PIEDMONT — A 19-year-old man inspired by the movie “Into the Wild” to leave civilization and live off the land has gone missing, leaving his family in Piedmont to hope he escaped the fate of that story's protagonist.
Dustin Self, 19, left Oklahoma a little more than a month ago for Oregon, where he planned to camp in secluded areas and experience nature by himself. His mother, Tammy Self, said Thursday no one has heard from him since March 16, shortly after he left.
“He took a cellphone, but there is no way he could call from that area,” Tammy Self said.
The owner of a gas station, cafe and motel near where Self went missing was the last person to report seeing him. He said Self asked for directions and said he was low on gas after getting turned around by his GPS.
A rancher found Self's abandoned pickup Monday. It slid off a backcountry road on the north end of Steens Mountain in Harney County, Ore., and was stuck in a ditch.
Self's keys, computer, GPS and some of his supplies were in the truck, but he was nowhere to be found.
His backpack and camping gear were not in the truck.
Plans to search for Self by air were canceled Thursday because of high winds, Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup said. Heavy snow is also hampering search efforts.
Self graduated from Piedmont High School last year, Principal Todd Glasgow said. He wasn't involved in sports or many extracurricular activities, but he earned his diploma and never caused trouble.
“He was social,” Glasgow said. “He had friends. It wasn't like he was a loner here.”
Tammy Self said her son recently saw the movie “Into the Wild” — based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who leaves his normal life shortly after graduating college to live in the wild.
McCandless eventually died in the Alaskan wilderness after eating a poisonous plant.
Despite the protagonist's fate, the story inspired Dustin Self, and he began planning a monthslong camping trip in Oregon.
“He planned it for about a month,” Tammy Self said. “He had the best of everything. He planned for really cold weather. He has supplies.”
Dustin Self camped often with his family as a boy but was not an experienced outdoorsman, his mother said. He was a vegetarian and took supplies of fruit and protein bars with him when he left.
Self also hoped to visit two churches in Oregon that practice a South American religion that uses a hallucinogenic tea as a sacrament, Tammy Self said.
Self's parents didn't like the idea. Tammy Self said she was worried from the start, and the lack of communication from her son has been excruciating.
“I did everything I could to talk him out of it, but he's a man now,” she said. “He was leaving no matter what.”
She said the search for her son obviously has her worried, but she is hopeful he is merely living out the plan he spent so much time designing.
“I think he is fine,” she said. “We knew he wasn't going to be able to call. I think he just hiked off into the wilderness and is camping somewhere.”
The Associated Press
I did everything I could to talk him out of it, but he's a man now. He was leaving no matter what.”
Mother of missing Piedmont man