Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

August 18, 2013

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


-- — “I will be leaving Atlanta and going out to Montana to live simply for a while. Mountains and valleys and rivers and endless prairies … Small wonder that I have long felt the call to “Go West!”. From there, the wind (and a few promising offers of employment and shelter fulfilling my dreams of sailing) should take me out to sea to sail about.” – Austin Parker blog, June 26

On to Montana

Parker’s 2,271-mile cross-country journey took him from Atlanta to South Dakota to the Beartooth Highway in Montana before he finally arrived in Gardiner. A town of 851 people, Gardiner was established in 1880 as an outpost for visitors to Yellowstone National Park. Parker used his connections with Davis, the Florida transplant — whom he had met while working for Davis’ father when he was a teenager, and who, like Parker, was drawn to the scenic landscape of Montana — to land a job at the K-Bar in Gardiner. Davis was working as a waiter at the K-Bar at the time. Parker also scored a lease from Davis on a basement apartment below the business.

“When Austin went hiking, I hadn’t spoken to him since the night before, at around 9 p.m., in his apartment,” Davis said. “He was going to bed. I stopped in to say ‘Hey, what are you up to?’ He was like, ‘I’m going to bed, going to go hike Electric Peak in the morning.’”

Davis was fishing at McConnell Landing on the Yellowstone River with some friends the next day when he saw weather approaching the Electric Peak summit.

“There was only a 20 percent chance of rain that day, but it turned out to be a 100 percent chance for him,” Davis said. “I saw the clouds (around Electric Peak), and I thought, I hope Austin’s not caught in that.”

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