A Long Beach State aerospace engineering major who dreamt of being an astronaut went missing in late December while canoeing at Trinidad Bay in Humboldt County.
Hunter Lewis, 21, ventured out to hide the final treasure to his scavenger hunt he called “The Lost Lewis Treasure” that his friends and family worked on. However, Hunter didn’t return home to his family that afternoon.
He worked on clues, riddles and scouted locations for the past two years. No one knew the scavenger hunt answers except his girlfriend, Kinsley Rolph.
Corey Lewis, Hunter’s father and a former Cal Poly Humboldt professor said his son left their house “early in the morning and nobody saw him take the family canoe.”
Hunter’s mother informed Corey that the canoe was missing, and they both realized they weren’t looking for a lost hiker, but instead, a lost boater in the ocean.
“My heart dropped at that moment,” he said.
He also added that many of the scavenger hunt participants were “out searching for clues that day,” but in the afternoon, Rolph called and said Hunter hadn’t replied to her texts.
“That’s when I said, ‘I’m going to Trinidad. I’ll call 911 and search and rescue,'” Corey said.
The U.S. Coast Guard conducted a search and rescue the next day after Hunter went missing.
“The Coast Guard was pulling information [about Hunter],” he said. “A fisherman also gave an eyewitness [testimony] and stated where they saw [Hunter] and the time he was in his boat. One of the eyewitnesses saw him in his boat without a life preserver.”
Hundreds of volunteers searched for Hunter, and there are still some looking for him to this day. A Facebook page called Trinidad, CA. Search for Hunter Lewis is dedicated to finding Hunter and has over 5,000 members.
“We would search the beaches and the cliffs all day long looking for any sign of him. We hired a boat to look out for him and that’s when we found the wreckage to his canoe,” he said.
The amount of support from people left Corey speechless.
“I miss my son so much,” he said. “You feel like there’s a hole inside you. And all of this support, warmth and everybody caring so much [about him] at least fills that [hole] up a little bit. It makes you feel a little bit better. It’s been an honor.”
After Hunter had been gone for three days, Corey said Hunter’s girlfriend wanted to finish the treasure hunt.
“I want to stop searching for a moment. We got hundreds of people searching beaches,” Rolph said. “I want to solve the final riddle. If we can figure out where he was hiding the treasure we can narrow our search.”
The final scavenger hunt clues were three identical 3D heart-shaped keys Hunter made along with a riddle that said “If you stand in the place where you showed me your heart.”
The key pointed to Flatiron Rock, Hunter and Rolph’s favorite picnicking spot.
“We know from eyewitnesses that he was canoeing in the Flatiron Rock area. Once we solved that, we knew he was exactly going to Flatiron Rock to put the treasure there,” Corey continued.
Lewis said there is a shallow, rocky reef that has to be traveled through to the island that Hunter didn’t know about.
“We’re confident that as he was approaching Flatiron Rock the reef capsized his boat and he drowned,” Lewis said.
While on the beach searching for Hunter, Corey said he found a family heirloom that washed up onshore. He immediately recognized the wooden jewelry box. Inside would have been the treasure.
“It’s like getting a piece of my heart back,” Corey said.
Corey said Hunter moved to Long Beach from Humboldt County when he was accepted to CSULB in 2019 for engineering. He hoped to one day become an astronaut.
Rolph said Hunter wanted to be one of the first people to colonize Mars. Rolph said Hunter believed that if people could learn to live on a deserted planet like Mars, then they can learn better to care for Earth.
One of her favorite memories with Hunter was when they met at Zion National Park and sat on top of Angels Landing together.
“We were so content and happy sitting silently, next to one another and staring out at the nature before us,” she said. “It was romantic, poetic and it felt like a fantasy to be there with him. He eventually fell asleep on my shoulder and I felt so at peace.”