Called by Mother Earth: A Review of a Father’s Memoir of His Missing Son

On October 10th, 2020, a receipt for a cup of coffee proved that Jordan Naterer arrived at Manning Provincial Park. Besides this receipt and his car found parked at the Lightning Lake lot, no other physical evidence of Jordan was found in ten months of extensive searching of the vast park.

Jordan Naterer. Source: ubyssey.ca/news/jordan-naterer-final-path-determined Courtesy Vancouver Police Department.

His father, Greg Naterer, writes of his personal search for his son in his memoir, Called by Mother Earth. His theory was, “We believed that he had lost his way or perhaps had fallen and was injured. Nothing worse could have happened to our son.”

Every agonizing step of his search is meticulously diarized, as the professor of engineering took leave from work and scoured the expanse of the nearly 80,000 hectares of the provincial park abutting the U.S. border after the official search. The initial search by authorities and BC Search and Rescue (SAR), ended due to no new clues being found and the weather being too extreme to continue.

Greg, despite his lack of experience in the BC mountainous terrain, kept looking for Jordan, a young man who had a brilliant career and life ahead of him. He hiked and learned to snowshoe through the worst winter conditions either by himself or with volunteers.

After only four days, the VPD SAR team suspended the search for Jordan. We were devastated. Their decision was incomprehensible to us. How could an unsuccessful search be concluded so quickly? … There was only one choice for Josie and me. We were determined to continue searching, and to change the officials’ minds.

(Naterer, p. 23.)

How bewildering it must be for families to leave their support systems and familiar routines at home and be plunged into the nightmare scenario that the Naterers were. Parents of the missing have no idea what the protocols of an urban or wilderness search are when their loved one suddenly disappears, especially when they come from another province, or even another country. They are put in the position of trusting the experts.

The most difficult thing for any parent to do when a search is called off when the experts deem it’s highly likely to be a recovery mission rather than a rescue, coupled with the weather conditions being too brutal to be safe to continue.

Families can be angry with SAR when a search is called off before the missing person is found. They don’t know the priorities of SAR[i], the hours of training and experience they have[ii], that there’s a science of lost person behaviour, and how quickly the odds of survival diminish after the first twenty-four hours after a person disappears.

Many of the people who felt we should stop until all the snow had melted were worried that harm could come to me or to those I was with. And that my family, particularly, would then have to deal with a second disappearance or added tragedy. But to me, holding off the search felt akin to giving up on Jordan. I believed, with the help I had, I would be safe and that it was better to keep looking through the winter — even if the result was finding Jordan’s remains — than to not search until late summer. By that time those remains might be scattered to such an extent that we would never find him.

(Naterer, p. 141.)

What the Naterers and other families do when SAR stands down and they continue to search in dangerous conditions, puts themselves and potentially SAR members at risk. Greg admits to having close calls in the backcountry during the search efforts.

I followed John, not checking my GPS unit because he had often hiked in this area and I trusted that he knew where he was going. After about an hour of snowshoeing through the trees, we arrived at a location that looked familiar, but this time there were tracks in the snow— our own! During the previous hour, we had unknowingly hiked in a circle. Although I’d had little doubt before, this experience confirmed to me that even an expert mountaineer could get lost or disoriented in this terrain. (Naterer, p. 145.)

Greg’s journey of how the search for his son unfolded is from his point-of-view, and how he came to be connected with nature and the spirit of tmxʷulaxʷ[iii] in the process. Including, hiring expensive private Search and Rescue teams, and organizing volunteers that made them prey to unscrupulous opportunists.

Solo Risks vs. Group Safety

Jordan came to Vancouver to get his master’s in engineering at the University of British Columbia, and stayed when he found a job after graduation. He was excited to do this solo overnight hiking trip. He researched all the gear he needed to prepare for his trip. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going, when he planned to be back, leave a trip plan with someone, create one online, or even leave a note on his car windshield as to his hiking plans, as many hikers do.

Solo subjects account for 67% of incidents. A group of two accounts for 19% of incidents.

—Robert Koester, Lost Person Behaviour: A Search and Rescue Guide on Where to Look—for Land, Air and Water, Charlottesville, VA, dBS Productions, 2008, p. 42.

Naterer explains why his son may have chosen to go alone several times throughout the book: “Some people wondered why Jordan hiked alone. We felt his decision to do so was neither uncommon nor unusual. We believed he was simply looking for quiet and peace by himself in the beautiful surroundings of the Larches.”

Many hikers choose to do the same and return home safely, but it does increase the risk significantly of not returning home safely. However, Greg doesn’t address why Jordan didn’t let anyone know of his plans, but that may just have been Jordan’s lack of experience.[iv]

We were alarmed to learn that Manning Park is huge. It covers over 80,000 hectares of protected area in the North Cascades mountain range of southern British Columbia. The trail to the summit of Frosty Mountain, the highest mountain in the park, is also one of the most spectacular and challenging of the park’s many trails. It’s about an eight-hour trek up and back from the top of Frosty Mountain — and the trail connects with other routes to make a ten- or even twenty-kilometre loop.

(Naterer, p. 17.)
Frosty Mountain. Source: vancouvertrails.com

October is a dubious month for camping at Manning, or anywhere in the BC mountains —sandwiched between the hiking and the snowshoeing/cross-country/skiing seasons, you could be surprised by early snow. Manning’s base elevation is 1202 m, much higher than the near sea level elevation and fairer temperatures in Vancouver — a 220 km drive east of the city where Jordan lived.

Monument 78 is the end of the 4,270-long Pacific Crest Trail, where Jordan was believed to be headed the Thanksgiving weekend he disappeared according to his browser history. The park weather was 5℃, on October 10th, 2020, with temperatures were trending downwards for the following week (Accuweather, October 10th, 2020), which proved to be true.

Monument 78 Trail. Source: alltrails.com

An Empty Chair

Jordan didn’t turn up for an invitation to Canadian Thanksgiving Day dinner on Monday, October 12th. On October 13th,  a call was made to Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to report Jordan as a missing person. Jordan’s parents, Greg and Josie, were notified of his disappearance and flew from their home in the St. John’s, Newfoundland, hoping that he would soon be found. If Jordan was lost, and/or injured, with the snowstorms that hit Manning Park, he was susceptible to deadly hypothermia, unless he was able to set up camp and have a heat source.

The critical 24 to 48 hours of survivability had passed, and given the blizzard conditions, VPD called upon Search and Rescue (SAR) to urgently initiate the search, which they did throughout the night.[v] They knew he had fire-starting tools, and a lamp. They hoped to see his fire or light and hear them calling for him.


Make a trip planEnsure someone knows which park you’re visiting in case you do not return as expected. If you are taking a multi-day backcountry trip, make a detailed plan with the AdventureSmart app. Leave a copy of your plan with someone you trust.

Pack the essentials

The following items are worth taking on any visit to a provincial park:

  • Navigation aids (maps, compass, GPS)
  • Extra food, water, and clothing
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen

For longer trips, especially in the backcountry, you should also bring:

  • Whistle or similar signalling device
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Emergency shelter
  • Fire-making kit
  • Satellite communication device

While your cell phone can be useful, do not rely on your phone. Many areas in BC Parks do not have reception.

—Warning from bcparks.ca/plan-your-trip/visit-responsibly/staying-safe


SPOT Device. Source: findmespot.com

It seems that Jordan used his cell phone to call for help from two pings, but in BC mountains cell phones, satellite phones and even SPOT[vi] devices are unreliable. However, with a SPOT, or a cell phone with built-in satellite comms, an S.O.S. button, some have two-way comms, and there’s a URL that your spouse, parent, sibling, or roommate can track your position on the web, at least until it stops working.

Search Team

The VPD requested not only that SAR, but also the Princeton RCMP be involved in the search of Manning Park. There were one-hundred and fourteen SAR members from the Southwest and Central groups assisting the RCMP in a mutual aid search. Civil Air SAR (CASARA) did a coordinated search of fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter, and drones from the air covering the entire park. The data from the aerial searches were then overlaid on top of each other and analyzed at a facility at an airport, that the Naterers may or may not have been aware of.

Manning Park had no search and rescue (SAR) plan for missing persons. Normally this would be managed by the local Princeton Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) unit. But the VPD, the first police authority to be alerted, decided that their agency should lead the search for Jordan, even though our son was missing far away from his home in Vancouver.

(Naterer, p. 17.)

Actually, BC SAR is Manning Provincial Park’s plan when someone goes missing according to the National Search and Rescue Plan:

Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for searches for missing persons including those who are lost or overdue on land or inland waters – commonly known as Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR), and often delegated to the police service of jurisdiction (publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/mrgnc-mngmnt/rspndng-mrgnc-vnts/nss/prgrm-en.aspx).

VPD assisted with combing for clues from Jordan’s computer as to where he was planning to go. All 9-1-1 calls are centralized in BC, so it’s up to the dispatchers as to which authorities are assigned to a case, but authorities work in consultation with each other at each stage of a search to find missing people.

VPD and the RCMP have their own SAR teams, including their own search dogs, drones, and other equipment, that are used mainly for urban searches. They rely on the expertise of BC SAR volunteers who are specially trained and have the equipment necessary to search in the wild in a case like Jordan Naterer’s.

After searching both on the ground and by air with no sign of Jordan, the search was suspended on October 17th due to extreme weather condition (Government of BC, Weekly Incident Situation Report, October 12th, 2020 to October 18, 2020). A week later the search started again for a day before the weather conditions necessitated the search be suspended again.

A SAR Member’s Reflection

Alan Hobler was one of the SAR members tasked to Jordan’s search. He’s a single dad of a young son and caretaker to his mother who has Alzheimer’s. He works for BC Parks in the Thompson region and has a passion for working in remote areas of the province. He’s served for nearly fifteen years at Kamloops Search and Rescue (KSAR) (www.ksar.ca) and is one of only ten Level II SAR Managers in the province, so he often gets pulled into searches from all over the province.

He finds the hardest part of his job is suspending a search. “It’s brutal to talk to the family.” He says that when parents are told they haven’t found their child most parents know that their child is deceased, but some parents don’t give up hope their child will be found. Some never give up hope that their child will be found alive.

“It’s hard to hope with all the resources we use to search. The longer they are missing the more likely they are to be deceased,” Hobler says. He recognizes that there’s a gap for families after the search is over. All the searchers go home leaving the family and friends not knowing what to do next.

Example of a FLIR camera mount on the belly of an aircraft. Source: flir.com

Alan was called in late to the original search for Jordan and was concerned the team members were burned out by the weather conditions, including a snowstorm, and lack of sleep. The RCMP sent in helicopters to do infrared (thermal) sweeps of the area called FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared). The human body remains detectable to FLIR for approximately 24 hours after passing, as it chills to ambient temperature. In the cold, once a body reaches ambient temperature within 24 hours FLIR is no longer be able to detect a body.

The red can dangling from the helicopter’s cable is a RECCO detector. Source: recco.com

A RECCO sweep was also done by helicopter. RECCO detectors are scanners encased in red cans at the end of a cable mounted underneath helicopters. If Jordan wore high-end hiking clothing, had a backpack or other gear with RECCO tags, the RECCO detector would’ve found the tags.

When these searches failed to turn up clues, the Naterers requested that the military helicopter from Squadron 442 Comox be called in; however, military planes on the West Coast are reserved for marine rescues, finding downed aircraft, or for night rescues. Although, North Shore Rescue now has night rescue equipment. Greg recounts in his book, that he thought BCSAR wasn’t thorough enough in their search and that the Cormorant helicopter could’ve made a difference.

RCAF Squadron 442 CH-149 Comox’s Cormorant. Source: flickr.com

Perhaps, Greg was unaware that SAR members were injured during the search and evacuated by the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) helicopter. A RIT helicopter is always on standby and available only for SAR and other rescue personnel during large and mutual aid searches. Alan says that SAR dogs can be badly injured on searches and have to be “permanently retired” (put down). The search dogs were at risk of injury due to the worst of conditions.

The SAR teams went out again for a day on October 24th, when the weather improved to search Windy Joe Mountain, in case Jordan had gone that way. There was a weak ping from a cell phone in a sector from the single tower in the area. There was no way to tell if it was from Jordan’s phone, but it was checked.

If Jordan’s intended destination was Monument 78, at the bottom of Mount Frosty (Frosty Mountain)— it’s the highest peak in the park with an elevation at 2410 m. The peak of this exposed mountain has loose rocks at the top and the climb is steep. The out and back round trip is 22 km.

Throughout Greg’s book, he characterizes Manning Park as treacherous and dangerous, due to poor signage, and ill-maintained trails. However, to those who have hiked extensively in BC provincial parks, including myself, Manning Park has superior signage compared to other trails. The park rangers on patrol do an excellent job of maintaining trails, informing hikers of bears in the area and other hazards. But if you’re from out-of-province, you wouldn’t have any other BC trails to compare it with, like the rugged Baden-Powell Trail, for example. Of course, if you go off-trail into the backcountry, or exceed your limits of fitness and experience, Manning or any other park isn’t going to be safe.

Naterer writes many times throughout his book that he and his volunteer searchers went off-trail while in the backcountry while snowshoeing or hiking. This put them at risk of injury or worse, and if they had gone missing, the searchers would be put at risk also.

Many of the people who felt we should stop until all the snow had melted were worried that harm could come to me or to those I was with. And that my family, particularly, would then have to deal with a second disappearance or added tragedy. But to me, holding off the search felt akin to giving up on Jordan. I believed, with the help I had, I would be safe and that it was better to keep looking through the winter—even if the result was finding Jordan’s remains— than to not search until late summer. By that time those remains might be scattered to such an extent that we would never find him.

(Naterer, p. 141.)

Alan believes that since this was Jordan first ever overnight backpacking trip, he got caught by the weather.

A snowstorm had unexpectedly swept through the sub-Alpine areas at higher elevations. From photos taken by hikers on October 10, there had been some fog in the morning at the base of the mountain. By the late afternoon, it was snowing at higher elevations. Not only was visibility poor, but it was likely that hikers were caught off guard by the snowy conditions.

(Naterer, p. 18.)

Savvy hikers would’ve changed their plans after reading the forecast, or upon arriving and seeing the poor conditions. To put into perspective how risky solo camping in those or any conditions can be, SAR Members-in-Training (MITs) go through six months to two years of extensive training with experienced SAR educators before their inaugural solo overnight camping trip using just what’s in their backpack.

MITs are trained in survival skills, such as trip planning, preparing their packs, navigation, shelter building and making a fire without matches. The night of their solo camping trip they’re spread out in a group with help just a whistle or shout away. The instructors also have a SAR truck ready to evacuate in case of any emergency.

Solo subjects have a higher fatality rate than groups.

(Koester, p. 43.)

According to Alan, Jordan didn’t leave a trip plan, but he said the family saw by his Internet browser history he focused on the Frosty Mountain trail. Without a trip plan it made it difficult to know what his intentions were, as it is for any missing person that hasn’t left a trip plan.

As experienced adventurers of BC trails know, Manning Park can be a manageable day hike when you check the weather, and are fit enough, travel with a partner or a group, and are well-prepared. Many visitors and people who are new to our area get into serious trouble when hiking in inappropriate footwear or clothing, without a pack containing the ten essentials, are out of shape for the trail, don’t have a map, are on their own, and don’t leave a trip plan.

Writer Goes Missing

Greg Naterer listed in his book several other people who went missing in Manning Park: “later that year, a vehicle owned by a man named David Greatrix remained parked at the Monument 78 trailhead for weeks. His body was later found by Princeton RCMP a few kilometres from the trailhead. The cause of death was never determined.”

David Greatix. Source: Chilliwack Progress.

David (62), also an engineer, was linked to Jordan’s tragedy. An article mentioned that David Greatrix may have been hired by the Naterers to retrace Jordan’s hike and write a book about it (Andrea DeMeer, “Human remains found in Manning Park, believed to be missing Penticton man: David Greatrix may have been investigating the case of Jordan Naterer, The Chilliwack Progress, July 26, 2021, theprogress.com/news/human-remains-found-in-manning-park-believed-to-be-missing-penticton-man-1918997).

In an interview with David’s brother, Mark Greatix, he said that David went on a hike following Jordan’s suspected path, as part of his research for a book on the unusual passing of people. Jordan was one of six cases David was documenting for his (unpublished) book, but he wasn’t hired by the Naterers. Mark doesn’t know if his brother had even met the Naterers or not, although he noted that both David and Greg were engineers and may have had a connection through their profession. The book that David Greatix was working on was his own project.

A Manning Park employee alerted the RCMP that David’s car sat in the parking-lot for thirty days. Mark had no idea his brother was missing until the RCMP contacted him about his brother’s abandoned car a month later.

The RCMP found maps of David’s intended route for what was likely intended to be a day hike in his car. It appears that factors contributing to David’s disappearance were the same that contributed to Jordan being lost. David failed to create a trip plan, including letting someone know where he was going and for how long. David went on a solo hike, which was during heavy bear activity both grizzly and black bears. However, he did leave a marked map behind.

Mark says it was difficult for the authorities to determine David’s cause of death because he had been deceased for about a month when found, but there were three possible causes: heart attack, stroke, or bear attack. SAR was delayed conducting a search of the area because of heavy bear activity. Mark says that when they did go into the area, SAR volunteers were protected by shotguns in case of bear encounters.

Riding the Rollercoaster

The book can be repetitive with details of long days of searching in the snow, interspersed with bursts of adrenaline when a clue or tidbit of information is discovered. The reader rides the rough rollercoaster of moments of utter despair and the highs of hope along with author.

To assist the canine teams, BC Parks agreed to cut paths on the weekend of June 5 and 6, including along the Frosty Mountain and Skyline trails from the Lightning Lake sides, the Windy Joe Mountain and Monument 83 trails to the snow line, and the initial parts of the Monument 78 trail. Penticton staff and other volunteers also came out to help. This was a great relief to us all (Naterer, p. 178).

Bob and Kevin had spotted Jordan’s backpack in a drainage east of the Frosty Mountain trail, relatively close to the summit (Naterer, p. 214).

They had searched nearby and found no further evidence but suspected that Jordan had moved farther down the drainage (Naterer, p. 215).

When I first started tracking this case for possible inclusion in my book, Rescue Me: Behind the Scenes of Search and Rescue, I wrote in my notes, “When the snow melts in 2021, and it could take until July to melt at the peaks in Manning Park, that’s when they most likely will find Jordan. This is a truly baffling and tragic case, that I hope will have a positive outcome.”

Was Jordan ever found? Does Greg ever find closure? Does the father of the lost son ever gain a sense of peace from writing his memoir? You need to read the book to find out the answers to these and other burning questions you may have from reading this review. (Proceeds from the sale of the book go to scholarship at Jordan’s former school in his name.)


[i] SAR’s safety priorities are in this order: 1. Self,  2. Team, 3. Public, 4. Missing Person.

[ii] SAR Managers, dog handlers, and other SAR members put in over one-thousand volunteer hours per year in training and callouts. Most SAR volunteers spend two-hundred to three-hundred hours per year on training and callouts.

[iii] The nsyilxcen tribe’s word that refers to all living things including everything alive, such as the land, water, animals, people, and plants.

[iv] I requested an interview with Greg Naterer, which he initially agreed to but then declined. Therefore, I don’t know what his knowledge of Search and Rescue (SAR) in Canada was at the time. For example, all SAR members not only in BC, but in all of Canada are volunteers. Perhaps, he didn’t know that BC SAR is one of the busiest and most highly skilled in North America. My research over the past four years has found no complacency on the part of the authorities and SAR members in this case Also, he may not know that SAR members experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from difficult cases, or a cumulative effect of their callouts. They have an internal program to deal with the mental health and well-being of their members, just like other first responders have called Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). Despite these efforts, sometimes SAR members take their own lives because of PTSD.

[v] SAR is active in all provinces, so no matter what province you or one of your loved ones are in, there’s a SAR group to ready to assist with nine thousand volunteers across the nation.

[vi] A satellite communication device used by backcountry hikers, snowshoers, and skiers, now built into iPhone 14 or later, and also into top-of-the line Android phones. Jordan likely didn’t carry a SPOT device.

Dr. Greg F. Naterer is the Vice-President, Academic and Research at the University of Prince Edward Island. Previously he was the dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and a professor of mechanical engineering at Memorial University in St. John’s. He was the chair of Canada’s National Council of Deans of Engineering and Applied Science. Dr. Naterer and his wife, Josie, have three adult children, including Jordan.

Publisher: Breakwater Books (March 26, 2024)
Paperback 8″ x 6″ | 304 pages
ISBN: 9781778530142 

Cathalynn Labonté-Smith grew up in Southwestern Alberta and moved to Vancouver, BC, to complete her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia (UBC). After graduation, she worked as a freelance journalist until present. She became a technical writer, earning a Certificate in Technical Writing from Simon Fraser University. She later went to UBC to complete a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) and taught English, journalism, and other subjects at Vancouver high schools. She currently lives in Gibsons, where she is the president and founder of the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society, and North Vancouver, BC. Her new book, Rescue Me: Behind the Scenes of Search and Rescue (Caitlin Press) is a British Columbia bestseller.

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