Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

August 18, 2013

Fatal Attraction: Georgia man’s love of Montana ends in tragedy


-- — “(Yellowstone) prevails with this radiant, holistic beauty that defies all logical assessments of its individual parts.” – Austin Parker’s Tumblr blog, July 2

Perfect day in Gardiner

The morning of July 16 in Gardiner was brisk and clear. Twenty-three-year-old Joseph Austin Parker, known as Austin to his family, friends, co-workers and the patrons he waited on in the K-Bar eatery, left his basement apartment.

Parker — attractive, blond and athletic — was clad in the hiking gear that had become his Montana signature over the last month: a faded leather jacket, durable pants and his Indiana Jones-esque wide-brimmed hat. He carried a light day pack on his back, properly equipped with sufficient food, water, bear spray, his cell phone and his 10mm Glock, as he treaded lightly on the stairs to meet the day.

He took a breath of the early-morning, 43-degree mountain air before slipping into his beloved 1999 Mercedes.

Car named Molly

 He’d made more than 200,000 miles in this baby — affectionately named Molly — traveling from his hometown of Valdosta, Ga., to Ithaca, N.Y., where he had attended Ivy League Cornell University for the past four years, countless trips between Valdosta and Atlanta, where he’d worked for SecurAmerica, and then, just three and a half weeks earlier, more miles by making the trip in Molly from Valdosta to Gardiner.

On July 16, Parker drove Molly past the scenic Roosevelt Arch and through a snapshot of Yellowstone National Park, taking in the wonders of another Montana sunrise — something he’d daydreamed about while sitting in his office in Atlanta before he had embarked on this adventure. The calm air promised another beautiful Montana day, and for today at least, Parker was free from the bustling noise of the K-Bar.

A 20-minute drive into Yellowstone put Parker at the Glen Creek trailhead, his path of choice for the 10-mile trek to the top of Electric Peak. “My greatest challenge yet,” Parker wrote of the mountain in his Tumblr blog on July 14, two days before his ascent.

Parker grabbed his gear and set off on another of his great adventures.

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