Searching to resume for woman missing from Rainbow Family Gathering

54-year-old disappeared at end of peace festival in Skamania County

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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The trail has gone cold, literally and figuratively, for a missing California grandmother who disappeared at the end of the Rainbow Family Gathering in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest more than two months ago.

With temperatures beginning to drop in the forest’s upper elevations, Marie Hanson’s fellow Rainbow Family participants and local authorities are hoping two separate searches in the next 10 days will provide her family with closure.

Hanson, a 54-year-old grandmother of two, was last seen on the morning of July 8, hours before she and her neighbors were scheduled to leave the peace festival, which attracted around 20,000 people to Skookum Meadows in Skamania County. Subsequent searches for Hanson have failed to answer questions about what happened to her that morning.

Rainbow Family participants are organizing a search next Friday and Saturday mornings in Skookum Meadows near where Hanson was last seen. Everyone who is able-bodied and willing is invited to aid in the search. Participants will meet at the intersection of Forest Service Road 32 and Forest Service Road 150 around 10 a.m. each day.

People who want to participate but cannot are invited to attend a fundraiser this Saturday at the Old Town Grill in Woodland. A band will play at 9 p.m. Money raised will go to the lodging and feeding of search volunteers.

The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office will do its own law-enforcement-only sweep of the area next Sunday, chief criminal deputy Pat Bond said.

“I would say all our hopes are on this search,” Nancy Enterline said, referring to the search organized by the Rainbow Family. “We have pretty much exhausted everything. Our hopes are dwindling that she’ll be found alive. At this point we’re looking for closure.”

Enterline, whose son, Tim, is married to Hanson’s daughter, Tawny, described Hanson as a person whose grandchildren meant the world to her. The missing woman’s devotion to her grandchildren and love for her husband, Billy, make it inconceivable she ran off after the festival. Enterline surmised a more likely scenario would be a fellow camper or a wild animal, such as a mountain lion, attacked Hanson, who reportedly was weakened by a stomach bug the day before she disappeared.

Three weeks ago, the agency released a sketch of a person of interest who witnesses said was spotted with Hanson on July 6 during the festival. The man was described as being in his late 40s or 50s, standing 5 feet 8 inches tall and having a thin build. He wore a dark Duster-type jacket and walked with a cane, according to information provided to the sheriff’s office.

So far, sheriff’s investigators have not received any credible information based on the sketch, Bond said.

“There’s no indication she’s deceased,” he said of Hanson. “But there’s no indication she’s anywhere else.”

The peace festival’s culture of ride-sharing and celebrants’ closed-lip approach to law-enforcement has made the search for Hanson difficult, Bond noted.

It is not uncommon for participants in the Rainbow Family Gathering to skip off with new friends for a short while after the festival, said Karin Zirk, a participant who has helped spread the word about next week’s search. However, it is unprecedented for one to disappear for months, and that drives them to continue looking, the San Diego resident added.

“I don’t want to see the family put through this,” Zirk said. Snowfall will soon make the prospect of finding Hanson in the woods “exponentially harder,” she noted.

The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office asks people to call Detective Tim Garrity at 509-427-9490 if they have information on the case. More information on Marie Hanson is at http://www.mariehansonmissing.com. Money donated on the site will be used to lodge and feed searchers next Friday and Saturday, Enterline said.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; ray.legendre@columbian.com.