Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

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Thank You

Postby RichardK » Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:49 pm

I would like to pause this long thread to extend a big "THANK YOU!" to OtherHand. He has done yeoman's work in searching for Bill long after the authorities gave up. I know Bill's family appreciates his efforts and the hiking community does, too. I hope that none of our speculative comments has been taken as a criticism of his analysis. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's just a lot of online brainstorming.
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Postby OtherHand » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:38 pm

Perry wrote:Back to Earth here...is it possible that he was employed with NPS in 2010 but not in 2011 when you did your research?


That would be a reasonable interpretation.
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Re: Thank You

Postby OtherHand » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:46 pm

RichardK wrote:I would like to pause this long thread to extend a big "THANK YOU!" to OtherHand. He has done yeoman's work in searching for Bill long after the authorities gave up. I know Bill's family appreciates his efforts and the hiking community does, too. I hope that none of our speculative comments has been taken as a criticism of his analysis. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's just a lot of online brainstorming.


I value ideas from others. The whole point of this was to get other eyes to look at things and see if there are new ideas. Like a "reverse Smith Water" (Shudder!). And I need to guard against being too set on any one thing to the exclusion of alternate possibilities. Although I've certainly changed what I think are reasonable possibilities as some areas have been eliminated and newer cell data comes to light. I guess while there are many things possible, I want to focus on those that are probable. And my idea of what's probable has shifted with time.

I'm slowly coming around to aliens.....
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Postby Hikin_Jim » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:51 pm

Perry wrote:Back to Earth here...is it possible that he was employed with NPS in 2010 but not in 2011 when you did your research?
There is a God.

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Postby » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:42 pm

OtherHand wrote:I hadn't thought about a "reverse Smith Water" scenario before. Interesting. But for someone going to Smith Water the Juniper Flats trailhead is about as worst a starting point as you could pick. Damn long hike. It would be pretty late in the day by the time he would have got to Smith Water and the idea of then scaling the south slopes to get to Quail would seem pretty nuts. I suppose it would be possible to loop back to the Juniper Flat trailhead via Johnnie Lang Canyon but it would be an epic hike. I don't think Bill was an (intentionally) epic sort of guy. But if I ever run out of things to do, that could be....um...fun.


It would be long, but couldn't you say the same about Quail? He could have shortened that trek as well. Maybe avoiding dirt roads?
 
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Postby Myth » Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:25 am

Maybe Bill planned a big loop hike: trailhead to Quail to SWC to Samuelsons to trailhead with a water resupply at SWC - an ambitious hike for someone who did not start until after 10:20AM with temps in the upper 90's and who planned to finish by 5PM. Of course, the sun did not set until 8PM. Bill could have changed his plans on the fly and decided to leave the park later. After all, his original plan was apparently Carey's Castle and he changed that.

A very rough calculation shows that a loop through Smith Water and Lang Canyon from Juniper Flats would be in the range of 20 miles.

I mentioned my unintentionally long hike yesterday. I checked out the GPS track last night and it turns out that we turned south one wash too early, and the hike didn't just feel a bit longer than the ~9 miles we planned it to be! We ended up hiking just over 13 miles because we were so confident that this was the right route - the wash looked so nice to walk in! The wash also roughly parallels the one we aimed to take so the general bearing was fine. Next time I won't keep the view zoomed in quite as far on the GPS ... we were pretty relaxed about walking back out after we found the mine, since we had discussed before that walking south or southwest would get us out of the area, so we weren't too worried about getting lost and, as a result, took the wrong route. There might be a lesson in this tale ...

Our average speed for the whole hike, even with the scrambling, was about 3 miles per hour. We stopped a lot to check out interesting things, take pictures, speculate about some of the stuff we saw, and also paused a long time for lunch, so the total hike took around 7.5 hours. That's two people with a pair of hiking poles apiece. They help a lot with scrambling. Without poles, we would have scrambled a lot slower.

20 miles is right on the edge of how far I can hoof it in a day if the elevation change isn't too grim, but I'd be pretty grumpy and footsore at the end of it. If a lot of scrambling is involved ( I hear Smith Water Canyon has, hmmm, some interesting features ) I wouldn't make it the whole 20 in a typical day.

Still, I can see myself, if excited to be out somewhere ( Bill was said to have loved Joshua Tree ) committing to something unwisely epic like that. 3 miles per hour is a pretty average hiking speed. Bill, being a strong hiker, could have figured that he could knock off 20 miles even with his late start. He may have thought or known from prior experience that he'd get some reception in Quail Wash, so maybe he wouldn't have worried about alarming Mary since he figured he could still call around the time he said he would.

A route like that does not have a nice bail-out point. By the time you reach Smith Water, you'd be thinking "might as well go on now" plus, you'd need to go get more water so you have to go in anyway.

The big problem with this scenario is that it doesn't place Bill in a spot that a) haven't already been searched very well and b) does not receive a lot of hiking traffic. This route would mostly stay in the flatter areas, and that's where most casual hikers go.

I really find the theory that OtherHand has presented compelling, so I hold that as my most likely scenario.

At the same time, though, when I think of myself, I know that I would be standing in Juniper Flats staring up Queen mountain in 90 degree weather and think "Phew! It's so hot, I think I'd be happier with a longer, flatter walk."

My spouse expressed interest in an overnight hike in Joshua Tree - albeit in the Pinto Basin area! I'm going to try and morph that into an overnight trip in this area instead. I would like to set out from Juniper Flats, ascend towards Queen mountain, explore the back country up there in the fashion I mentioned before, where I'd travel with no plan other than to generally head for Smith Water so I can get a feel for how the terrain leads you, and finally travel towards the cell coverage area to thoroughly poke around up there before returning to Juniper Flats. If this is going to happen, it will happen in the middle half of February. Not this weekend ( Superbowl! ) and not the last weekend in February because that starts my two-week stint of being on-call 24/7 at work. So, one of the middle two weekends if it is to happen. We'll see. I'm not particularly looking forward to lugging two days' worth of water up the hill ...

Now to see about purchasing that PLB ( thank you for your suggestions, OtherHand! )
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Postby drndr » Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:36 am

OtherHands search area makes the most sense. Only draw back to that it has now been searched quite a bit. Foot and helicopter.

So just to throw out another area and idea. Say he heads out west on Juniper Flat Rd and never gets on the CRHT. Makes a wrong turn by stubbe springs turn off, wanders around, hurts himself, gets turned around heads westerly but stays south and gets into the area of Eureka Peak. Or at least its surroundings. There is a finger of cell reception there and within the 10.6 ping. It was searched but not much. And I think if he could reach SWC maybe he could have gotten that far. And he would have never had reception until he hit that finger almost due west of the mouth of SWC.

Promised myself to not go conspiracy theory again but since someone else brought up aliens ...... just for fun you can trace the "ping ring" all the way to Landers and Bill's last ping splits the Integratron and Giant Rock. Both have very interesting history tied to ET's. :wink:
"Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time"
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Re: Thank You

Postby Perry » Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:47 pm

OtherHand wrote:I'm slowly coming around to aliens.....

Funny! Maybe somebody drove to Landers with his phone, then turned it on and off quickly.

Here are some non-conspiracy explanations I came up with. Most of them are ridiculous, and a few are only slightly ridiculous.

--------------------

Bill falls into a mineshaft that is unknown to NPS employees, so his body is never found during extensive searching and there is no smell of death or vulture activity in the area, except from the bighorn sheep that recently died. Early Sunday morning, Bill turns on his cell phone, throws it as high as he can so it lands above ground, it registers a ping with the cell tower, and then the battery dies.

Or, the same could happen with a large crevice.

That's why 100 people don't find him, even with dogs and helicopters:
http://www.nps.gov/jotr/parknews/ewasko1.htm

And that's why Otherhand doesn't find him after 45 trips, even though he previously cracked a cold case in Death Valley.

---------------------

Ken and Helen are friends of a friend of Bill. Let's call Bill's friend "Bob," just for reference. Bob talks with Bill on the phone before his vacation and suggests meeting up with Ken and Helen, gives out their phone number, but he never tells Ken "Oh, by the way, I gave out your number to somebody that I think you should be friends with." Bill never calls them before the trip. Then when the rangers call Ken, that's why he doesn't know who Bill is.

Or, Bill signs up for some message board with an anonymous username like JThiker45 and meets Ken. They exchange phone numbers, but Bill never gives out his name, so Ken only knows him as JThiker45, but Bill knows Ken's name.

Or, Bill incorrectly copies Ken and Helen's number and gives it to his fiance. When the rangers call the number, somebody different answers, and by pure coincidence his name happens to be Ken because apparently he never said, "My name's not Ken."

Or, Ken denies knowing Bill when the rangers call because he doesn't want to be involved in whatever is going on. This is the only realistic explanation I can think of.

-----------------------

The ranger couldn't see the white car because he has vision problems, so he retires in 2010 or switches to an office job and is no longer employed with NPS in 2011 when Otherhand looked up NPS employees.

--------------------------

After Bill's death in 2010, his business partners decide to close the business or just stop updating the web site. However, they have paid enough to the web hosting company to keep it online for several years:
http://www.theprofitdrivers.com/about-ams/bill-ewasko/

Bill's friends and family never complain about his photo and contact information remaining on the web site. However, they put up this web site because they were very close to him and very sad:
http://billewasko.homestead.com/index.html

If the business (AMS) is still going, the owners don't mind that they are losing business because potential clients are leaving voicemails with somebody who is not returning their calls or emails. And they don't mind that it makes a bad impression on people to talk about 2010 as a new business year when it's 2013.

If the business is closed, the owners don't mind receiving phone calls or they changed their numbers and emails. This is somewhat reasonable but doesn't explain why Bill's contact info is still online.

---------------------------------

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Re: Thank You

Postby OtherHand » Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:05 pm

Perry wrote:Funny! Maybe somebody drove to Landers with his phone, then turned it on and off quickly.

The Integratron hold all answers.

Perry wrote:Bill falls into a mineshaft that is unknown to NPS employees, so his body is never found during extensive searching and there is no smell of death or vulture activity in the area, except from the bighorn sheep that recently died. Early Sunday morning, Bill turns on his cell phone, throws it as high as he can so it lands above ground, it registers a ping with the cell tower, and then the battery dies.

Or, the same could happen with a large crevice.


The park has a really good handle on where the mines are, even the minor prospects. Remember they got a lot of their info from Bill Keys who lived and mined in the area for many years. The only shafts are around Johnny Lang and there was one old mine near Lower Covington, which I don't think is accessible any longer. But a crevice or some other hole in the ground is possible, in fact maybe even a probability. It would explain why he hasn't been spotted. But I don't think the idea of him tossing the cell phone up is plausible (not to say I hadn't considered it).

Perry wrote:Ken and Helen are friends of a friend of Bill. Let's call Bill's friend "Bob," just for reference. Bob talks with Bill on the phone before his vacation and suggests meeting up with Ken and Helen, gives out their phone number, but he never tells Ken "Oh, by the way, I gave out your number to somebody that I think you should be friends with." Bill never calls them before the trip. Then when the rangers call Ken, that's why he doesn't know who Bill is.


I'm not sure where I got this from but I recall being told that Bill was either a participant or lurker in some online hiking forums for the general area and he used that info for ideas. My guess, and it's just a guess, that the names and phone numbers could have come from there or something similar. Or, as you said, a friend of a friend. I don't know how closely Riverside Sheriff's Office followed up on it. I'd guess there's a police report somewhere with info on who exactly Ken and Helen are.

Perry wrote:The ranger couldn't see the white car because he has vision problems, so he retires in 2010 or switches to an office job and is no longer employed with NPS in 2011 when Otherhand looked up NPS employees.


Or fired.

As for Bill's contact information, don't you know that once it's on the Innerwebz, it NEVER goes away???!
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Bill

Postby RichardK » Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:46 pm

It is self-evident that Bill did not return to his vehicle Thursday night because of some misfortune in the backcountry. The universal assumption is that he suffered a leg injury. But, could it have been a head injury instead? What if Bill struck his head on a rock and got a concussion?

I once had a concussion when thrown by a horse. There is about 1 hour that I have no memory of. One second I was on the horse. The next second I was sitting in someone's living room. People told me that I walked and talked and washed my hands in the bathroom. I remember none of that. I was running on auto pilot.

What if Bill had a concussion? What might happen then?

Indeed, just how did a presumably injured Bill get himself into a location so rugged and remote that the huge amount of searching that has been done so far has not found him?
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