So why am I still thinking about Connie? I don't know her. I haven't been to the area where she vanished. But her story has grabbed ahold of me and it won't let go.
Connie Johnson was a woman who loved the wilderness. She came west in search of adventure, and became a wilderness ranger for the Forest Service, hiking and camping on her own for over 20 years. She became a mentor for younger people just starting out in their careers, teaching them about navigating in the woods and about tools like crosscut saws. When she retired she became a camp cook for an outfitter, still hiking in her beloved wilderness at age 76.
Connie vanished from the camp around October 3; the hunters were not there yet, so nobody knows when for sure. Her gun and coat were left in camp; her dog was gone as well. The search was extensive, with people on foot and horseback covering all the places she might have gone. A friend of Connie told me she would have hated having the helicopters working low over those wild places, even if they were looking for her, but they were out there too; a pilot I know was flying. No trace was found.
Three weeks later, Connie's dog Ace showed up, 15 miles from the camp, back at the trailhead where he and Connie had hiked in. Thin but fine, he was taken back to the woods, hoping he might lead the searchers to her. He has not.
Where was Ace? Did he wander off, and roam the forest for three weeks until he found his way out? Did he stay with Connie after she had an injury or medical problem, until he finally had to leave her resting place?
And where did Connie go? It haunts me. I hope she is at peace, somewhere in the wilderness she loved so much and wanted to protect, and that the land holds her gently. I hope her last hike was a good one, now that she is at the end of her trail. Hike on, Connie. Your memory lives on.
|Ace and Connie|