‘Epically heroic and tragic’: how a family treasure hunt ended with a son lost at sea

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Hunter Lewis near his father’s location connected California’s acold bluish seashore past week with a plan. The adventurous assemblage student, 21, had spent years creating an elaborate treasure hunt for his friends and family. Now it was clip to fell the last prize.

On 30 December, Lewis is believed to person launched a 15ft greenish canoe into the frigid Pacific waters to fell the treasure that would implicit the journey.

He ne'er returned home.

Lewis’s escapade had been years successful the making. An experienced outdoorsman who was scuba certified and had a second-degree achromatic loop successful Taekwondo, Lewis had ever been fearless, his father, Corey Lewis, said. The lad grew up outdoors, strapped to his father’s backmost arsenic a one-year-old portion the elder Lewis went snowshoeing successful the Sierra Nevada.

The Lewises loved movies involving mislaid treasure, specified arsenic National Treasure and the Goonies. And, implicit the people of the pandemic, portion studying aerospace engineering and earning his pilot’s license, Lewis designed his ain epic treasure hunt: the hunt for the “lost Lewis treasure”.

Portrait of a young antheral   wearing a hiking backpack against a inheritance  of foliage.
Hunter Lewis spent years designing an elaborate treasure hunt for his household and friends earlier helium disappeared. Photograph: Courtesy of Corey Lewis

Whenever helium was backmost location visiting from California State University, Long Beach, helium sketched maps and created riddles.

The days earlier his disappearance had been joyful. Lewis spent the holidays with family, and past the treasure hunt commenced.

The searches took participants each implicit Humboldt county, rappelling down a cliff, climbing a railroad trestle and hiking concealed trails. Dozens of radical participated successful the adventure, which had elaborate clues, involving codification and, successful 1 case, Braille.

“I’ve seen much concealed beaches and coastlines and trails successful the past fewer days than successful the past decade,” Corey Lewis said of the hunt. “He was conscionable wanting to springiness america each an escapade and an experience. He wanted everyone to acquisition those adventures.”

Lewis wanted everyone to join. He spent 3 hours teaching a person who was acrophobic of heights however to rappel, truthful that helium could hunt for the treasure, Corey Lewis said.

“We would enactment up precocious astatine nighttime poring implicit maps and riddles trying to lick ciphers. We’d get up aboriginal successful the morning. We’d observe erstwhile we saw pictures and videos of idiosyncratic uncovering a clue. It was wonderful,” Corey Lewis said. “He would amusement up and bent retired with you for an hr oregon 2 arsenic you kept searching and past observe with you erstwhile you recovered it.”

On the past Thursday of December, Lewis acceptable disconnected to hole the last portion of the quest. He launched his canoe astatine Trinidad authorities beach. When helium didn’t travel home, the US Coast Guard began an overnight search.

In past days, pieces of the canoe and different items Lewis had with him that time person begun washing ashore. Lewis’s household and friends refocused their search, nary longer looking for a hidden treasure, but their loved one’s body. Joined by hundreds of others, they person scoured section beaches and caves by ft and connected horseback and with boats, ATVs and planes.

Lewis’s household believes helium ne'er made it retired of the water.

“We cognize it is not a rescue operation. It is simply a betterment of the mislaid Lewis treasure: my lad Hunter’s body,” his father, Corey Lewis said.

The seashore defender suspended its hunt past week aft canvassing 1,000 sq nautical miles, citing hard conditions and exhaustive efforts.

“It’s ever hard to suspend a hunt erstwhile you don’t person immoderate answers arsenic to what happened. In this case, with nary further accusation to spell connected and fixed the conditions, we’ve exhausted our tenable hunt options. We tin lone anticipation that further accusation is recovered successful the aboriginal that helps uncover what happened to this young man,” said Captain Mark Hiigel, the assemblage Humboldt Bay commander, successful a statement.

A achromatic  and achromatic  representation    of a young antheral   wearing a hiking backpack successful  a forested country  portion    looking retired  to the sea. An land  tin  beryllium  seen successful  the background.
Hunter Lewis was an experienced outdoorsman who was scuba certified and had a second-degree achromatic loop successful Taekwondo. Photograph: Courtesy of Corey Lewis

Using the treasure hunt helium designed for them, Lewis’s loved ones judge they cognize what happened. Corey Lewis and his son’s fiancee, Kinsley Rolph, solved the past hint successful the treasure hunt connected Saturday with a heart-shaped cardinal Lewis had created connected his 3D printer. The grooves of the cardinal lucifer the signifier of oversea stacks disconnected the formation wherever Lewis was past seen, and the bosom points to Flatiron Rock, a tiny land conscionable offshore.

Corey Lewis suspects his son, unaware of a hidden unsafe reef on 1 broadside of the island, capsized portion approaching Flatiron Rock. Volunteers person recovered pieces of a ample bucket, which Lewis was utilizing to fell the treasure, from the shore, on with a tiny woody cigar box. Lewis had the container since helium was a kid erstwhile his begetter acceptable up a treasure hunt for him and his younger brother.

“It’s some conscionable epically heroic and tragic,” Corey Lewis said. “Here we are progressive successful this epic treasure hunt, which started retired with a missive which says ‘you are inheritors of the mislaid Lewis treasure. Part of the Lewis household years agone went down astatine oversea and that treasure is hidden but you tin find it’. Tragically that’s what happened. We’re searching for the mislaid Lewis treasure, and that’s him.”