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Lost & Found

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

In the weeks that followed their rescue, Day and Allen became inseparable. “We have such a deep bond now,” Allen says. “I trust Brandon with my life.”

“I feel like I’ve looked into Gina’s core inner being,” Day says, “and found she has a lot to offer. We trusted each other.”
Day hopes to return to Long Canyon someday, with a guide. “Round one went to the mountain,” he says, “but it’s not over yet. We won’t feel complete until we conquer that mountain.”

Day, for one, doesn’t see Donovan’s tragedy as integral to his survival. “They probably would have found us anyway,” he told Allen. “They were on our trail.”

In Virginia, though, Donovan’s friends believed. They recognized his gift. On July 11, they buried him in a veterans’ cemetery in Amelia County. Eighty people filled the chapel, and a minister read from Psalm 23: “He leads me beside quiet water. He restores my soul.” A ramrod-stiff Navy officer presented Ken Baker with a flag.

Then, as the crowd spilled outside onto the lawn, bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” and Lynn Padgett moved to the grave bearing a red plastic cooler. There, he opened a Sea Breeze bottle filled with Irish whiskey and began filling up plastic cups, so everyone could take a nip.

“I think of him all the time,” Padgett says. “Sometimes as I fall asleep at night I see myself hiking by a stream and I come around a bend and there’s a tarp. There’s a yellow pack, and I yell, ‘Hey, comrade! Hey, comrade!’ But there’s no sound, just the wind and the stream, and there’s nothing there–just this green tarp and a pack and some shoes on a rock.”

Bill Donahue was on Mt. San Jacinto when John Donovan’s body was recovered.

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