST tells the stories of the missing, their families, and others who can’t help but get involved, like the retired pharmacy manager and mapmaker who enlisted themselves in the search. As this fierce band of searchers start connecting dozens of tantalizing leads (cell phone pings, discarded gear, wrecked cars, dubious sightings, novels with underlined passages, bleached bones, and more), their hardships begin to bear strange fruits— ones that lead them to places and people they never saw coming. After all, on the TRAIL OF THE LOST, you may not find what you are looking for, but you will certainly find more than you seek.
Andrea Lankford is the author of New York Times bestseller TRAIL OF THE LOST and RANGER CONFIDENTIAL, a National Geographic “Top Ten Book About U.S. Parks,” and three trail guides. During her twelve-year career as a law enforcement ranger with the National Park Service, Andrea won several awards for her criminal investigations. After leaving the ranger ranks, the accomplished outdoorswoman thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, kayaked from Miami to Key West, and was the first, with Beth Overton, to mountain bike the 800-mile Arizona Trail. Andrea is now a registered nurse living in Northern California.