Home POLITICS The Mysterious Disappearances on a Popular Hawaii Trail

The Mysterious Disappearances on a Popular Hawaii Trail


Captivated by Hawaii’s scenic beauty and many trails, he decided to visit the island of Kauai on his own after plans with his friends fell through. On January 18, 2008, he flew from Utah to Kauai and rented an apartment on the island.

He told his family he would be back after a couple of months, but when he didn’t show up as expected in March, his father immediately went looking for him.

Pinegar’s father arrived on the island and found the apartment clean and well-cared for, with nothing out of the ordinary. He put up flyers, with the family offering a $5,000 reward. But despite his efforts, no new information surfaced. She came home empty handed.

Months later, the family finally got a lead. While on the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, a hiker found an abandoned campsite about 5 miles away. It was secluded near a cliff.

“A hiker had this weird feeling this doesn’t look right, so he reported it, and that’s how we found the camp,” Niki Michaelis, Pinegar’s sister, told SFGATE.

Jesse Glen Pinegar has been missing since March 23, 2008. Months after his family reported him missing, a hiker found Pinegar’s campground abandoned on the Kalalau Trail.

Courtesy of Niki Michaelis

The Kalalau Trail is considered a dangerous trail, located in Kauai’s Napali Coast State Natural Park. Most people know this trail for the first 2 miles to Hanakapiai Beach, but authorized backpackers can hike the full 11 miles to Kalalau Beach at the end, where camping is allowed.

Nestled between a coastline of rugged cliffs, valleys, and streams, the Kalalau Trail requires the most rescues on Kauai. In addition to the usual risks that hiking brings, rain on this coast can cause flash flooding in the area’s many streams. Kauai’s red clay soil can crumble when dry and be extremely slippery when wet. Strong ocean currents can pull swimmers out to sea.

Road deaths occur so frequently that a sign posted at Hanakapiai Stream counts its victims: close to 100 the last time I visited. This does not include deaths at other creeks and beaches, those from falling rocks or falls from great heights.

Still, the wild and remote beauty of the trail attracts hikers, backpackers, free spirits, and illegal campers, who stay for extended periods. On 500,000 visitors and residents he ventured onto the trail in 2015, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Since the late 1950s, when a doctor turned hermit lived on the coast, its isolated valleys have become a place where people go to disappear on purpose. But not everyone who disappears fits neatly into that box.

Although it was Pinegar’s first time visiting Hawaii, he quickly became familiar with the Kalalau Trail, his sister says, and hiked it several times before disappearing.

A setting between rugged cliffs, numerous valleys and streams, the Kalalau Trail on Kauai’s Napali Coast attracts visitors with its spectacular beauty and seclusion.

wallix/Getty Images/iStockphoto

After learning about the camp, Pinegar’s father flew back to Kauai. This time, he walked down the path. At the campsite, he found his son’s iPod and other personal belongings of his, but did not find his wallet, cell phone or a “chunk of change” that he was known to leave hidden in a tree when he camped.

Now, 14 years later, Michaelis says his mother still hopes he’ll show up one day.

“We spend so much time searching and asking questions that it literally drives you crazy,” Michaelis says of how big this has been for his family. “It’s like you don’t go through the cycle of grief. You pass through the circle of mourning. Just keep going.”

The family still has no answers. They wish they had received more help.

“No one wanted to help us. They basically said, ‘People disappear there all the time. We’re not going to go looking for him,’” says Michaelis of the Kauai Police Department.

“I would just think that if so many people have gone missing, now they could at least put together a team skilled enough to be able to walk the trail and look, if we knew exactly where they were.” Michaelmas continues. “If someone was missing like here in Utah, I mean, we have a flight crew that flies out and goes wherever they are, even if they’re from out of state.”

SFGATE contacted the Kauai Police Department about this story and received no response.

Jesse Glen Pinegar, who has been missing since March 23, 2008, had been visiting Kauai from Utah. His camp was found abandoned on the Kalalau Trail.

Screenshot of The Charley Project

The family hired a special team to go looking for Pinegar. It included a private investigator and divers who searched the water below their camp. Nothing else was found. Michaelis now believes that his brother slipped and fell off a cliff or that someone he met along the way, possibly illegal campers living in the Kalalau Valley, found out he had money and killed him for it. She doesn’t think what happened is weather related.

Pinegar is from a large family of nine, with six brothers and sisters. The family held a memorial service for her in 2013, five years after her disappearance. Although some were ready, others were not, but she allowed them to spend the day honoring her memory.

Michaelis wrote a Blog that helped her process and cope with what happened. “Everyone in the family talked,” she wrote of the memorial. “When it was my turn, I was crying. I thought she would never get to finish my talk. But surprisingly, I was able to calm my crying and talk about my little brother.”

He says he has also connected with the family of Daniel Marcoswho are going through the same ordeal.

Marks, who was 24 years old when he disappeared on Kauai in 2005, was last seen at the top of the Kalalau Valley at the lookout. Witnesses said they saw him looking for a way down the valley from the top, so one theory is that he tried to make his own way up the valley’s very steep cliffs.

Daniel Marks has been missing since November 10, 2005. He was last seen at the second Kalalau Valley overlook and witnesses said he was looking for a way into the valley from above.

Screenshot via journals.com

“We have several cases of missing persons like Daniel, going back to 1975, people who walked in the wild, so it’s not unusual,” Claire Ueno, a missing persons investigator with the Kauai Police Department, told a Honolulu Star. 2008. -Newsletter article.

“A lot of people are coming from the mainland and heading to the Kalalau Valley,” he 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 Kalalau Valley, like Daniel.”

Others that have disappeared include turkish bradfordwho was last seen at Kalalau Beach in 2004; Louis Pearson Penthouse, whose camp was found in the Hanakapiai Valley in 1999; and Ilya Lomov, who was last seen in the Kalalau Valley in 2013. There are also other missing people on the island who cannot be located anywhere specifically, but there is a possibility that they also went to the Kalalau Trail, like the cases of alex bubblegum in 2018 and Pyotr Drabik in 2006.

Michaelis says that Marks’ mother has been comparing the different missing men. She believes that because many of the missing share similarities, namely young men from out of state traveling alone, there may be a serial killer out there.

“I don’t like the fact that several young people who have extremely similar profiles are missing,” says Marks’ mother. said in a story for The Garden Island newspaper. In Marks’ case, the trip was also preceded by an email from an unidentified individual informing him of cheap tickets to Hawaii.

The Kalalau Valley of the Napali Coast at the overlook from above.

James Randklev/Getty Images

The trail has a history of erratic behavior, mysterious deaths, and puzzling discoveries. In 1979, a hiker found two bodies lying side by side, with no identification and no cause of death. they are still list in the National System of Disappeared and Unidentified Persons. In 1971, a rappelling biologist found two separate remains on a cliff in the Kalalau Valley of people who died years apart. More recently, in 2012, a homeless man was stopped after allegedly pushing a tourist off a cliff on the Kalalau trail.

They’ve heard every possible scenario, says Michaelis. One person he called, seeking the family’s reward, even told them there was a body farm on Kauai that sold body parts.

“You never know,” he says of all the theories. They’ve all played through his head.

Michaelis now visits Kauai every two years and considers it her second home. She finds it therapeutic, as it brings her closer to her brother, whom she describes as extremely resourceful and everyone’s favorite. Since then, she has also named a son after her brother.

“Actively talking about him makes us feel, you know, that he’s not forgotten,” says Michaelis. “Because he looks like he disappeared and the world just wanted to forget, and we were fighting just to say, ‘Hey, there’s a person who’s missing,’ and no one wanted to help us unless we paid them.”



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