TAKE A HIKE?…. The official line on South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R) whereabouts is that he went hiking on the Appalachian Trail. The number of people who accept the official line at face value appears to be small. (Updated below: he actually left the country)

Late yesterday, CNN reported the vehicle Sanford drove off in last week turned up at an airport near the state capital.

The black Chevy Suburban believed to have been used by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford to leave town has been found in the parking lot of Columbia Metropolitan Airport. […]

The SUV is outfitted with blue police lights and two-way radio…. A parking permit for the school attended by Sanford’s children is visible on the windshield.

Complicating matters, the local NBC affiliate reports that Sanford was seen boarding a plane in Atlanta.

Sources told [News 4’s Nigel Robertson] that a federal agent spotted Sanford in the [Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta] boarding a plane. Robertson was told that the governor was not accompanied by security detail. […]

[S]ources told WYFF News 4 that the federal agent who spotted Sanford saw him at the Atlanta airport, which is about 80 miles from the start of the trail.

WYFF News 4 has not yet confirmed where the plane was going or how the governor got to the airport, but it is clear there are two very different stories.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily prove anything. The local affiliate is the only outlet with these details, which haven’t been confirmed elsewhere. It’s possible Sanford from South Carolina to Atlanta, and then flew again from Atlanta to somewhere he could go hiking, but it seems like a strange way of going about doing things, especially in light of the other details.

As for Sanford’s family, the governor was away from his wife and kids for Father’s Day, and yesterday, after his aides told reporters Sanford was returning to his duties, Jenny Sanford said she still hadn’t spoken to her husband. In talking to CNN, she added, “I am being a mom today. I have not heard from my husband. I am taking care of my children.”

As for the governor’s allies, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) didn’t appear anxious to vouch for Sanford’s character during a Fox News interview yesterday.

Stay tuned.

Update: This morning, Sanford returned to the United States, explaining that he wasn’t actully hiking, but rather, was in South America. He claims he was alone, driving around Buenos Aires since Thursday. When asked why his staff said he was on the Appalachian Trail, Sanford replied, “I don’t know.”

Second Update: Any chance state lawmakers, who don’t care for Sanford anyway, may hold hearings and/or consider impeachment?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.