Retracing the steps of a Marine who went missing in the Montana wilderness. Family, friends and fellow Iraq veterans struggle to understand what happened to 30-year-old Noah Pippin:

Pierce remembers the stranger as none too friendly. Pippin kept his back turned when Pierce started asking questions and said curtly that he’d hiked in from Hungry Horse. Seeing the fatigues, Pierce asked if he was military, and Noah told him he was a vet. 

‘You been over in Iraq?’

‘Got back a little while ago.’

‘I was in Vietnam,’ said Pierce, hoping to break the ice. ‘Navy.’

Noah didn’t answer. 

‘If you’re going hiking in these parts, you need a gun,’ said Pierce. ‘Do you have one?’

‘Yes, sir,’ he said. ‘Just a .38.’

‘That ain’t much to stuff in the face of a grizzly when he’s chewing on your foot.’

‘It’s all I got.’

“Why Noah Went to the Woods.” — Mark Sundeen, Outside

See also: “The Waiting.” — Ashley Halsey III, Lonnae O’Neal Parker, Washington Post, Nov. 23, 2010