SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – October 2006

Lost & Found

John Donovan disappeared in a high-elevation blizzard, leaving rescuers and friends stumped. His backpack contained a miracle clue. Bill Donahue investigates.

by: Bill Donahue


It would be comforting to hear that Donovan's friends quickly learned that he was missing and summoned search-and-rescue crews. But they didn't. The sad truth is that a surrogate family lacks the blood-thickness of a real one, and Donovan's friends were preoccupied. They sent him mail drops and glanced at his itinerary, but Chris Hook was vacationing in Utah. Another friend, a nurse practitioner named Coleen Kenny, kept a votive candle that Donovan had asked her to light in his absence. Kenny was busy, though. The candle scarcely got lit.

Twelve days passed before anyone realized Donovan was missing. No one called for help until after Kenny discovered, on May 15, that Donovan had failed to pick up three mail drops north of Palm Springs. By then, Donovan may have already been dead. The PCT community, bound by the Internet and by rumors floating up and down the trail, collectively shuddered. "Missing" posters appeared at trailside post offices, and theories swirled as to his fate.

Many hikers believed that Donovan headed toward Fuller Ridge and then faltered in the blizzard. Dave Koskenmaki, 61, an orienteering expert, says the conditions on the ridge on May 6 were miserable. "The visibility was about 100 feet," he says. Steiner, the photographer, postulated that Donovan spied the lights of Idyllwild after the whiteout eased up, then began to fight his way down toward the town, muscling through brush, only to stumble off one of the myriad 30- to 50-foot dropoffs en route.

About the only thing that seemed certain was that Donovan perished on San Jacinto's west side, near Saddle Junction. On Memorial Day weekend, 2005, Riverside County Rescue Unit personnel combed the area with dogs. After 2 fruitless days, officials called off the search for good.

Back in Virginia, Donovan's friends could only reflect on the vacuum his absence created. Robert Duesberry recalled how he needed a friend after his wife committed suicide in January 1999. "I needed to do something," says the 46-year-old tile installer. "I needed to stop thinking, so I called the club and said, 'Who goes hiking in winter?'"

Donovan seemed unfazed that Duesberry hadn't hiked in 20 years. The two men backpacked almost every weekend that winter. At night, they had long conversations. "John talked about forgiveness," says Duesberry, who continued the winter hikes with Donovan until his friend vanished. "He said that sooner or later you'll stop being angry and forgive her for killing herself. He listened; he helped me see a way out. He offered a breath of fresh air when I needed it most."



Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
nfl
Sep 19, 2013

Every customer satisfied with our china nfl jerseys, they are promised best quality in the market, and our service is the best. Good jerseys is the life of our company. Hope to do more business with you. Hope you can have a try for our jerseys. http://www.bestjerseysale.com/ All kinds nhl jerseys on sale, http://www.bestjerseysale.com/NHL-Jerseys-c96.html

Star Star Star Star Star
www.jerseycaptain.com
Apr 10, 2013

Good quality good service nfl jerseys wholesale http://www.jerseycaptain.com elite nike nfl jerseys sale. http://www.jerseycaptain.com/San-Francisco-49ers-s644 nike 49ers nfl Jerseys,super bowl nfl jerseys
http://www.jerseycaptain.com/MLB-Jerseys-c94 cool base MLB Jerseys, 2012 world series San Francisco Giants MLB Jerseys
http://www.jerseycaptain.com/NBA-Jerseys-c77 Revolution 30 Swingman NBA Jerseys, Hardwood Classics NBA Jerseys
elite game limited light out nfl jerseys. Australia basketball jerseys. Australia soccer jerseys
You will be satisfied with our service and our jerseys quality. Quickly shipping.

Star Star Star Star Star
GSDFGH
Apr 06, 2013

http://www.newmichaelkorspurses.net/ michael kors purses outlet online
http://www.mk-mmichaelkorsoutlet.net/ michael kors outlet online
http://www.guccishoesoutletfactory.net/ gucci shoes outlet online
http://www.northsfaceoutletonline.net/ north face jackets outlet online
http://www.monsterobeats.net/ monster beats outlet online
http://www.coach-storeonline2013.net/ coach store online
http://www.coachoutletinusa.com/ coach outlet online usa
http://www.coachbagsc.com/ coach outlet online coach outlet
http://www.shopcoachfactory.net/ shop.coachfactory.com coachfactory.com/shop
http://www.uswcoay.com/ Coach Outlet Online
http://coachsfactoryoutletonline.webs.com/ Coach outlet online

Star Star Star Star Star
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com
Mar 14, 2013

our jerseys shop http://www.yourjerseyhome.com Nike San Francisco 49ers jerseys,Nike Baltimore Ravens Jerseys and best servise. http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/Nike-NFL-Jerseys-c124.html Nike NFL Jerseys http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/MLB-Jerseys-c94.htm l cool base mlb jerseys
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/NBA-Jerseys-c77.html Revolution 30 nba jerseys
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/NFL-T-Shirt-c126.htm l wholesale NFL T-Shirt,
http://www.jerseycaptain.com http://www.jersey2shop.com

Star Star Star Star Star
no1nefjerseys
Feb 03, 2013

You don't have his talent
You don't have his condition
You no applause
The world is not fair?
But you have the right to dream
Let the heart become your declaration
Let the wounds become your medal
Let the world's not fair in front of you down!
wholesale cheap jerseys | http://www.no1nefjerseys.com
discount nfl jerseys | http://www.no1nefjerseys.com/Nike-NFL-Jerseys-c124/
nfl football jerseys |
http://www.no1nefjerseys.com/NCAA-Jerseys-c114/
Custom nfl jerseys http://www.no1nefjerseys.com/Customized-Jerseys-c116/
Wholesale new era hats http://www.no1nefjerseys.com/Hats-&amp-Caps-c119

Star Star Star Star Star
http://www.3cjerseys.com
Jan 30, 2013

cheap convenient and creditworthy is our online store's (http://www.3cjerseys.com) service tenet . you can buy all kinds of cheap nfl jerseys here , just as nfl jerseys , basketball jerseys , NHL jerseys , Football jerseys ,the new era hats , we also provide jerseys customized service . All the products in our website are from china with wholesale price , so you can buy cheap products wiht high quality ! Now ,you can choose different payment in our website ,just as paypal , western union and VISA credit card . more information please visit http://www.3cjerseys.com

Somanath sethi
Jun 25, 2012

John j. Donovan was a true marine. Rest in peace john

Anonymous
Jun 03, 2012

it still hurts...

audra
May 17, 2012

Rest in Peace John Joseph Donovan. You are missed by so many, and will live on in the hearts and memories of those of us who knew, or knew of you.

k
Apr 04, 2012

ya I agree I also dont understand why if John donavan was such A big part of them surviving,why he didnt get recognized more,He evidently went through way more than mutt and jeff did.stay on the path dumby,thats what its for.

k
Apr 04, 2012

ya I agree I also dont understand why if John donavan was such A big part of them surviving,why he didnt get recognized more,He evidently went through way more than mutt and jeff did.stay on the path dumby,thats what its for.

Chris
Jan 12, 2012

Saw him on date from hell I shouldn't be alive

tarnish
Nov 14, 2011

this is a very touching story.
im glad to have encountered it

Hiker2011
Nov 06, 2011

The more hikers I meet, the more I am astonished to learn that many cannot read a topo map well, or even read that compass that they carry.

Yet they chant their misinformed, wrong headed, opinions that the PCT is "too well marked" for hikers to get into trouble.

If you don't know how to navigate, start practicing. Learning to use a compass is actually pretty easy once you wrap your thoughts around it.

A compass is considered the FIRST tool of navigation. The gps is considered the SECOND, or plan B, tool to use.

In a white out blizzard, you can't see. But you can use that compass (or gps) to find your way to some sort of safety such as a hut, or tool shed, or descending trail so that you don't have to bushwhack and die like Mr. Donovan.

Don't run your mouth and be the fool. If you can't navigate, great, but don't chant to others that they should risk their safety to satisfy your own foolish lack of skills.

Sean Jenk
Sep 27, 2011

Ozzy B. are you serious? Your funny! You said, "you go girl!" in response to hearing they broke up? It was two years later you moron! I almost think your comments were more shocking than that incredible story. My Gosh you suck.

Sean Jenk
Sep 27, 2011

Ozzy B. are you serious? Your funny! You said, "you go girl!" in response to hearing they broke up? It was two years later you moron! I almost think your comments were more shocking than that incredible story. My Gosh you suck.

mel
Aug 04, 2011

This is the stupidest episode yet. Gina Allen was worried about her bad breath?! This is simply natural selection at play.

marc
Apr 13, 2011

I watched that episode of "shouldn't be alive", and i have to concur. they should call that installment "almost to dumb to survive".

marc
Apr 13, 2011

"Though he trekked 4,000 miles a year, he was in some ways an amateur."

Is there such a thing as a proffesional "Hiker"?

Scott
Feb 28, 2011

Very interesting and intriguing story. Jon Krakauer, where are you? There is a book to be written here.

View all comments

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
OMG! I'm so INTELLIGENT NOW!
Posted On: Jul 23, 2014
Submitted By: buddero
The Political Arena
Israel/Gaza Conflict
Posted On: Jul 23, 2014
Submitted By: Ben2World

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

>
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions