Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

Missing Nicasio woman an 'icon' of Angel Island park docents

January 26, 2010, 8:21 am

Foul play is not suspected in the disappearance Sunday of a Nicasio woman at Point Reyes National Seashore, authorities said.

Search crews on Monday continued to hunt for Silvia Lange, 77, a docent beloved by hiking enthusiasts and colleagues at Angel Island State Park.

Lange has not been seen since Saturday night. On Sunday afternoon, her car was found at the North Beach parking lot at Point Reyes, triggering a search-and-rescue effort that lasted until 11 p.m. and continued all day Monday.

The search comes two weeks after search-and-rescue crews looked for 37-year-old Katherine Truitt of Alameda at McClures Beach, eight miles north of the Point Reyes North Beach area. Truitt has not been found.

"We have no evidence of foul play and no evidence to suggest a link" between the two disappearances, said Don Neubacher, superintendent of the Point Reyes National Seashore. "This is a terrible tragedy and we're going to try figure all this out."

About 65 people searched for Lange on Monday, said Michael St. John, unit leader of the Marin County sheriff's search and rescue team. There were periods of heavy rain Monday with a break in the middle of the afternoon, but the wind was consistently 15-20 mph, he said.

Fog and rain at Point Reyes prevented helicopter support in the morning, but it cleared enough to have one helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard participate in the late afternoon. Searchers on horseback joined the effort near the North Beach parking lot, according to seashore spokesman John Dell'Osso. Two teams from the California Rescue Dogs Association were there as well, he said.

The beach area near the North Beach parking lot has waist-high patches of seagrass between sand dunes. There are several hundred yards of grassy dunes between the parking lot and the Pacific Ocean.

"Given the weather, it is going superbly even though we're not turning up much," Neubacher said. "We do not have new clues to report. We will stop as it gets dark and resume in the morning."

Lange is a 26-year volunteer docent at Angel Island. She is known for her expertise about the island's flora and fauna as well as its rich military and immigration history.

Danita Rodriguez, superintendent of the Marin District of the state parks department, said Lange appeared at the centennial celebration for Angel Island's U.S. Immigration Station on Thursday at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre.

"She is an icon on the island," Rodriguez said. "This is very upsetting."

Lange regularly halted her four-mile hikes and referred participants to their pink lyric sheets to sing a verse of "Wildflower Ramble Warble," sung to the tune of "The Happy Wanderer," with original lyrics by Lange. She pointed out that picking wildflowers in the springtime would spoil their blossoming and pollination. "Sex is happening, and it would be rude to interrupt it," she told visitors, as recounted in a 2006 story that appeared in the Oakland Tribune.

State park interpreter Casey Lee said she worked with Lange for nine years and credited Lange with pointing out an isolated spot on Angel Island where Lee and her fiance will have their wedding.

"It sounds like (the search and rescue teams) are doing everything they can," Lee said. "Obviously we are hoping for the best. If anybody can get through this, she can."

"She's a wonderful lady," said Roy McNamee, a spokesman for Angel Island State Park. "Even if you met her only once, you would not forget her. She has a wonderful bubbly personality and is enlightening on her tours. It is fun to be around her."

Lange also is a longtime volunteer for Canine Companions for Independence, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit that trains dogs for people with disabilities.

"We are devastated," said Jeanine Konopelski, director of marketing. "She's trained many puppies for us."

Lange is white, 5 feet tall, 145 pounds with brown hair, brown eyes and thick glasses. She was known to hike in a full-length red rain coat, a white down jacket, dark pants and sneakers.

Anyone with information about Lange's whereabouts is urged to call National Park Service rangers at 464-5170.

Source: contracostatimes.com