Friends doubt missing Nicasio woman caught off-guard by sneaker wave

Brent Ainsworth

Silvia Lange has a reputation as an experienced hiker and knew plenty about how treacherous the ocean can be during storms, according to a friend who is helping to organize a search for the missing Nicasio woman.

Lange, 77, has been the subject of a search by National Park Service rangers, search-and-rescue teams and law enforcement officers since Sunday afternoon when her car was found at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Search teams were scaled back Tuesday. Parks spokesman John Golda said 90 people, 12 rescue dog teams and five horse-mounted searchers combed the North Beach area on Monday and far fewer were used Tuesday.

"We still have lots of people out there," he said. "I can't even tell you how great it was to receive as much assistance as we got. Everybody is very determined, but there is not much to report."

Wendy Dreskin, who leads hikes through the College of Marin extension program, said Lange has taken "Meandering in Marin" for about 10 years. Classmates plan to circulate missing-person fliers through Marin County over the next several days to aid in the search effort.

"This was not some half-senile foolish old woman who didn't know the ocean," Dreskin said. "This was someone active and knowledgeable. She was in amazingly good shape."

Lange's dog and two other dogs in her care were found at the North Beach parking lot at Point Reyes. Dreskin said the hiking group is speculating that a dog might have gone into the ocean and got caught in an undertow,

and Lange might have attempted a rescue.

Lange's disappearance came just more than two weeks after 37-year-old Katherine Truitt of Alameda disappeared from McClures Beach, about eight miles north of Point Reyes' North Beach. On Tuesday, Golda said the only connection between the two incidents thus far is the weather conditions and treacherous waves.

"The biggest connection is how dangerous those beaches can be," he said. "Even on nice days you can have sneaker waves. In big storm events the water is frothing and boiling and the undertow is severe. You never want to turn your back on it."

A renowned volunteer docent at Angel Island State Park, Lange spent her career in psychiatric nursing. She taught courses at and formerly directed the mental health program at the Seattle University School of Nursing. Her many professional publications include material on violent patients, suicide and hope.

Lange, who lived in Sausalito prior to her time in Nicasio, does not have any family in Marin County, Dreskin said. Lange grew up as Silvia Prodan and married when she was young. She is divorced and has no children. Dreskin said a nephew of Lange has been participating in the search.

Lange, last seen Saturday night, is white, 5 feet tall, 145 pounds with gray hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about her whereabouts is urged to call National Park Service rangers at 464-5170.

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