Authorities in Rhea County are asking experienced hikers to volunteer in the search for a man who went missing May 10 in the Laurel-Snow State Natural Area north of Dayton, Tennessee.
North Carolina native Curtis Dustin Williams, who is in his 40s, went hiking with a dog that belonged to friends early that afternoon, posting cellphone photos to Facebook as he went, according to Rhea County Sheriff's Department investigator Rocky Potter. Williams posted his last photo taken from an overlook around 5 p.m. and hasn't been seen or heard from since.
"Right now they're doing a rugged terrain search and they're using volunteers, some of them actually named some of the trails in there," he said.
"We still haven't picked up a sign of anything. I just don't know," a frustrated Potter said Tuesday.
Williams' cellphone was "pinged" but the location that returned was invalid and no help to searchers. The dog that went with Williams was found last Thursday on a farm on top of Walden's Ridge near the Summer City community along the Bledsoe-Rhea county line, and searchers have attempted to backtrack the dog's path to find Williams.
Potter said the dog was still wearing its harness when it was found, and that area is where the search is focused now.
Experienced hikers, familiar with the Cumberland Plateau's treacherous terrain, are asked to sign up to help search teams being organized on top of the mountain, according to Rhea County Chief Deputy John Argo. Argo said Friendship Baptist Church on Summer City Road, just across the Bledsoe County line, is the temporary command post for the search.
The popular 2,259-acre natural area known by most people as the "Pocket Wilderness" has more than 10 miles of hiking trails looping past high waterfalls. People who saw Williams' online post identified the area where he took a selfie as "Buzzard Point," one of the prominent overlooks there.
IF YOU GO
Experienced hikers wishing to volunteer in the search for Curtis Dustin Williams, the North Carolina man who went missing May 10, can sign up at Friendship Baptist Church on Summer City Road.
Who: Experienced hikers
What: Rugged terrain search
When: Daylight hours
Where: Friendship Baptist Church, 4224 Summer City Road, Pikeville, Tenn.
For more information, call the Rhea County Sheriff’s Department at 423-775-7837.
Williams' disappearance remains a mystery, but officials said there has been no indication of foul play.
Rescuers from surrounding counties and the Tennessee Highway Patrol's helicopter and airplane, tracking dogs, drones and ground search teams have sought signs of Williams since last week, Potter said.
Search teams this week are using a new technique that crisscrosses the standard grid ending in a search pattern that "looks like a spiderweb, they go over it so well," he said. Groups from North Carolina and nearby Crossville also have been helping, he said.
Williams was wearing shorts, a maroon shirt and a University of North Carolina hat when he went missing, officials said.
Experienced hikers who want to help should have appropriate footwear and gear for the rugged terrain of the Cumberland Plateau, Potter said.
Also, anyone who spots the missing man or has any information on his whereabouts is urged to call the Rhea County Sheriff's Office at 423-775-7837 or 911.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.