What ever happened to Derek Lueking? A man walked into the Smoky Mountains but never walked out

“Don’t try to follow me,” a note on an abandoned car read. Searchers with the National Park Service located this note on the car of Derek Lueking, 24, of Louisville, Tennessee, who had vanished into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Saturday, March 17, 2012, according to The Daily Times of Maryville, Tennessee.

Derek Lueking, 24, of Louisville, Tennessee, in this undated photo.

Derek Lueking, 24, of Louisville, Tennessee, in this undated photo.

With the search underway in the Great Smoky Mountains, it was clear finding Lueking would not be easy. His family had already been engaged in an exhausting search and it had been several days since anyone had heard from him, the Lueking family told the Smoky Mountain News.

Lueking worked as an orderly at Peninsula Behavioral Health Center in Tennessee. His family became concerned when they found out he had stopped reporting to work and would not return their phone calls. Compounding their concern was the fact that his disappearance coincided with the first anniversary of his grandfather’s death, with whom he was very close.

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On a quest for god? Hiker disappears into the Appalachians

The Appalachian Trail, and the wilderness in general, has a way of drawing together hikers from all the disparate walks of life. Young and old, rich and poor, the experienced and the greenhorn, the aesthetically oriented and the scientifically oriented. Hikers desiring a physical challenge and those seeking a transcendental spiritual truth all converge along the 2,100-mile long trail.

Paul D. Paur, 50, of Allis, Wisconsin. Photo from the Union County Sheriff's Office.

Paul D. Paur, 50, of Allis, Wisconsin. Photo from the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

What of Paul D. Paur? Which one was he?

On June 5, 2014, a woman working the desk at the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center in Dahlonega, Georgia, just 30 miles northeast of the Appalachian Trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain, saw an older man walk through the door and up to the counter. He threw down a set of keys and offered her $200 if she would keep an eye on his car outside the center.

She asked how long he would be gone. Six months, he said. The man intended to hike the trail north to Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine.

She said that she would mind his car while he was gone. The man left.

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