Hiker's remains found in Alaskan park
The question of what happened to a Lake Nebagamon man who disappeared while hiking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska two years ago has been laid to rest. The remains of Paul Schoch, 68, were found last month in the park b...
The question of what happened to a Lake Nebagamon man who disappeared while hiking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska two years ago has been laid to rest. The remains of Paul Schoch, 68, were found last month in the park by two hikers. They have since been returned to Schoch's wife, Carol.
"He's home," she said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
The hikers found the remains about 12 miles from Schoch's campsite, which was in a remote area of the park only accessible by plane. It looked like the Lake Nebagamon man sat down to rest and had a heart attack, Carol Schoch said.
The family was left with his wallet, camera, belt buckle and watch. Searchers planned to take metal detectors up to the site to see if they can find his wedding ring, Carol Schoch said.
Friends remembered the Lake Nebagamon man as a confident, independent outdoorsman.
"He did a lot of the stuff most people only dream about," said Chuck Zosel of Lake Nebagamon, who encouraged Schoch to join the Brule-St. Croix Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. "He was willing to take those challenges."
They spoke of his passion for hiking, motorcycling and blazing his own path.
"Our memories of Paul are all connected with the North Country Trail," wrote Peter and Lynne Nason of Solon Springs in a brief e-mail. "He was a true 'outdoorsman' who loved nature for what it was. I think he was happiest when he was 'on the trail.'"
Schoch disappeared while camping alone in the Skolai Pass area of Wrangell-St. Elias in 2007. An avid hiker and photographer, he had already spent time that summer "backpacking here, there and everywhere," his wife said, including Denali National Park. He was flown into the remote Wrangell-St. Elias site on Sept. 12 and reported missing five days later when he failed to show up for his return airplane trip. His base camp - including most of his provisions -- was found intact. Park officials used planes, helicopters and about a dozen people to search a 6,700-acre area, according to an article in the Anchorage Daily News. The search for the Lake Nebagamon man was called off after a week.
In the fall of 2007, the community gathered to remember Schoch - an explorer, an outdoorsman and a friend. Carol Schoch expected about 250 guests, but got 500.
"It was mammoth," she said, despite the pouring rain.
They sipped Schoch's homemade wine, viewed his photographic work and celebrated his life -- he was a brown belt in karate as well as an active member of the trails association.
In June, a campsite along the North Country Trail was dedicated to Schoch. Friends told stories about his commitment to the trail system, which will span 4,200 miles from New York to North Dakota when completed.
"I think it's a very nice memorial for him," Zosel said. "It really reflects his character and just the kind of person he was." It wouldn't be much of a stretch to imagine Schoch setting up his tent there and backpacking along the trail, he said. The Lake Nebagamon man partnered with Jim Antonson to clear sections of the trail and helped maintain a stretch of the trail.
"He was one of our spark plugs," Zosel said.
No further services are planned in Schoch's memory, according to his wife, Carol. The family has closure and is moving ahead.
"I want to thank all our friends for their concern and support," she said.
For more information about the local chapter of the North Country Trail Association, look it up online at http://www.northcountrytrail.org/bsc/