Alan Wamsganz is hopeful his son Wesley is alive, that the 22-year-old turned around and left the High Peaks Wilderness after going in 10 days ago.
"Even though all the signs point to Wesley being up there in that area, there is a chance that he could have come out of there without being seen," Alan Wamsganz told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
"To me, two possibilities, and nobody wants to hear this first possibility," he said. "The first is that he went up in there to make a sacrifice of himself. And if he went up there with that in mind, it's going to be very hard to find him. And the other possibility is that once he got up there and he was confronted with the elements, that he changed his mind and came back out. But either scenario, it's going to be hard to find him."
Wesley Wamsganz hasn't been seen since Nov. 20, when he left work at Lake Placid's Downtown Diner and started walking to the Adirondak Loj trailhead - without food, water or outdoor gear, as far as searchers and his family know. Several hiking parties saw him in the High Peaks as darkness fell that evening; he was last seen at Marcy Dam, about 2 miles in.
A little past that, on a trail to Avalanche Lake, Wesley's green Carhartt jacket was found the next day. Beneath it he was wearing only a hooded sweat shirt, a winter hat, cotton pants and hiking shoes. Overnight temperatures have been as low as the single digits since then.
The Wamsganz family is from Saranac Lake: father Alan, mother Lisa Zimmerman, sisters Siena and Alta and half brother Vladimir. Family members have been out every day looking for Wesley, joining a High Peaks manhunt coordinated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
On Sunday evening, after an intense week's effort, the DEC shifted the search's status to "limited continuous," which means the active search is over. DEC spokesman Dave Winchell said the search will be more active than just forest rangers doing it in their spare time, but they're not going to schedule search parties.
"They're going to be looking for opportunities," Winchell said. "We're not giving up. We're going to have guys out there this week ... searching off the trails into some areas we wanted to check and see what they can find."
Wamsganz said his wife is upset about the search being scaled back but the family appreciates the efforts of the searchers, professional and volunteer.
"These rangers are phenomenal," he said. "The effort of the volunteers has just been spectacular. I can't thank those people enough for taking time out of their lives to help look for Wesley."
Alan Wamsganz hiked the Northville-Placid Trail after a friend told him his son had been talking about taking that trail. He's hiked in the High Peaks Wilderness looking for his son and, with friends Billy Allen and Dan Woodruff, searched back to Avalanche Lake.
Thanksgiving Day found Alan Wamsganz, his wife, Allen and another woman hiking from Tahawus to the Flowed Lands and on Friday Wamsganz and Woodruff went up the side of the Angel Slide (in Avalanche Pass), over the top, and down the other side.
"... Apparently one of my cousins in North Carolina had contacted a psychic, and she had told him she thought Wesley was near the Angel Slide, so we decided to hit that as thoroughly as we could," Wamsganz said.
Asked how the forest rangers reacted when told the family had a psychic involved, he said: "They let me go."
Wamsganz said he joined the search because he thought he could be useful.
"I've done a lot of (backcountry) skiing back there, and I'm very familiar with that country," he said. "I thought I might have some insight to where Wesley might be headed."
Asked if he felt mentally prepared to deal with the prospect of Wesley being found dead, his father said: "I thought about it. I certainly didn't want that to happen. I expected that if we found him, he would not be alive."
"Hopefully, he might be alive and out of the woods. Maybe one of his friends is keeping quiet."
Now, he said, "I'm just going to try to live my life as normally as I can. I'm probably going to try to do a lot of skiing up there this winter. I don't know why; I just feel like I'm back in touch with it again.
"He could be lying face-down somewhere ... but I like to think he may have come to his senses and got out of there."