By Becky Pearce
A Piedmont teen, inspired by the television show “Into the Wild” decided to test himself against the wilderness in Oregon and has disappeared leaving his family and friends worried sick.
“Into the Wild” a movie made in 2007, is based on the true story of Chris McCandless, who died of starvation at the age of 23 after he ventured into the Alaskan wilderness with little food and equipment.
Dustin Self, 19 left in mid-March for the Oregon wilderness heading for the Klamath Falls – Ashland area which is located in the remote and rugged country of southeastern Oregon.
According to sources, he wanted to live in the wild and eat berries for survival. It has been reported he also wanted to investigate two churches in Oregon, one in Portland and the other in Ashland, which practice a South American religion that uses a hallucinogenic tea as a sacrament.
Self’s parents, who tried to dissuade their son from venturing into the wilderness, last heard from him on March 15 when he called to tell them he was lost.
He reportedly called from the parking lot of a motel in northern Nevada where he apparently spent the night in the cab of his truck.
The following day, Self made a call to his girlfriend in Austin, Tex. to say he was lost after his GPS had sent him in the wrong direction. At that time he was located on a road on the east side of the Steens Mountain in the high desert of Oregon.
Self’s parents placed a call to the Harney County Sheriff’s Office on March 17. A search was conducted along the route from Fields to Lakeview however no trace was found of the missing Piedmont teen.
A pickup truck belonging to Self was later found by a rancher on Stone House Road located on the northeast flank of Steens Mountain, approximately two-and-one-half miles west of the Fields Denio Road. It appeared the pickup had slid off the back country track and was stuck.
His backpack and camping gear were gone, but keys, GPS, and some of his protein bars and other food items had been left behind.
Parents of the teen say he was well-prepared with gear he purchased prior to leaving for Oregon, but added he had little experience in the wilderness beyond his family’s camping trips.
According to the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, a storekeeper in Fields recalled Self asking for directions to Lakeview which would have taken him in a different direction from where his pickup truck was later found.
Members of the sheriff’s office and others searched for Self in the area where his truck was found using ATVs without seeing any signs of the missing teen.
The search was widened up the mountain and included some remote cabins which are mainly used by hunters and cowboys.
Unfortunately bad weather, including heavy snow and high winds, hampered their search efforts and the search had to be called off.
A break in the windy weather on Thursday allowed a local rancher with a helicopter to search the area on the rugged mountainside in the vicinity where his truck was found. No trace of Self, nor of Self’s lime green tent was seen.
According to the sheriff heading up the search, Self was apparently hallucinating the last time he called his family and he reportedly told his girlfriend he was seeing plants coming out of the ground and running.
The sheriff further indicated there is evidence Self may have been either under the influence of drugs or experiencing sleep deprivation at the time he called his father to report he was lost.
Investigators also found evidence on Self’s laptop that he had been vising websites about hallucinogenic drugs such as peyote and PCP.
The Harney County Sheriff fears Self is dead or believe he may have walked off Steens Mountain and hitched a ride somewhere after his truck got stuck.
Authorities hoped for a break in the weather so they could send up a plane to look for him.
The weather continued to be a problem and the sheriff’s office had to cancel planned search flights because of high winds on Friday and Saturday.