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 Perry » Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:23 pm

Here are some zoomed-in photos that I took with a different camera than last time. The image quality is disappointing, but the image stabilization worked surprisingly well in windy conditions. These have nothing to do with Fuller Ridge. There's just some strange server issues with file permissions, and this folder is what works. This camera, a Sony Handycam, zooms in ~3X more than the other and is the lightest camera I've ever owned.

Fuller_Ridge/hills_at_radius_east_side.zip (about 35MB)

Fuller_Ridge/Quail_Mountain_northwest_side.zip (about 75 MB)
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Myth » Mon Jun 18, 2018 10:27 am

I have a 500mm telephoto that I could schlepp out there, along with a tripod, a lightweight chair, and maybe an umbrella, if it is summer! I know OtherHand did a very interesting experiment with drone coverage and the like to try and determine how feasible it is to use photography to search for things like remains ( http://www.otherhand.org/home-page/dron ... and-bones/ ) and I'm tempted to give this a try in the cooler season. I have been more of a boots on the ground searcher to date ( and completely out of commission with a leg injury of late, though I am close to recovery now ).

I also know someone who owns a fairly inexpensive telescope. If I can find a mule to carry all that glass for me, that could be another option! But optical devices get heavier the sharper they are as far as zoom goes.

I carry a monocular with me when I'm just walking about, but it is a pretty inexpensive one, so it won't be much use for something like this.

I think a good experiment would be to do something similar to what OtherHand did, maybe with a shape with a little less contrast, or a variety of shapes, and actually go place an object on the slope and then give spotting it a try from the proper vantage point. That experiment would take some hours to set up, but it could yield useful field results. I'll call in a favor with my usual partner in crime for these kinds of adventures once the weather cools off a bit.

It is funny how I never seem to get lucky with the coordination of insanely busy times at work and the weather needed to be in the desert. Sigh. Any ability to be out regularly that my blog might suggest is actually the result of bursts of activity followed by sparse time to actually write things up and post them!
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby AZeagle » Tue Jun 19, 2018 5:57 pm

You guys are amazing. Perry, that map is phenomenal.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby adamghost » Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:43 am

Ric Capucho wrote:Actually, it was my reading of Adam's epic blog post that reminded me to re-read the materials on Tom's Website that relate to the car.

1. The calls and pings recorded prior to Bill entering the park are consistent with a clockwise journey from Rancho Mirage, west along the I-10 around 8am, (and then presumably) north and past Big Morongo, east and past Yucca Valley along HW-62, and entering the park at the West Entrance Station (W2) at sometime before 9am. The lost one and a half hours may have occurred before or after entering the park, but either way that entrance would have been manned since 8am.

2. Why wasn't the car recorded at the entrance?

Look carefully at the dates on the extracted records shown in the appendix of the police Narrative. You'll see everything is dated Saturday 26th June. Bill entered the park on Thursday 24th June. Tom told me a few years ago he'd already noticed this and discounted it, but he couldn't recall why. I think I know why: whoever made the extract made a simple mistake and selected the wrong date, not something you'd do on the 25th which would be a forward dated mistake; so it was probably a backdated query later after the SAR had died down. And when the narrative was being written up, it got included without anyone noticing.

Did someone during the initial trawling of JTNP (25th and 26th) do a correctly dated search? Here I'm skeptical. The data for the Saturday traffic shows only about 60 cars the entire day... hardly a frenzied queue coming into JTNP. So I can't believe there was any more traffic on the Thursday morning, probably far less. Why wave anyone through?

The unkind amongst us may observe that providing a later extract for activity on the 26th would be an effective bit of smoke-screening, if Bill's car *had* been recorded at the West Entrance on the 24th but no one had properly checked the records on the 25th...

3. The car was incorrectly parked across the diagonally painted parking lines, and therefore far more noticeable than if it had been parked correctly. If my wife had seen such parking she would have wryly observed that someone must have run out of gas...

4. Mendoza would have noticed the car upon his arrival at 10:20am on the 24th as it would have stuck out like a sore thumb. He noticed it *after* he completed his hike, and noticed its orientation (facing west).

5. On Friday 25th the Hubers noticed the car, and noted its orientation (again, facing due west).

6. This was its due west orientation once it had been found by law enforcement late afternoon on Saturday 26th...

Nobody moved that car, IMHO.

So why didn't Ranger Grayson see Bill's car at 1:30pm Friday 25th and again when he returns from checking out Key's View? And again before 9am Saturday 26th when he rechecks Key's View? I have a strong suspicion that there was one or more cars *correctly* parked in the diagonals and these simply obscured Bill's car. The Huber's car on the 25th, for example (actually, scratch that. The Huber's were gone by around 10:30am, long before Grayson passed JF parking). Grayson didn't enter the car park (clearly) but did a drive by along Key's View road, and maybe only slowed to "properly" look when he was directly at the Juniper Flats parking entrance. Oops.

And Mimi Gordon's statement? I always assumed it to be brain-fade, but yes the dogleg alignment of the parking area to Key's View Road plus the further diagonals of the "correct" parking plus the patently incorrectly parked Chrysler Sebring all came together to give Mimi a very different view from the ground as to what she saw on the screen. Perspectives, basically.

I seem to remember someone somewhere somewhen noting that the diagonal stripes have been repainted after Bill's disappearance, and may have been indistinct at the time. But the photo of the car in the Narrative clearly shows a diagonal stripe.

I never thought of Bill as being the rebellious type, so perhaps the contrary parking (plus only taking a couple of bottles with him) was a strong indication of haste?

Ric


Apologies to all, I've been deliberately staying away from the case so that I wouldn't be talking over everybody and getting in the way of peoples' theories, and I'm glad I did, because some of the stuff here is really first-rate theorizing, and the way people are synthesizing the information and really brainstorming and focusing it is awesome. I think at this point the posters here have gone way beyond my attempts to synthesize the information and it's a joy to behold. And I love that people have taken apart the weaknesses in my theories with hard facts.

Ric - your explanation of how the car was missed is completely convincing and makes total sense to me. It's frankly brilliant. I've been planning an update to the blog and I think this is a strong enough alternative explanation that it should be included. Are you OK with that?

May I have clarity on one question - when we say "commercial vehicles are prohibited in Joshua Tree" does that specifically exclude a U-Haul? I know that one could come in at night, but since (if the car was shuttled in in such a way) it appeared during the day, I don't think someone would make such a move at night and then wait for broad daylight to execute it. If we can specifically say that a U-Haul would not have been allowed into the park during the day, then I'm prepared to call that theory disproven. Also - are ATVs allowed in Joshua Tree? Because if they are I would think that a U-Haul would not be that unusual, because ATVs have to be brought inside or atop other vehicles.

If the U-Haul theory is disproven, I don't think the cars were ever moved. Because as far-fetched as the U-Haul theory sounds (and it does), once someone removes the car, I still think it's the only logical way someone gets it back into the park during the day (one further wonders why it wasn't simply driven in at night, but the answer would have to be that such a decision was made too late for that to happen, and the theoretical driver would have not wanted to let another day go by before reparking the car). Driving it in, and having to stop at the gate and interact face to face with a park employee, is not going to be a real attractive option for a person in that position.
Last edited by adamghost on Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby adamghost » Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:48 am

But wait - hold up - flag on the theory.

Isn't it the case that Grayson specifically stated that there were "no cars parked at Juniper Flat?" (someone can check my recollection on this)

If that's the case, then the answer can't be that his view was blocked by another car.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby adamghost » Wed Jun 20, 2018 2:56 am

Last question.

I took a bit of heat - and I think fairly - on Reddit for posting the picture of the private inholding near Quail Mountain (that coincidentally or not lies along the same road where the recent remains were found). To me, if we can eliminate that inholding from consideration we can also eliminate foul play on the hike. That's why it's important. If there's a place in his theoretical path of travel where Bill can encounter people, and his remains can be removed by car, I can't rule it out. I'd like to, though.

Does anybody have any information on that inholding, and the accessibility of the road leading to it? I do not wish to invade anyone's privacy here, but if we can show that it was impossible to access by vehicle during the time frame of Bill's hike, then we can cross this theory out of consideration too.

I have no sense of pride and don't mind being wrong; I like facts and logical arguments. So if we can factually eliminate all the things I speculated on I'll happily post another blog to that effect, laying out all the counterarguments.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:25 am

adamghost wrote:But wait - hold up - flag on the theory.

Isn't it the case that Grayson specifically stated that there were "no cars parked at Juniper Flat?" (someone can check my recollection on this)

If that's the case, then the answer can't be that his view was blocked by another car.


Adam - As always, thank you for your posts. Do note that there is some evidence that Mike Grayson was fired by the park service that year. Who knows if he actually drove by Juniper Flats? Who knows if he actually paid any attention to the parking area? The guy had to be a doofus. I regard his statements as unreliable garbage.

Also, look at Mimi Gordon's claims. She was adamant that she saw Bill's car parked in a different direction. Yet, she could not remember the exact color of the parking tag that she saw in the dash. She described it as yellow, orange, or red. While these colors are on the same end of the spectrum, they are distinct. How could one memory be so certain and the other so unclear?
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby panchocolorado » Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:24 pm

New user, long time follower etc..

I just started reading Adam's blog post (after reading all of Tom's website multiple times), and doing so has triggered a few new questions and reminded me of some old ones:

First, I had never heard that Bill's trip to JT was to be his last. Is there any more information on that? To me, at first blush, that makes it sound like maybe Bill was trying to disappear, but of course that conflicts with the cell ping. I also assume it conflicts with background details and context I may not be aware of.

Second, how common is it to smell the "stench of death" while hiking in the backcountry of JT? I've climbed in the park a few times, but only in the main areas. Hiking in other parts of the west, I've only come across such smells on rare occasions. I ask because if Tom and Co. have done as many hikes in the area as they have and not come across similar scents, that would sure indicate the scent spot deserves more consideration (I realize of course that area has been thoroughly covered by now, but I'm still curious). I know Tom reported the smell of "death lite" on JT56, is that the only instance of such odors in y'alls time searching out there?

Finally, I'm a lawyer with a lot of experience with FOIA/public records requests, both at the state and federal level. I frequently do battle to obtain documents that are not turned over in an initial request, with varying degrees of success. Is there any use in me attempting to use my (rather weak) black magic in trying to obtain additional documents?
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby adamghost » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:32 pm

I'll buy that Grayson was incompetent and fired for cause. That's been on the table for awhile. But so far that's all we've got, and we don't know for sure that's what happened. I was just addressing myself to the theory at hand.

Nitpicking the color thing to me is just that. I like Ric's explanation a lot better. It fits. Mimi Gorman has always struck me as credible but of course I don't know her personally.

Hoping to get some of the other answers here. I love how everyone has delved into this. We might be able to whittle some stuff down definitively.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:08 pm

AZeagle wrote:You guys are amazing. Perry, that map is phenomenal.

Thanks, but what is really impressive is the amount of volunteer work that went into the initial search. Those people had to cancel their plans and possibly rearrange their work schedules.

Tom's test with the drone is interesting. I would think that foamboard is brighter than the bones in Joshua Tree, although the animal bones we've found do stand out. Is there a way to legally search with drones by getting proper permits?

Attached are files of our search last Saturday.
track-61618-84429am.kml
(47.46 KiB) Downloaded 43 times

track-61618-84429am.gpx.xml
(159.45 KiB) Downloaded 34 times
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