College Student Missing at the Grand Canyon Wanted to 'Give His Body to Mother Earth'
Drake Kramer's disappearance on Feb. 1 was preceded by concerning text messages to family members
As the weeklong search for a missing Texas man at the Grand Canyon was scaled back Monday, his family was left to ponder the meaning of a text message he sent before his disappearance in which he said “he had to give his body to Mother Earth.”
“We are trying to be positive,” Drake Kramer’s father, Robbin, told the San Antonio Express-News.
After a one-night stay at the national park’s Bright Angel Lodge, Kramer, 21, of San Antonio, checked out Feb. 1 and was reported missing the next day by a family member, according to a statement from the National Park Service.
“We just don’t know where he is or what his plans were,” Kirby-Lynn Shedlowski, a spokesperson for the park, tells PEOPLE.
His father said family members were surprised to learn that Kramer, who was enrolled to study geology at the University of Texas-San Antonio, had driven to California and then on to the canyon. The father last saw his son on Jan. 29, when they went to see the film American Sniper.
“He was in good spirits,” Kramer’s father told the Express-News from Arizona.
On Monday, however, a series of concerning text messages sent to the family included one in which Kramer wrote that he “loved everybody and said he had to give his body to Mother Earth,” his father said.
The missing persons report sparked a hasty search in the park’s heavily traveled South Rim tourist area, where authorities found Kramer’s car at the lodge where he’d stayed. Since that time, Shedlowski says, park personnel have scoured dozens of miles along its rim and wooded areas, rappelled over the edge and enlisted a helicopter for aerial supervision.
“As of late yesterday afternoon and early evening, after six days of very intensive searching along the South Rim, the decision was made to move from what we call a very active search to a very limited but continuous search,” Shedlowski tells PEOPLE. “We no longer have teams out on the rim working in a methodical system. Crews, when they’re on the area, will continue to search, but it will not be the same search effort that previously occurred for the past six days.”
While the weather with daytime temperatures in the 60s has been good, she adds, the terrain being searched – flat on top of the rim, but rocky and unstable just off the edge – can be a challenge.
“There’s trees down there, there’s shrubs, there’s rocks; the canyon walls are often shaded depending on the time of day,” she says. “It’s just a real mix of terrain, which does make it difficult to work in.”
It is unknown what Kramer, at 5-foot, 7-inches tall and weighing 140 pounds, was wearing when last seen. Asked if there was any report he might have left the park, Shedlowski says, “They have no additional clues or information.”
That leaves Kramer’s family guessing.
“He’s always been a very loving, very caring child,” his father said. “He loves animals; he’s been on the honor roll his entire life. He’s a hard worker, and very frugal.”
“It’s not like him to travel by himself,” he added. But Kramer loves the Grand Canyon, a place he’d visited three or four times perviously.
“There are several spots he absolutely loves,” his dad said. “Those have been the focus areas out here, where he has been before.”
He added: “He said he loves nature, and we are trying to believe that he wants to go be in nature and explore, be on his own and deal with whatever is going on in his mind.”