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Missing in the Wilderness

Steens Mountain Wilderness in Oregon, where Dustin Self is presumed missing

Today this story about Dustin Self of Oklahoma City caught my attention. He went missing about a month ago and his abandoned truck was recently found near Steens Mountain, a remote wilderness area in southeast Oregon. Another story is here.

These are the apparent facts: Dustin Self drove from Oklahoma City to Oregon. He was last heard from about a month ago when he made a call to his ex-girlfriend saying that he was lost. His ex called the authorities in Oregon and they did some investigation and find out he was last seen in the small community of Fields, Oregon, where he asked directions to Lakeview, a town about a hundred miles west of Fields. There were no other signs of Self until Monday when his truck was found by a rancher. It was located about 500 feet down a ravine, in the desert on the east side of Steens Mountain, which is about 25 miles north of Fields. Self was not in the truck and there were no reported clues as to where he is. The search was postponed due to high winds in the area yesterday.

The background story is this: An Oklahoma teen tells his parents he is “going off the grid” for a few months and drives to Oregon. He wants to live off the land and investigate a religious group that drinks South American hallucinogenic tea in its ceremonies. He is reportedly a big fan of Into the Wild. He had broken up with his girlfriend the day before he left Oklahoma.

This is another interesting mystery of disappearing in the wilderness. What really happened we don’t know yet but I can’t help but notice the similarities between Self and Winston Branko Churchill, who I wrote about in Forty Demons. Like Winston and Chris McCandless from Into the Wild, Self apparently had a love of the wilderness and was seeking a more intense connection. And like Winston, Self seemed to have an interest in Ayahuasca, the South American hallucinogenic tea mentioned in the articles.

But to be frank, media reports on stories like this are notoriously inaccurate. If you read the two articles I linked to at the beginning of this post, you’ll notice that when they mention Self’s outdoor survival experience, one article spins it to give an impression he is a complete novice while the other one gives the impression that he is well equipped and ready to survive anything. Which is it? Also, he is described as a “teen,” which I guess is technically accurate but in reality he is a 19-year-old man. I and my friends went on many true wilderness adventures at this age and younger.

Also, if Self were trying to drive from Fields to Lakeview, he was way, way off track based on where his truck was found. There are many possibilities for this other than being lost. He may have been intending to disappear, as one report stated. Or he may have had an accident, got stuck and tried to walk out and became lost. Or he may have been the victim of foul play. We don’t know and may never know. Even after Winston’s body was found near a remote cabin in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, it took significant investigation to understand what might have been going on in his head during his last month of life.

Or Dustin Self may walk out and have a great story to tell. Only time can tell.

Posted in 40 Demons Archive, Journal by with comments disabled.

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  • […] Portland than it was here. While there I heard several news stories about Dustin Self, the guy who disappeared in the south central Oregon wilderness last month. The stories were about alleged sightings of Dustin around Oregon and that they would […]