-- — Reprinted with permission from the Livingston Enterprise
Editor’s Note: This story appeared in the Livingston Enterprise newspaper in Livingston, Montana on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. Steve Parker contacted the VDT the next day to see if we would be interested in reprinting the article about his son so friends and family in the area could read not only the truth of what happened to Austin, but to gain an understanding of the kind of young man he was. Thank you to the Enterprise for reprint permission, and our hearts go out to the Parker family for their loss.
Austin Parker’s hair was standing on end.
Standing atop the craggy, nearly-11,000-foot-high Electric Peak in Yellowstone National Park, Parker could see everything — for miles in every direction — including the black, billowing storm clouds that threatened to spit bolts of lightning at his exposed position on the rocky peak. In that moment, the static-charged air swirling around Electric Peak was — literally — electric.
Austin called Aaron.
“Aaron? Get on Google Earth and look up that other trail. I’m on the summit and I’m making my way down now,” the 23-year-old said shakily as the wind whipped around him.
Aaron Davis, a 33-year-old Port St. Joe, Fla., transplant and one of Parker’s closest friends in his new Montana home, looked up the alternate route, describing to Parker where to meet up with the trail.
“I see a lake down there — does the trail take off from there?” Parker asked. “All right, man, I’m heading down there.”
After spending some time scrambling down the slopes of loose scree — broken rock fragments that accumulate from rockfalls on many high mountain peaks — Parker called Davis again at around 2:30 p.m.
“Hey, I’m going into this bowl here. I might lose cell reception,” he told Davis.
“OK … If you’re not back in four hours, I’m calling search and rescue,” Davis replied.
An hour later, Davis called Parker.
There was no answer.
At 4:30 and 5:30 p.m., he called again.
No answer either time.
At 6:30, he called one more time.
Davis called search and rescue.