A heart-tugging tale in this morning’s Mercury News recounts how an Australian named Grant Tischler hiked to the place where a plane crash killed his father 55 years ago Wednesday.

Wednesday morning, Tischler arrived early at the trail head for a trek he hoped would lead not only to his father’s resting place, but to some emotional resolution for a life tormented by secrets and suspicions. He had come from Australia just for this hike, and was joined by Christopher O’Donnell, an Australian-born aviation buff from Half Moon Bay who has waged a tireless campaign to place a granite memorial at the crash site. For decades, aviation sleuths and the occasional hiker have come here to pick through the debris of San Mateo County’s worst aviation accident ever. One of its passengers was the renowned American pianist William Kapell, who was returning from a concert tour of Australia.

The site is along the Resolution Trail in El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve. The plane, a DC-6 called the Resolution, was on its way to San Francisco International Airport when it slammed into the hillside. I’ve hiked to the site once (see “A Moist Walk to Tafoni Monolith“) but haven’t returned: I’m content to leave the park to the throngs of mountain bikers who show up on weekends.

The Merc story recounts how Tischler was the love child of an Australian Navy sailor and Tischler’s mom. They had a fling in ’43 and when she “got in trouble,” as they say, her family put the kibosh on her marrying the sailor. Five years later she married another guy who adopted Tischler as his own.

In a video accompanying the story, Tischler tells how he was haunted by nightmares of falling through space until he found out who his real dad was, and how he perished. After that, the dreams went way.

How’s that for a Halloween ghost story? (Here’s mine: as I was hiking to the crash site on a fogged-in Sunday morning, a plane on final approach flew right overhead. Yeah, you could see how it could happen).

I’ve always thought it’s kinda cool to find wreckage in the backwoods, but it’s uncanny how sobering it is to see even the tiniest bit of twisted fuselage. Grim reminders of people like us who met a terrible end.

More on the doomed plane at FlightoftheResolution.org

(Speaking of crash sites, Calipidder visited one in the Sierra awhile back).