Carrie Morris said she sensed her husband was gone the day after he disappeared on a hike in the Trinity Alps in the summer of 2014.
Morris, 57, rushed from her home in Windsor and arrived in the area on Aug. 3, as the search for Steve Morris, her husband of 36 years, was ramping up.
Surrounded by an evergreen forest at the search command center in the Trinity County hamlet of Coffee Creek, Morris said she attempted to sense the presence of her soulmate and father to their one child.
“There was nothing. Void,” she said. “It was powerful.”
The official search for Steve Morris was called off after five days, with no clear idea of what happened to him on the slopes of 7,342-foot Billy’s Peak, located above Stoddard Lake in the rugged Trinity County backcountry.
But Carrie Morris, bolstered by a cadre of about 100 friends, fellow church members and an array of strangers, including a helicopter pilot, professional trackers and a forensic anthropologist, persevered in a search that continued for the rest of the year, over the winter and through the spring of 2015.
The final answer came in May of that year, when the last in a series of tests — a mass spectrometer analysis — confirmed that hair and tissue found in a ravine 2 miles from the mountain were human. No DNA was found to link it to Steve Morris, but his widow took it as a final answer.
“I want people to know, after all their prayers and support, we’ve had closure,” she said. “I know what it feels like. I think it’s a good thing.”
Carrie Morris waited until this week to make the finding public on her blog “Letters From the Land of Limbo.” The approval of a death certificate on Feb. 9, based on a Sonoma County Superior Court finding, prompted that step.
A petite woman with curly blond hair, Morris sat in the sun on a bench in the Windsor Town Green and recounted her past ordeal, and reflected on life going forward.
“Oh, I do (miss him),” she said. Odd things trigger the pain: a smell, a familiar song, or a household breakdown, the latter because Steve Morris was a master handyman.
“It’s often surprising when those sneaker waves hit you,” she said.
Carrie and her daughter Ellie, 17, have had to learn how to maintain a 90-gallon saltwater aquarium, which was Steve Morris’ pride and joy, that dominates the living room.
“It feels like an amputation,” said Morris, a marriage and family therapist for 25 years. “A significant part of you that you learn to get by without.” The couple married when she was 19 and “grew up together,” Morris said.
Annual camping trip
At the time of his disappearance, Steve Morris, 59, an avid hiker for 40 years, was on an annual camping trip with men from the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Rosa. He separated from another man as they were descending from Billy’s Peak on a hot August day and was never seen again.
Official search and rescue teams from as far away as Southern California combed the rugged terrain for five days before the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office called it off. The volunteer search effort continued, with a boost from Jim Higgins, a helicopter pilot from Chico who declined compensation.