THE disappearance of a man at a scenic tourist spot where three others have disappeared in recent years deepens an already troubling mystery.
At 23, Jesse Glen Pinegar, an experienced hiker and camper, went missing on the Kalalau Trail, one of Hawaii’s most dangerous trails.
Pinegar traveled to Kauai on his own after his previous plans failed, making the trip from Utah in January 2008 and renting an apartment on the island.
He told his family members he would return after a few months, but when March came and he was not back, Pinegar’s father went looking for him.
He arrived in Kauai and found the apartment clean with nothing out of place before handing out flyers and offering a $5,000 reward for information.
However, nothing came of his efforts and he returned to Utah without his son.
The family took a lead months later on the Kalalau Trail when a hiker found an abandoned campsite near a cliff.
“A hiker just had this weird feeling, it doesn’t look good, and so he reported it, and that’s how we found the campsite,” Pinegar’s sister said, Niki Michaelis, at SFGATE.
The campground was only about five miles from the trailhead.
The trail is one of the most dangerous in the island chain and is located in the Nepalese Coast National Park. Camping is permitted for backpackers at Kalalau Beach about 11 miles up the trail.
Apart from the normal hazards of hiking, the area is also prone to flash flooding and the red clay soil can crumble when dry or become slippery when wet.
Strong ocean currents can also pull swimmers offshore.
A sign posted at the Hanakapiai Stream lists the number of casualties on the trail, with nearly 100 lives lost mentioned in its dire warning.
However, the beauty of the trail attracts hikers, backers and illegal campers every year.
Pinegar’s sister said he became familiar with the trail during his short stay in Hawaii, hiking it several times before disappearing.
After discovering the campsite, Pinegar’s father returned to Kauai and found his son’s iPod and other belongings.
However, his wallet and cell phone were not found.
“We spent so much time researching and asking questions that you literally go crazy,” Michaelis said. “It’s like you don’t go through the cycle of grieving. You are going through the circle of mourning. It just continues.
Michaelis believes his brother slipped and fell off a cliff or may have been the victim of foul play by an illegal camper on the trail.
She wrote a blog to help cope with her brother’s disappearance and connected with families going through the same difficulties.
Daniel Marks disappeared in Kauai in 2005 at the age of 24 when he was last seen at the top of Kalalau Valley.
It is believed that Marks tried to make his own trail along the steep cliffs of the valley.
In a 2008 Honolulu-Star article, Claire Ueno, a missing persons investigator for the Kauai Police Department, said people had gone missing on the trail several times.
“A lot of people are coming from the mainland and heading to the Kalalau Valley,” she said. “I heard that Kauai is the vortex of something spiritual. People come here to find it, to find themselves, to find peace. They go to the valley of Kalalau, like Daniel.
Other disappearances include Bradford Turek in 2004, Atticus Louis Pearson in 1999 and Ilya Lomov in 2013.
However, others have also disappeared on the island, but it is impossible to determine exactly where they were last seen, such as Alex Gumm in 2018 and Piotr Drabik in 2006.
“I don’t like the fact that there are a number of young men missing who have extremely similar profiles,” said Marks’ mother, Patricia Bernard Marks, who believes the disappearances could be the work. of a serial killer.
Michaelis said she and her family have heard every possible scenario.
“You never know,” she said of the theories.
Now she visits Kauai every two years, finding it brings her closer to her brother.
“Actively talking about him just makes us feel like, you know, he’s not forgotten,” she said.
“Because I feel like he disappeared and the world just wanted to forget, and we were just fighting to say, ‘Hey, there’s that person over there missing,’ and nobody wanted us help – unless we pay them.”