DARRINGTON — Hunters will be going off-trail all over east Snohomish County, with deer season opening Saturday.
To those searching for Seattle hiker Samantha Sayers, it’s a new army of eyes who can be looking for a piece of clothing, an abandoned trekking pole or any shred of evidence that could solve her disappearance.
All across the Mountain Loop Highway, volunteers are posting signs with a yellow-and-black border. They show Sayers and her hiking gear: a violet Local Lion backpack; blue La Sportiva mountaineering boots; a gray beanie.
The signs ask hunters and late-season hikers to report tips to 911. More than 100 signs were being posted at coffee stands, gas stations and travel hot spots.
Sayers, a resident of the Belltown neighborhood in Seattle, has been missing since the afternoon of Aug. 1, when she went hiking on the rugged Sunrise Mine Trail to Vesper Peak, about 75 miles northeast of her home. At the time, she was 27.
Expert searchers from around the state gave 8,000 work hours, scouring dramatic terrain with helicopters and dogs. They found no trace of Sayers.
The vast majority of the official search was carried out by mountaineers, pilots and dog handlers who donated their time. They used their own gear and risked their lives to search icy moats, snow bridges and drainages. Local mountain rescue crews run on donations.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office suspended its search Aug. 23.
In September, a small volunteer search crew led by Sayers’ fiance and his father set up a base camp on a ridge between Vesper and Sperry peaks. They flew in gear to continue searching by drone and by foot.
Alpine winter blanketed the 6,220-foot peak in snow last week, forcing the team to retreat from the high camp. Sayers’ fiance, Kevin Dares, promised to keep searching into the fall season, at lower elevations. Meanwhile, the new signs are being put up by Julie Newberry, of Darrington, and Debbie Strotz, of Arlington, who have been following the story of Sayers and her loved ones.
“I’m just hoping for some closure for them, before winter,” Newberry said.
Newberry noted that a hunter tromping through remote brush, chasing a deer, might not think much of a piece of clothing on the ground. So they hope their efforts will keep folks on the alert around Granite Falls, Darrington and Monte Cristo.
Sayers’ mom, Lisa Sayers, has posted daily videos to a Facebook page, #findsamsayers, with 35,000 followers.
“We don’t have Sam yet,” she began one of her videos this week. “ ‘Yet.’ That is the operative word. Eventually, I won’t have to say that.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.