The disappearance of Madison Scott and the history of unsolved crimes along the Highway of Tears has drawn the attention of a major U.S. outdoors magazine.
Outside sent Bob Friel on a trip from Prince George to Prince Rupert last summer after learning Scott was last seen in May 2011 camping at Hogsback Lake where she had been partying with friends.
"I think when they heard 'camping' they thought Maddy Scott was on an adventure trip instead of at a party, but still that was our entre into the [piece]," Friel said from his home in the San Juan Islands in Washington State.
The result is an extensive story in this month's edition and on its website that begins and largely ends with Scott but also covers the RCMP's investigation of 18 women who had gone missing or had been murdered within a mile of Highway 16 West.
The murder of Loren Leslie and the subsequent arrest of Cody Legebokoff, who now also faces murder charges in the deaths of Natasha Lynn Montgomery, Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas, is also featured as is private investigator Ray Michalko's work to solve the missing women cases. During the trip, Friel said he encountered "gorgeous" scenery, particularly as he traveled further west and into the Skeena region. The mood would change with the sight of signs warning women against hitchhiking and the darkening weather that makes the trucks "seem angry."
Especially shocking was the sight of a young woman hitchhiking late at night not far from one of those signs. She was wearing dark clothing and Friel noticed her only when he had just about passed her. He turned around to offer her a ride but by the time he was back at the spot, she was climbing into a dark pickup truck.
"It can suddenly become ominous, you can let your mind get into that when you realize all the things that have happened along there," Friel said. "But without that, then you're just dealing with a gorgeous road and I've met a lot of nice people in these communities."
Friel has written previously for Outside, notably about the Colton Harris-Moore, the teenaged "Barefoot Bandit" who made headlines for a string of thefts, including small aircraft and speedboats, reportedly committing some of the crimes while barefoot.
Friel said he hopes the story will bring a higher profile to the cases but does not claim to have any answers to the string of mysteries beyond the ease with which a victim's body can be dumped in the bushes. He did suggest a public transit system along the stretch would help prevent further tragedy.