Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Southern California and far-away places. Hiking, wildlife, cycling etc.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby OtherHand » Thu Mar 22, 2018 8:55 am

Here's a rather thoughtful and well written story in the NY Times Magazine about the Ewasko search. It does lean a little dramatic though, painting Joshua Tree to be a bit more ominous than it really is, with dark, brooding pictures. Also, I don't think the picture that's captioned to be Smith Water looks like any place I've ever seen in that canyon. I suspect the photographer just took a shot closer to the road and called it a day. Although his picture of the Serin Drive cell tower looks to be the real thing (I, myself, have never been up there but have studied it on Google Earth)
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Thu Mar 22, 2018 10:31 am

That is a nice story. Thank you for posting the reference.

I thought that the accuracy of the cell ping was fairly well established at 10.6 miles with an error of 10%. That figure could mean +/- 5% or +/- 10%. Either way, it tells us Bill's distance from the tower at a specific day and time, more or less.

Then, there is this quote which makes it sound like the ping distance could be nothing but garbage.

His goal was to learn if the ping’s suggested 10.6-mile radius could have been accurate. After performing signal tests throughout Covington Flats, however, Melson found that his numerous attempts to mark a specific distance from the Verizon tower revealed sizable margins of error. According to Melson’s measurements, Ewasko’s phone could have been anywhere from a quarter-mile farther away to very nearly at the base of the tower itself, if you factored in reflections off mountains and rocks. The 10.6 miles turned out to be merely a rough guide — a diffuse zone rather than a hard limit around which any future searches should be organized.

Melson also cautioned me that the original 10.6-mile number cannot, in fact, be verified. This turned out to be correct. A spokesman for the Riverside Sheriff’s Department told me that the original cell data no longer exists. What’s more, the 10.6-mile number apparently came from a single technician. In other words, this hugely influential data point, one that has now come to dominate the search for Bill Ewasko, could, in the end, have been nothing but a clerical error.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby OtherHand » Thu Mar 22, 2018 11:58 am

Melson sent me a lot of his data after he did his testing near the Lower Covington Flat area. My recollection, without pulling it all back up, was that most of his measurements were very close to actual, and the worst being maybe 0.2 miles (from my memory) off. Given the original accuracy assessment of "within 10%" I always assumed a range of +/- 0.5 miles.

The story is correct about the 10.6 mile measurement coming from a single tech or engineer. But there were several instances of the person being contacted, initially he provided it for the search, but later responded to an RSO deputy when I was asking questions about its accuracy. The tech/engineer's name was listed among the business cards included in the FOIA dump I got from JTNP and I tried to email him but never received a response.

That's not to say other areas were ignored. Initially the 10.6 mile distance seemed so bizarre we only looked at areas between Juniper Flats and Quail Mountain, some of which had no cell coverage. After that, the focus was on areas that had cell coverage from a splash map, distance being irrelevant. Hell, I even covered one blob of cell coverage that was at least 20 miles from the Serin tower. It was only after these "more reasonable" locations were checked out that the thinking began to swing toward Smith Water.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby bretpct » Thu Mar 22, 2018 6:52 pm

Wow! The New York f'ing Times! Congrats Tom, Adam, et al. Nice to see all your hard work getting recognized.

I think I may be heading out to JTNP this weekend for a search of an area that's always given me a bit of an itch, that I've just always thought is impossible for Bill to have reached. I just want to cross it off my map.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Ric Capucho » Sat Mar 24, 2018 2:45 am

Well written, indeed.

Just when I had given up on journalistic practices, someone goes and writes a piece like that. I read it twice and found nothing significantly wrong.

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby sh44 » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:35 pm

Longtime lurker, first time poster. Thanks for all the time and effort put into this search. Hope something comes up eventually! If anyone ever needs another set of eyes or person to help with the search when they go to Joshua Tree, let me know and I'd be more than glad to help. Serious runner and hike a lot in the San Jacinto's. Good luck!!! Hard to believe it's been almost 8 years
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Sun Apr 08, 2018 2:08 pm

Search JT89 is posted here
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby sh44 » Wed Apr 11, 2018 3:28 pm

I ended up doing some brief searching this past weekend (Sat & Sun) for about 4 hours each day. (would like to have done more, but was limited). Temperature was in the low-mid 80s both days and pretty windy. Unfortunately, most of my time was spent hiking to and from the areas that I wanted to explore (both SWC and Quail Mtn. area). Next time, I plan to start earlier and aim for a full day.

Day 1 (Saturday): I started from Park Road and somewhat followed the 10.6 mile radius initially, then headed towards Samuelson's rock/Quail Springs, towards the mouth of Smith Water Canyon, did a little bit of exploring there, and then made my way back to Park Road the opposite way.

Day 2 (Sunday): I started at the Juniper Flats Parking lot, took the Juniper Flat Road, to Juniper Flats, and walked around the base of Quail mountain/area to the west, and then took back Stubbe Springs? Trail to the Juniper Flats Parking lot.

In terms of findings, nothing that I think was significant. A few animal bones here and there. Also, I did find a blue towel near the base of Quail Mtn, but my feeling was that it had been something rather recent. The color of the towel was not very faded and it seemed to be in good condition.

On my Day 2 trek, I personally consumed about 3L of water over about 12 miles. I just find it crazy that Bill would have only take 2 smaller water bottles with him on a hot day in June assuming he did the amount of hiking/walking he did.

I personally would like to really explore the area to the West and North of Quail mountain a lot more, but I feel it's going to require some more time. In one of the pictures, I thought I had seen something that looked to be the shape of a fire extinguisher?, when I was west of Quail Mtn., but when I had hiked back down the mountain, could not find anything.

Planning to try to visit a few more times and as of now, am going to be taking the 10.6 mile ping with a bit less credence. If I could use one word to describe this place, it would be vast. There are just so many places it seems where he could end up. I find it hard to believe any of the conspiracy theories after seeing all the different rocks, boulders, crevices, bushes, ravines, and canyons that someone could end up in...

Lastly, I find it very possible to believe Tom's theory about the injury. Obviously the location is up for grabs/where it may have occurred, but the area where I briefly covered just west of Quail Mountain had a million places where someone could take an accident slip/fall/trip/etc. and definitely be injured to the point, where they could required some help.

Saturday trip to mouth of Smith Water Canyon area
Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.21.48 AM.png

Sunday trip to Juniper Flats/base of Quail Mtn. area
Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.20.44 AM.png

Another animal bone, this time near Juniper Flats I think.
orig.JPG

I thought I had seen what looked to be a shape of a fire extinguisher from the top near Quail Mtn., but could not find anything on the way down.
IMG_1350.JPG

Towel found near base of Quail Mtn. area
IMG_1355.JPG

Bone (animal) near mouth of Smith Water Canyon (East Side)
IMG_1307.JPG

Bone (animal) near mouth of Smith Water Canyon (East Side)
IMG_1306.JPG
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby bretpct » Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:02 pm

That blue towel looks deliberately tied there, like a trail marker. Did you happen to grab the GPS coordinate when you found it? Seems like it might be close to where a bandana was found during the search for Bill. I don't think I ever read anywhere if the bandana was found tied to a branch or dropped on the ground, but they certainly would imply different things.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby sh44 » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:37 am

Hey Bret,

coordinates for blue towel: 33.99791, -116.23885

Hope that helps!

I just checked Tom's website for the location of the bandana and found this:

"Three man team sent to Quail Mountain. Found red bandanna at base of SE face of Quail Mountain, near the NW edge of Juniper Flats. UTM 7033/6214 (33.99750, -116.23845) "

So I guess someone placed that blue towel there as a marker to know where the red bandana was found? At least we know..

Still think there's at least a clue to be found of where Bill is in the area I circled here. I know a lot of it has been searched, but something's gotta come up eventually.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.22.52 AM.png
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