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Honors Alumnus Brian Gawley Pens Book About Hiking Mishap

Four energy bars and a bottle of Gatorade. That's what Honors alumnus Brian Gawley (Mass Communications and Journalism '87, minor in History) had with him when he began his 20.4 mile "psycho-hike" in the Olympic National Park the afternoon of September 11, 2005. His scant food supply is just one of the things he might have reconsidered, had he known how he would spend his next three days.

A longtime marathon runner, Gawley integrated high-altitude training with his work. A reporter for Port Angeles's Peninsula Daily News, he wrote a weekly feature column, Trip of the Week. The subject for that September issue was the national park's Appleton Pass trail; Gawley's goal was to get up and down as fast as possible.

He started up the trail at mid-afternoon Sunday. As time went on and sunset neared, Gawley reassured himself that he could make it back to his car before dark. When the sun went down at 8:30 he still had at least 90 minutes more to hike.

Until you get outside the city, way outside the city, off the asphalt and away from the buildings and lights, you don't realize how dark the world becomes, or can become after the sun goes down.

Especially when you are beneath a canopy of trees, Gawley says, as he describes his experience that day.

In the darkness, the chilled hiker was ready to admit that he was lost. He thought he could follow the creek below him back to a bridge he had crossed earlier on the trail, and get back on course. On his way down the bank he stumbled and fell head first onto a log.

The impact broke his glasses and left him with a concussion. He thought it might be even worse.

He has hydrocephalus, commonly called water on the brain, and wears an implanted shunt to drain away excess fluid; his fall could have caused serious damage to the Teflon tube infrastructure of the shunt. This was the first in a series of obstacles and more adventures that stood between him and the trail, and, ultimately, a safe return home.

"Surviving something like this is possible, I'm proof of that, but not probable," he says. "I've written newspaper stories since illustrating that."

In a recently self-published book, Gawley goes into great detail and fully develops the story about his three days in the forest, his rescue, and his life after the ordeal. The book, Lost 65.5 hours in Olympic National Park: My story of survival , is available at,, and is coming soon to King County libraries. His website is at

Gawley has worked for daily and weekly newspapers across Washington State for almost 15 years. At home in Port Angeles, he is known not only as a reporter, but also as a regular at the local karaoke club.

Since his rescue, Gawley has opted for a change of pace, and now works for the Sequim Gazette, a weekly publication and rival to his former paper. He continues to hike and run marathons. He is more careful these days, however, to plan and pack appropriately.