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Backpacker Magazine – June 2002

Trapped! The Mike Turner Story

Deep in Wyoming's Wind River Range, an accident with a sliding boulder makes a hiker confront his life, his fate, and his faith in God.

by: Jeff Rennicke


Mike
Photo by Mike Turner


In the flurry of days that followed Diane's initial call for help, a "hasty team" traced Turner's itinerary. Retailer REI faxed in the track pattern for the size 13 Asolo hiking boot Turner wore, so searchers could look for prints. Posters went up at trailheads, in every storefront from Pinedale to Lander. The Turner children collected names from trailhead registers and matched them with phone numbers off the Internet. Carloads of volunteers from Turner's congregation converged on the Wind Rivers to help. "We've never had a search like this one in terms of the family and friends being so involved and so helpful," Holgate says. "It was obvious from the start that this guy was loved and respected."

But even with all of those eyes out there looking, clue after clue led nowhere. And time was running out. More than 70 percent of lost victims found alive are discovered within the first 48 hours. Of those who don't survive, 75 percent die within the first 3 days. "I pulled Danny aside at one point," Mark Smith remembers, "and asked straight out how long someone could last out there." Holgate answered that with a traumatic injury, "you'd probably make it through the first night. You might make it through the second. The third night would probably get you." It was now nearly 3 weeks since anyone had seen Mike Turner.

On August 23, the search for Mike Turner was called off. "The case isn't closed," Holgate told the family. "We'll throw everything we have at any new lead. But for now, we've done all that we can." As the days grew colder and the first snow dusted the high peaks, it seemed that Mike Turner's fate would become a secret of the mountains. "We needed to catch a break," Holgate says.

And then they got one.

Five days after the search was called off, Turner's dog Andy walked out of the wilderness led by a pair of hikers who had seen the posters at the trailhead. Wet, footsore, and 20 pounds lighter, the dog was exhausted but not hurt. He was taken to a veterinary clinic and rested while searchers and the family regrouped. "Andy being found alive opened up a whole new realm of emotions for me," Diane says. "I was hopeful but still trying to be realistic."

On August 31, more than a month after Mike Turner had set out and 23 days after his family had expected him at Big Sandy, a search team set out on one more trip into the Wind Rivers, hoping Andy would lead them to some answers. That same day, Jeff Stewart, a hiker from San Diego, was making his way along the edge of the unnamed lake near the Brown Cliffs on a 9-day cross-country hike with a route eerily similar to Mike Turner's. Intent on his footing in the loose rocks, Stewart glanced up and, 50 yards away, saw what appeared to be a man sitting up in the rocks. "I had seen the posters at the trailhead and knew they were looking for someone," he says. "So I called out, 'Hey, are you all right?' There was no answer. I knew there wouldn't be." Stewart already knew who it was.

On September 3, just as the search team prepared to drop off Indian Pass onto Knife Point Glacier with Andy in the lead, their radio crackled to life. It was Danny Holgate: Turn around, he said. A hiker had walked into the Sublette County Sheriff's office carrying a wallet. It belonged to Mike Turner.

The coroner performed an autopsy and filed a report showing that Mike Turner had died sometime on August 11, the same day the first helicopter carrying Danny Holgate lifted off to begin the search.



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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
D. Harris
Nov 18, 2013

Thank you to Jeff for writing this story. It was refreshing to see a mainstream media magazine publish a story that respected a person of deep Christian faith. Kudos to Backpacker for featuring it.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike Jackson
Jan 15, 2013

Regina P: "Somehow, female children are raised to think of everyone else before themselves..."

Sure they are. That's why they overwhelmingly
believe they have the right to kill a baby inside her, or even partially born, if he or she interferes in her lifestyle.

Star Star Star Star Star
green
Jan 15, 2013

heartbreaking

Roy Mandel
Nov 28, 2012

Wd did a hike my 9yr son and wife and me in that area but on trails in 1980 and I recall seeing island lake on map. Greart story.

Roy Mandel
Nov 28, 2012

Wd did a hike my 9yr son and wife and me in that area but on trails in 1980 and I recall seeing island lake on map. Greart story.

James Ludlow
Feb 12, 2012

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story of faith, love and courage. I too am a pastor and deeply share the solitude of Mike's mountainous spirit. We all will see Jesus soon...it's just like God to bring us home through our favorite places on earth. I'm sure some would say "Mike went to be with Jesus by doing something He loved to do!". In a weird kind of way, that is a blessing. My life has been deeply touched through this story. Thanks for sharing.

Renee' Johns
Nov 10, 2011

Tonight I found the story I read about in 2008 that helped me so much during my chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer that year. I had had a 20yr walk with God prior. I felt so alone and discouraged and had lost all Hope until I read this article I beleive in the Idaho Statesman that year. I just want to say Thank You Rev. for helping me to LIVE. God Bless your family.

Richard
Sep 02, 2011

Thanks so much for publishing this article. I read it when it appeared in your magazine but misplaced that issue. Too bad ReginaP did not read past page 5 to the end of the article - though I imagine the beauty of the story would still be lost on her.

odanny
Aug 01, 2011

Well written story on Mr. Turner. He had his faith tested on the rock and it endured when his body gave out.

Mike Sechler
Feb 13, 2011

I love this story, because I love hiking, I love the mountains in Wyoming (even I have never hiked in this particular range), but most of all I love God. Thanks for the story, I will be using it in my sermon today. God is still using the life of Mike Turner, even as Mike now enjoys the immediate presence of God.

wilk
Jan 11, 2011

Wow regina, hate men much?

ReginaP
Dec 18, 2010

I don't like to speak ill of the dead, but whenever I read/hear a story like this all I can think about is the selfishness and arrogance of the one who put himself (and it's almost always a man) before his loved ones, never once considering what impact it would have on them to lose him. I can't even read all the way through because I'm on page 5 and it's making me angry. Somehow, female children are raised to think of everyone else before themselves, while male children are raised to get theirs at any cost. I feel bad for the dog, in any case.

Gabriel Hedger
Dec 14, 2010

One of the best articles I have ever read.

Ryan Wolfinger
Dec 11, 2010

What an amazing story. Mike Turner sounds like an incredible man of faith, one of the most inspiring parts of the story to me; "as his final hours approached, Turner's body was shutting down; but it was as though his spirit was opening up. All the questions, all the doubt and anger seemed to dissolve like so much morning mist on that unnamed lake. What remained was the unbreakable bedrock of belief." Despite the tremendous pain that he experienced, it is so comforting to know that Mike will spend an eternity in Paradise.

Anonymous
Nov 03, 2010

Don Heinz, pastor, hiker
Nov 01, 2010

Thank you Jeff for putting the story to paper. Thank you Diane for the courage to share it. Thank you Mike for living it. It being the adventure and your faith. I am in a personal struggle now myself, and these words were an encouragement.

Diane Turner Slobodow
Jul 31, 2010

Just an update on the story. Our dog, Andy, lived an amazing life. He was just over a year old when he went on the hike with Mike into the Winds. He was a wonderful companion to Mike and I know provided comfort from Mike's journal. And what a companion he has been for me and our family. Loyal and loving and adventuresome until the end. His body started failing him this spring. I like to think that Andy and Mike met on the trail and continue their adventure.

Dan Metcalf
Jul 09, 2010

This story deeply touches me. It could so easily be so many of us who love the solitude of wilderness, mountains, lakes. I too love the Lord and have cried out many times on my journey. My wife's 28 year battle with rheumatoid arthritis and the sorrow and pain that goes with it reminds me some of Mike's struggle.
From reading Mike's journal it is easy to see that his family and planet earth suffered much loss when he left us for heaven.
What heart! What a story! Our prayers and best wishes go out to Mike's family.

Paul Clark
Jan 16, 2010

I was hiking out from Island Lake on the same day that Mr Turner and his dog were hiking in. I think I remember a hiker and his black dog. I know I said "Hi" to him as we passed on the trail. It's odd to think that I was one of the last people to see the guy alive.

my strength
Feb 14, 2009

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