A special celebration of life was held Sunday for a Waterloo man who went missing on a hike back in January.

Rick Eastep had been travelling on the Lost Coast Trail in Northern California.

Eastep texted his shuttle driver saying he was injured, but because of bad reception that message wasn’t received until days later.

Search teams found a backpack and supplies believed to have belonged to Eastep but the 32-year-old was nowhere to be found.

“They discovered where he probably fell down on the trail,” says his aunt Sharon Grose. “It was near water and it’s assumed that he was swept away.”

The search effort was hampered by bad weather.

“The search and rescue people worked really, really hard and through some pretty extreme weather to try and find Rick,” says Grose. “There were 40 to 50 foot waves. They had helicopters, they had boats, they had search and rescue teams. They had people close their businesses so they could go out and help look for Rick.”

After two days the official search was called off.

Eastep’s family says the response from the community has been overwhelming.

“It’s really helped the family when people reach out and just let them know that people are thinking and praying for them,” says Grose.

About 450 people attended Sunday’s celebration of life at the Alma Community Centre.

That’s where family and friends gathered to share stories from Eastep’s life.

He was passionate about hiking and had previously trekked through B.C., the Yukon, Cape Breton Island, Algonquin Park and Norway.

“Rick was the guy that everyone could count on, he was the go-to guy,” says Grose. “He was a dependable guy and he really enjoyed life and he wanted to share that with everyone.”

Eastep’s family is also collecting money to purchase satellite-based tracking equipment which could be worn by hikers when they’re on the trails. The hope is that if any of them ended up lost, the equipment would help search teams track them down.

Donations can be sent to The Friends of Algonquin Park. The address is Box 248, Whitney, ON, K0J 2M0 (Charity BN/Registration #11923 4060 RR0001).