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Search suspended for French adventurer in Alaska

Posted: June 24, 2014 - 9:36am

ANCHORAGE — The search for a missing French adventurer was suspended along the eastern coast of Katmai National Park and Preserve after aerial searches didn’t reveal any signs of his whereabouts, authorities said.

The search for Francois Guenot was called off late Saturday, a day after park rangers found his kayak containing his identification, food, maps and personal journals, said Katmai National Park Chief Ranger Neal Labrie.

The kayak was discovered on a beach along Shelikof Strait about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage.

“We’ve picked up nothing more,” Labrie told The Associated Press on Monday. “And the last journal entry he had amongst his goods was dated June 15.”

Guenot was last heard from on May 26 near Kamishak Bay, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The National Park Service had planes modify flight patterns to search for Guenot.

“Had there been anybody or anything to see along those coastal areas, we probably would have seen them,” Labrie said.

The U.S. Coast Guard also conducted aerial searches Saturday and had a boat positioned along the shore.

If he decided to abandon the kayak and walk, the search area could be endless, since his possible route wasn’t known, Labrie said.

“There’s really no reason why he would have left all his personal belongings, especially his ID behind,” Labrie said. “He seems extremely unpredictable.”

When he was 32, Guenot told Yukon News, a newspaper in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, in January 2012 that he was a ski instructor from Maiche, France, who dreamed of adventure in North America, across the wilds of Canada and Alaska.

“I don’t want to stay like a dog on a leash in France,” he told the newspaper.

Guenot arrived in Canada in the summer of 2011 to begin his trek across the continent, which included several misadventures, including falling into a river in the winter.

He eventually made his way to Fairbanks, where he found a bike at the dump and rode it to Homer. Guenot then went to Seldovia, where he found two kayaks and made them into one seaworthy vessel.

He began showing up in villages along the shore of Lake Iliamna in southwest Alaska last fall.

Guenot befriended Kokhanok resident Gary Nielsen and lived on his property in a tent. When it was too cold in the winter to sleep outside, Nielsen said Guenot slept in the steam bath.

Guenot, whom Nielsen said became known as “the crazy Frenchman,” ultimately wanted to reach the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.

He set off in May, telling Nielsen that he was going to Perryville, which was hundreds of miles away. Nielsen said Guenot had trouble comprehending the great distances involved in traveling Alaska.

Another friend, Jim Tilley of Intricate Bay, spent time with Guenot last fall. He said everyone liked Guenot, but there were worries.

“He was just aloof to the dangers of Alaska,” Tilley told the Daily News.

Nielsen said he had concerns about Guenot but noted that he’s done odd things before, such as walking around Lake Iliamna during spring break up. Nielsen said he was gone three weeks but came back in one piece.

Guenot had planned to meet up with friends July 19.

“If we hear nothing by the end of July, he’s probably dead,” Nielsen said.

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