Nobody knows why Alexander Cahoy died suddenly while hiking the Continental Divide Trail. He was 32, fit and seemingly healthy, an experienced hiker.
"I have to come to terms with the fact that I may never know," said his father, Tom Cahoy of Minneapolis.
The hiker from Minneapolis had been out of contact for a few days when a search team found him June 9 at his campsite in the Colorado mountains. He was in his sleeping bag, his possessions arranged neatly around him. An autopsy produced no answers.
"Everybody says there was no trauma, no distress," Tom said. "He apparently died peacefully in his sleep on top of a mountain at over 12,000 feet."
When fellow hiker Tim Brugman last saw Alex, a couple of days before he died, he was on "a really sketchy section" of snowy trail called Knife Edge, "walking along with ease."
Alex's mother, Julie Cahoy, talked to him on June 4. He'd lost his glasses, so she mailed a spare pair and some cookies to Silverton, Colo. He called to say he'd received them.
When Julie didn't hear from her son for a few days, she called the local sheriff's office, which sent out a search and rescue team. Later that night, she got a call from the coroner.
Alex always loved being outdoors, his parents said. He cross-country skied as a small child, joining the Minnesota Youth Ski League when he was 6 or 7.
"By the time he was probably 10, we couldn't keep up with him," Julie Cahoy said.
Same with camping, she said — by age 10 or 12, he was a better camper than his parents. In high school, Alex spent summers at Wilderness Canoe Base on the Gunflint Trail in Grand Marais. He kayaked in Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, backpacked on Michigan's Isle Royale.
In his 20s, he hiked several trails, including the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail along the West Coast.
"As parents you always worry, but we had a certain level of trust," Tom said.
Hikers sent sympathy notes to his parents praising Alex as easygoing, strong, cheerful, always willing to lend others a hand.
Hiker Kiana Van Zanten met Alex on the trail and admired the way he approached hiking — "really taking the time to enjoy nature and the trail, leaving no trace, taking the time to befriend other hikers even if you're not sure you'll see them again, willing to go on fun side adventures and not just be so focused on staying the line."
His Instagram photos reflect his appreciation for beauty along the trail.
Alex also liked helping people when not hiking. In 2021, he cared for his 94-year-old grandmother five days a week until she died in December. After George Floyd's murder, he volunteered at a Minneapolis food shelf, eventually becoming a staffer.
"Money wasn't important to him," Tom said. "He didn't need a lot of money to do what he did. He wanted social justice. He didn't want to be the first to cross the river, he wanted to help everybody else across the river."
Alex's sister, Hannah Benson-Cahoy, traversed the Superior Hiking Trail with him. One evening as they sat by the fire it started raining, "like, buckets and buckets."
Hannah got into the tent. But Alex stood in the downpour, tending the fire, "having the best time in the rain." When the storm passed, the fire was still going.
"And not just a little bitty fire," Hannah said. "He had a bonfire going in the middle of that storm."