Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby adamghost » Mon May 16, 2016 2:15 am

Report submitted, should be up on Tom's site in a day or two.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Mon May 16, 2016 10:44 am

Here's a couple questions that might clear things up a bit:

Is there a detailed radio log for the 25th and 26th? The written log only covers the 27th though July 1. It would be interesting to read more details about the search for the car.

Is it possible to get reception maps for other cell towers in the area, especially Verizon towers? This might suggest some areas as more likely for the ping location through a fuzzy and somewhat uncertain process of elimination. Even knowing the locations of the towers could help.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby adamghost » Mon May 16, 2016 12:53 pm

Those are great ideas Perry. I don't know myself.

Report's up, and looking over the search tracks relative to what's been done, on my end I think the next logical place to look is the foot of the mountains on the east side of Quail Wash in the same valley. There are spots that apparently haven't been looked at yet, and if Bill was walking out from Quail Wash, that's the most logical place for him to have gone for shade, as it's closest to the wash and doesn't require the detouring that the area I searched last week would have. Might be fun to enter that region up and over the hills from the JTNP boundary (which also isn't searched territory).

It's a nice little valley, don't mind going back.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Gerry » Mon May 16, 2016 8:49 pm

Kudos to Otherhand and Adam for continuing the search!

Report's up, and looking over the search tracks relative to what's been done, on my end I think the next logical place to look is the foot of the mountains on the east side of Quail Wash in the same valley. There are spots that apparently haven't been looked at yet, and if Bill was walking out from Quail Wash, that's the most logical place for him to have gone for shade, as it's closest to the wash and doesn't require the detouring that the area I searched last week would have. Might be fun to enter that region up and over the hills from the JTNP boundary (which also isn't searched territory).


Adam,

That's exactly where I was going to suggest to look next in pursuing the Quail Wash theory.

As you've probably already thought through, if Bill is travelling north through the wash after pinging the tower, then it is still early morning (7am) and the sun will be rising in the east. As the sun continues to rise, to get shade, Bill would have to shelter on the western side of something. That would be easiest to accomplish by moving east off the trail and sheltering on the west side of a rock pile or cliff face. However, a position that is in the shade at 9am would not be in the shade at 1pm, when the sun is overhead, or 6pm, when the sun is in the west. Thus to remain in the shade, which has probably become an issue of survival, Bill might have changed positions one or more times, while not leaving a small area. Late in the day, he would be sheltering on the east side of something, or under something, to stay out of the sun in the west. As a result, he might have ended up in an unexpected location in one of the side canyons on the east side of the wash, and the location might not be visible to people moving north-south in the wash.

The timing of the ping has always given me heartburn. My first guess is that Bill was probably not moving after Thursday night, and ping is tied to some other scenario, like animal activity. If Bill did cause the ping from Quail Wash, my guess is that he climbed either to Johnny Lang Mine or Quail Mountain, suffered a fall and received a concussion, and was immobile from Thursday to Saturday night. I had a concussion when I was young and the 2 primary effects were that I was stuck in bed for 2 or 3 days before I could walk around, and memory loss, including loss of memory from before I received the concussion.

So assume Bill is concussed Thursday at one of those two locations. While he knows that he is in Joshua Tree, he might not be able to remember his actual location in the park, the close proximity of the park road, or the location of his car. He doesn't feel able to move until Saturday evening. What does he do? Saturday evening, he heads for the lights on the northern park boundary. He heads down Johnny Lang Canyon in the dark (the sketchiest part of this theory), passes through the ping area at 6:40am, and proceeds up the wash. At some point, the combined effects of the concussion and dehydration force him to find shelter on the east side of the wash.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby AZeagle » Tue May 17, 2016 12:51 am

I agree with Gerry that the amount of lapsed time is the hardest part to accept. I am settling on the idea that Bill was fully mobile on Sunday morning. I like Tom's approach into SWC. I think he got into trouble on Thursday with daylight and played it really safe from there with limited movement to avoid the sun. By Saturday night he was definitely on the move, either toward a high spot for cell coverage or and area that coincidentally had slight coverage, such as Quail wash.

One of the reasons I can find to explain his not returning to the car without being injured is along the line of thinking for JT61, JT74. I think Bill looked at https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/upload/jotrmap.pdf and saw ~8 miles to the car in the hot sun with limited water, or ~2 miles to the only marking west of Juniper Flats lot, which is the back country board at the end of UCF road. I can see him waiting even two days there on the hope of a visitor. On the third night, he'd be moving again, and from that spot I only see him going back to his car, while maybe trying the heights Adam covered for cell signal.

In my last read of the narrative I found this line I had overlooked: "Possible clues for 6/28/10: The Upper Covington Flats search team smelled the "stench of death" at UTM coordinates 056700/376250." I finally figured out how to convert those, here's the location. Not sure if this was ever checked out.
https://goo.gl/maps/4YZ1VodEUGD2
http://imgur.com/DdW4wlK

edit: It took a while to find but JT39 passed this spot. Tom's comments don't mention anything about the odor, so I'm not sure if he was aware when searching.
http://www.otherhand.org/wp-content/upl ... tracks.jpg
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby adamghost » Tue May 17, 2016 6:49 pm

Really interesting thinking here guys. I'm going to mull it over.

BTW, I want to stress that I do think Tom's acacia theory is totally plausible, just all things being equal I think Quail Wash is the most probable ping spot just looking at things topographically and technically. It has problems, though, and that might mean I think it's a 20% probability which leaves 80% for "anyplace else". It doesn't mean I'm wedded to that idea (and I also have not totally abandoned my feeling that he may not be there at all). But having been both to the north side of SWC near the acacia grove and around the Covington trailheads, even though there are unsearched areas around there, visualizing in my head it's hard for me to get that excited to search them. You look at a map and go "hey no one's looked here" and then you get there and look at the area go "I just have a hard time believing anyone is going to choose to go in there." So it's harder to work up enthusiasm or belief in it. Doesn't mean it's impossible, though.

Those rocky areas around QW are comparatively easy to get to and also a relatively pleasant environment, plus it's the least convoluted theory for what happened to Bill, so I'm definitely up for poking around there first.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby WillyDinSD » Wed May 18, 2016 3:03 pm

My best guess is he'll be found on the north side of SWC. I know Tom has only recently, and almost reluctantly, entertained the idea of Bill being on the North side, but I've liked the idea for several months. Mostly because of the truism that a lost/missing person will be found somewhere you haven't looked before, and nearly the entire north side of SWC is devoid of GPS tracks. That hole in coverage keeps staring back at me when I ponder these things. Adam, I can even offer you a scenario where Bill is up there, but didn't climb up there himself and it doesn't involve foul play or aliens.

What do you think killed the 17, or so, mature big horn sheep in the immediate vicinity of SWC***? Hint: It isn't the respiratory illness that's only recently infected a few animals in the park (~Nov. 2015). What is the ONLY predator in the park that could take down a mature big horn ram? Could it be that rather large (the paw print was ~4.5" wide!!!) mountain lion in SWC who's print was found in JT27.

Mountain lions, especially a female nursing cubs, need water almost every day. Every day. SWC is one of the few places in the park where it's reliably available. Mountain lions are also very territorial. As proven by the carcasses, there's obviously a confluence of apex predators, water, and large prey in SWC . Do you think a large mountain lion, possibly with cubs, would pass on an easy prey item like an injured/maimed/wandering hiker? Mountain lions routinely move/hide the prey they've fallen after consuming ~20-30lbs, and will return for several days to consume more until the prey has been completely consumed or it has gone rotten. They will move the carcass up to 100 yards each time they return. Mountain lions, like all cats, prefer having a high vantage point, especially when they are vulnerably distracted whilst eating, so they'd drag prey uphill. Only Tom will know for certain, but I doubt (m)any of the fallen big horn sheep were found at the bottom of the canyon.

It isn't a pleasant one, but there is a plausible scenario for Bill being on the north side of SWC.

*** See (# in parenthesis indicates # of big horn sheep carcasses observed) : JT26(1), 32(1), 42(1), 45(4), 55(1), 56(2), 58(2), 73(1), 75(1), and 77(4).

Edited for typos.
Last edited by WillyDinSD on Wed May 18, 2016 6:04 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Hikin_Jim » Wed May 18, 2016 3:50 pm

Hmm. Interesting theory.

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Wed May 18, 2016 10:05 pm

When you guys say "north" slopes of SWC, I assume this is the steep slopes on the northwest or west-northwest side along the entire length of SWC. The top of that mountain has cell reception with Serin tower shown on page 4 here:
http://www.otherhand.org/wp-content/upl ... ussion.pdf

It's possible that a little below the top there's enough reception to get a ping. As for theories of why, we could speculate wildly about all sorts of scenarios, but I think it's worth searching just because nobody has searched up there yet (I think), it's a little within the 10.6 mile radius, and there's cell reception at the top. It seems that a south-facing slope in this area would be less likely to ping other towers in Joshua Tree or 29 Palms. The south end might not ping a 29 Palms tower with Quail Mountain blocking the signal.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Myth » Thu May 19, 2016 10:54 am

I've passed by a handful of those bighorn carcasses, myself. As I recall, I saw a couple down on the canyon bottom in the western acacia forest, and they were mostly complete. ( Except for a use trail that forest is rather dense, no easy way to drag a carcass out onto the slopes. )

I also found an incomplete carcass ( mostly lower legs, as I recall ) a little further west, where there is a spooky little cave right down in the bottom of the canyon. And there's a couple more at the eastern mouth of Smith Water that I know of that is down on the canyon bottom, too.

That said, it is a thought worth keeping in mind whenever the "But I wouldn't go to that spot" argument pops into one's head.

Speaking more generally, because I've seen felled bighorn in other spots in the park too - typically, the scatter covered 50 or so yards at the most, as I recall? More often closer together for most of the remains. I often travel in or close to washes, and I've seen quite a few in washes. In fact, I don't recall seeing any on ridge lines ( ridge lines are often a good travel strategy, better than washes even, because washes can have boulders and dry waterfalls ).

Now ... partway up slopes ... that I could believe. But I usually don't travel there because side hill travel tends to suck a lot - only a good option if the wash is way worse and the ridge line is a cliff. So I can't recall seeing any bighorn remains on slopes.

In the fall of 2015 there was quite a bit of damage done to areas like the 58 east of Tehachapi, and closer to Lancaster, because of cloud bursts. Did that weather reach all the way to JTNP? I ask because it could have washed items down into SWC from above. Nobody's been down in SWC recently. Something like a backpack could have travelled a ways.
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