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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Just a few miles more: N.Y. thru-hiker drowns in Maine pond within days of Katahdin

Paul Anthony "Parkside" Bernhardt, 20, of Flushing, New York, in this undated photo.

Paul Anthony “Parkside” Bernhardt, 20, of Flushing, New York, in this undated photo.

It had been a long push Friday, June 15, 2012, and Jake “Achilles” Mehlman and Paul “Parkside” Bernhardt needed to cool off. The two intrepid thru-hikers, who had ventured from the deep south, had pushed 20 miles likely from the West Carry Pond Lean-to until arriving at Pierce Pond before dusk.

So the two decided to use the pond for a quick, much-deserved dip. But as Bernhardt swam farther from shore, he vanished beneath the pond’s surface and never rose, according to a Bangor Daily News report.

Maine Game Wardens, Pleasant Ridge Fire and Upper Kennebec Valley Ambulance personnel worked over the weekend to recover the body of Paul Anthony Bernhardt, 20, of Flushing, New York. Bernhardt had drowned in 15 feet of water some 35 yards from the shore of Pierce Pond, the Bangor Daily News reported.

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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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New Jersey hiker narrowly avoids disaster in winter AT hike

Adequate preparation averted disaster for a New Jersey woman hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail that passed through the Garden State in December 2013.

Worthington State Park officials received a call at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, from a distressed hiker, who said that she was lost somewhere along a section of Appalachian Trail that passes through the park.

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Hiker succumbs to hypothermia in the Smokies

Park rangers at the Great Smoky National Park searching for an overdue hiker made a gruesome discovery on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 at a shelter along the Appalachian Trail, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

Hikers meet at the Tricorner Knob Shelter in this 2007 photo by Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons.

Hikers meet at the Tricorner Knob Shelter in this 2007 photo by Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons.

Two days later the News Sentinel identified the dead hiker as Richard Lemarr, 50, of Knoxville.

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6 days in the wild: Kenneth Knight’s ordeal in the Virginia mountains

What happened to Kenneth Knight is nothing short of remarkable. A missed turn along the Appalachian Trail left the legally blind hiker stranded alone within the wilderness of the George Washington National Forest. But quick thinking on his part got him out of a deadly situation and kept him from being another ghost of the great Appalachian range.

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Death in the Whites: Quebec woman’s murder on N.H. trail still a mystery

Louise Chaput, a woman from Sherbrooke, Quebec, was no stranger to the White Mountains. She, along with her friend Louise Lachance, hiked often the wilderness in the shadow of Mount Washington. So there was no reason for her to expect that a weekend jaunt into the Whites on Nov. 15, 2001, would be any different.

But on Nov. 22, 2001, three days after Chaput’s family reported her missing, hikers found a bloodied Chaput off the Glen Boulder Trail south of Mount Washington. She had been repeatedly stabbed sometime in the afternoon hours of Nov. 15 and the killer fled. To where, no one knows.

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