Not everybody agrees with Fuller's approach. Many wreck chasers see no reason why they shouldn't grab an interesting piece of hardware from a site. Fuller says even the archaeological community has been slow to recognize the historical significance of crash sites, although the U.S. National Park Service has issued guidelines about respecting those on public land.
As we start to edge down the steep slope, one by one, Fuller lingers in a small clearing next to the wreck, taking it all in—the summer afternoon, the mountains, the plane—one last time. The rest of us are beat, but he seems reluctant to leave. "These sites are more than just spare parts on a mountainside," he says later. "They're part of our history. I hesitate to use the word sacred, but they're something close to that. I guess the feeling I have for them is reverence.