Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Ric Capucho » Tue May 10, 2016 8:23 am

Hi Richard,

Yes it's very strange he'd leave 9 bottles in the coolbox in his car, and take only the two.

However, whether for LH or Quail or both, he took only two small bottles. There we can now all agree. Now *that* is a very different scenario to the various theories we've all put on the table over the years. There are pros and cons to the "senior moment" theory, and for now I'm sitting in between.

One thought: he bought only twenty four 12oz (350ml) bottles the evening before he started on a very tightly packed nine day hiking schedule, according to his original itinerary. He left 13 bottles in the apartment and brought 11 with him in the coolbox, and just two were taken with him. So were the 11 bottles for the day? Or were they for the next few days? And why 11 bottles? Why not 12 or 10 or whatever? Funny number, to my mind.

I'm a 2 litre guy (about six of those 12oz bottles), but only you hot desert hikers can tell me if 4 litres is the done thing. Eleven 12oz bottles = 3,850ml. What's the done thing? 2 litres? 3 litres? 4 litres? Is eleven far too much for one day, so intended as a cache for 2-3 days? And if it was all intended for the first day, then why on earth didn't he notice the extra spring in his step because he didn't have an extra 3-4kg lump of water in his backpack?

Ric Capucho
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby AZeagle » Tue May 10, 2016 1:50 pm

Great trip report, Adam.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Myth » Wed May 11, 2016 9:17 am

That is some very interesting additional information.

I haven't thought about this in a while, but I think over the summer I will sit down and go through the case information from scratch, with this additional bit of information mixed in there.

This is interesting to me for two reasons. One reason - Bill not having a lot of water with him* changes a lot of assumptions, as others noticed.

The other is that this bit of information actually dovetails fantastically with a little theory I've been kicking around in my head last year, after a chance discovery on Google satellite view. As soon as I have some time to sit down and work on this ( won't be this month, for sure ) I'm going to develop that theory a little bit further and if it still sounds less than nuts, I'll head out to try it out - maybe I'll wait for the weather to cool, or maybe I'll go in summer. I have plans to be in JTNP in June, nuts as that may sound. Before I discarded this theory as unlikely because Bill had a good bit of water, now I think it is in play.

Something to think about: when experienced people get into trouble in the backcountry ( and it happens ) it is usually because of a series of tiny errors or decisions that seemed benign at the time, but compounded into a mess. So I still lean towards thinking that just because it seems unlikely that Bill, an experienced hiker, would have gotten lost on this hike, doesn't mean it didn't happen. And if it did happen, it probably happened because of a series of events leading to a very unexpected outcome, which is why he isn't where one expects him to be after thinking through the available facts logically.

*Well, probably not having a lot of water with him. He might have had another container that he didn't purchase on the trip, eg. maybe he had some nalgene bottles he brought with him and filled at the condo before leaving, and the flat of water he bought was meant as a supplement and to have nice and cold in the car on his return? Or maybe there is something in the case information that rules this out. I haven't read about it in so long.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby AZeagle » Wed May 11, 2016 11:08 am

Thoughts from rereading the narrative:

- The JT38/82 area is largely excluded from the primary search area. There's only one mention of searching outside the box and it's for areas east of the parking lot.
- There are only helicopter tracks for this area with 5-6 passes. There are no foot or horse tracks.
- The helicopters flew every day from Saturday 6/26 to Thursday 7/1. There are only 2 days of helicopter tracks on the map - 6/30 and 7/1. These were based on GPS logs from Steve Mazur.
- There's an itinerary that states "Thursday - Thousand Palms, J.T. all day, Lost Horse Mountain". Is it weird that his condo is on the itinerary for Thursday but not Friday? Either way "all day" means he had a lot of activity planned.

In his homestead pictures he is always wearing a watch and cell phone belt clip. The one hiking picture shows a backpack, cargo shorts, potentially a waist pack, etc. I think the water in the car was for refilling his nalgenes after Lost Horse Mountain. I think he got 500ml bottles because a larger gallon wouldn't fit in the cooler to stay cold.

Cell phone thoughts:
- If you're in this valley, especially the western half, you are at low elevation (3600') with lots of mountains (4200'-4600') blocking your beeline to Serin. From that area, if you reflect of mountains to the east or southeast, you can measure 10.6 miles (or less).
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby WillyDinSD » Thu May 12, 2016 1:28 pm

Hello all. Recently found this board, but I've followed the Ewasko story for a few years over on Tom's site,

Just thought I'd throw in my two cents. As I read it, the current working theory is Bill had only two 12 oz. bottles of water when he set off from JF lot. I really doubt that is the case for a couple of reasons: 1) It is patently just too stupid a thing to do; a cub scout would know to take more water than that, and Bill was recon. 2) The new data from Tom's 5/6/16 clarification post vis-à-vis Bill's purchase of a large container of V8.

I think the bottle Tom found on JT42 is indeed that V8 bottle. When it was found it had no wrapper so it's hard to say for certain, but it may be possible to confirm if there were bottling markings on the plastic container. I also wonder if the bottle was ever dusted for prints, swabbed for DNA, and who is in possession of it now. I know Tom thinks it is an apple juice container, and it could be, but it looks exactly like the bottle of V8 below, right down to the white lip. And the purchased bottle of V8 was not found in the condo. I agree it would be odd for anyone to take V8 on hike. But what if Bill realized he didn't have/forgot a Nalgene and drank some/all of it the night he bought it, washed it out, refilled it with water, stuck it in the freezer(?), and took it with him the next morning? I've done exactly that with a plastic liter bottle of water. It's certainly plausible, and would explain A LOT. If that's the case, he had 88 fluid ounces of water. That's 2.6 liters, or .68 gallons. Not a lot, but enough for the half-day hike he set out on.

Adam, Tom, and/or Myth, I'm in San Diego and would love to explore the SWC area to get my bearings and help with the search. If any of you are going to back to JT in the next few weekends before it gets way too hot and want/need a hiking partner, please let me know.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Fri May 13, 2016 10:49 am

The JT42 bottle certainly has a resemblance to a V8 bottle. It also has a resemblance to apple juice bottles. The apple juice bottles also have white caps that match the JT42 picture. V8 has a red cap.



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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Ric Capucho » Fri May 13, 2016 11:40 am

Ok, everyone's suddenly put two and two together on the JT42 64oz bottle. Maybe it equals four, maybe not.

If it helps, here's what I found when I went into a google frenzy sometime last year, and then again when I saw Tom's clarification (with regards to the Vons supermarket) post:

1. The 64oz V8 bottle photo on the post previous comes from (I think) a Canadian Campbells website, where for what ever reason the V8 bottle shape is very different from those sold in the US.

2. That shape bottle seems to be a generic Amcor P2361 design, that's often used by smaller scale businesses in the US. I've found examples with momma and pop store apple juice, orange juice, you name it.

3. I never found online V8 sold in the US in the past packaged in that bottle.

4. Trader Joes have their own V8 own brand equivalent called Garden Patch that comes in exactly the same 64oz bottle shape. However, I don't believe you can buy a Trader Joes V8 equivalent in Vons.

5. There are some smaller bottle of approximately the same shape and design as the 64oz bottle that look very similar on internet photos, and we have a couple of examples on the last post. The trick is to look at the ratio of bottle to bottle top, and then it suddenly becomes easier to see.

6. The ribbed sides of the bottle that Tom found may be underneath the (for example) the V8 (if the same bottle *is* available in SoCal) or Trader Joes label, or it may not. Maybe someone can buy such a 64oz bottle, peel off the label, confirm or deny, then pour the horrible contents down the sink. :-)

7. I'm a Brit living in Switzerland, so an American in SoCal may be able to walk into a Vons (Safeway) store, lay his or hand on a V8 bottle of that exact shape, size and design and prove me wrong. Please do!

Hope that helps.

Ric Capucho
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Hikin_Jim » Fri May 13, 2016 12:08 pm

Hmm. I have a sudden urge to go shopping.

That is an unusually large bottle of V8, but perhaps. Are we sure it was an actual Vons supermarket or was it just the Vons company? The reason I ask is that Vons also owns Pavilions (or did last I heard) which is a bit more upscale market. Pavilions stocks things that an actual Vons supermarket -- even though both are owned by the Vons company (or whoever own's Vons).

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby OtherHand » Fri May 13, 2016 3:19 pm

I thought I'd jump in with all the bottle talk.

The bottle I found, which I left at the site, had extremely pronounced inset panels around the circumference. The pdf spec sheet that Ric Capucho found appears to be an exact match to the bottle.

I made quite a few visits to large grocery stores scanning the aisles for bottles that matched. Not just the juices (which would have included V8s), but also sports drinks. In all of my grocery scouting trips I never came across anything that remotely matched the bottle. It's extremely distinctive. My suspicion is that it's a lot older than it appears and represents some packaging that's no longer used.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby AZeagle » Fri May 13, 2016 5:36 pm

I might have something bordering on a legitimate contribution.

That's my son's apple juice. It's 128oz, wider but the contours seem right. It's a bottom shelf apple juice sold in Albertson's and Safeway. I can get a 64oz to be sure.
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