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Photographer lost 'entire life' in truck theft outside El Cajon theater

Posted at 4:58 PM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-02 08:58:56-04

EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) - A freelance photographer who had just recently finished a five-month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail says he lost his most prized possessions during a trip to the movies.

Remarkably, the photos seen in media outlets across the country, were among his first as a bona fide freelance photographer.

James Townsend, who lived in Maryland, attended the pro-Trump rally that day.

“Started pretty chill and then became the January 6 Capitol riots,” said Townsend.

Months later, in May, Townsend was in Campo, starting a journey to fulfill a lifelong dream: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, from Campo to Canada.

About 400 miles in, he met fellow hiker and current girlfriend Maria, Together, they hiked, while Townsend took photos, thousands of them.

“Took tons and tons a lot of landscape photo and wildlife photos, but definitely was focusing a lot on the people I met on the trail,” said Townsend.

They finished in early October, but Maria circled back to complete the stretch from Big Bear to Campo, which she hadn't completed.

Last week, on a rainy night before her final day of hiking, they found themselves at Parkway Plaza in El Cajon.

“We decided just to come off, and go and get a hot meal and see a movie together,” said Townsend.

When they got out of the movie, they couldn’t find Townsend’s truck, which he had been living out of.

“My heart just dropped, because it's my entire my life in there,” said Townsend.

Townsend's red 2009 Ford Ranger with a white camper shell, has been stolen.

Inside was all of their camping equipment, along with his new photography equipment. He got bad news from his insurance company.

“They made it pretty clear, that wouldn’t even cover a fraction of what was lost,” said Townsend.

Perhaps the most painful loss: his hard drives, which contained all the photos from his hike. He hadn’t gotten around to backing them up.

“Was really hoping to further build my portfolio to bring to professional clients … to build a career I've been dreaming of,” said Townsend.

A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help the hikers replace their stolen equipment.

Anyone with information on the theft is asked to call El Cajon Police at 619-579-3311.