Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

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

Postby OtherHand » Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:11 pm

If you look through the entire search data package you'll find that the water bottles were placed there by a regular hiker to the area. He drew the rangers a map of where these bottles were found and were some others were stashed. This was described in detail. So the found bottles had nothing to do with Bill. Also, the coordinates for the bandanna are in there, listed twice I believe.

The fact that the dogs went off on the water bottles brings into question the reliability of the dogs. The bottle were secreted off the trail where Bill could not have found them and handled them. The dogs also showed great interest in an area that was searched very well, with nothing found but a Big Horn carcass.

A hot, dry environment, several days after the fact, and having the area trod by many individuals is almost an impossible situation for a dog.

The bandanna could have been checked for DNA or inquiries made if it was one Bill owned or purchased at REI shortly before his trip (REI keeps records of all member's sales if their number is used.....Sort of like a coop version of PRISM). To my knowledge none of this was done.

So while the water bottles definitely had nothing to do with Bill the bandanna could. Or may not. No one knows. But personally I'd attribute little to no weight to the report that the dogs went off on it.
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JT53

Postby RichardK » Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:19 am

Then I stand corrected. I missed that another hiker claimed the bottles. I keep feeling that something strange or unusual happened to Bill. Else, he would have been found.
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Re: JT53

Postby Hikin_Jim » Thu Jul 04, 2013 11:13 am

RichardK wrote:something strange or unusual happened to Bill. Else, he would have been found.
Maybe. But remember perhaps the most exhaustive search in US history was for famed aviator Steve Fossett. All kinds of bizarre conspiracy theories arose to explain his mysterious disappearance. How could he NOT be found? Something else must have happened and the plane crash is just a red herring to cover his tracks the theories went. In the end, a hiker found the crash site by chance. Despite the most exhaustive search in US, Fossett simply hadn't been found, and this despite the fact he was near wildly popular Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Unlike Mammoth, the region where Bill disappeared (the trackless section west of Quail Mountain), is seldom visited and is very rugged. Multiple searchers could pass within a dozen feet of Bill and never know it. When Bill Ewasko is finally located, there will probably be nothing more to it than an injured hiker who succumbed to heat and dehydration.

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Postby Myth » Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:09 am

Hikin_Jim wrote:Unlike Mammoth, the region where Bill disappeared (the trackless section west of Quail Mountain), is seldom visited and is very rugged. Multiple searchers could pass within a dozen feet of Bill and never know it.

From what I've seen when I was up there, I would agree with this. I tended to follow drainages or otherwise easy terrain when I was up there, though I also took care to divert to interesting-looking rock piles that might offer shelter. I peered under quite a few rock overhangs, but all the same, often my sight lines were obstructed just a dozen feet away. There is an incredible amount of detail to the terrain. It is rugged.

I still have interest in returning to the area ( once the weather cools way way WAY down ) and filling in more detail. Sometimes, the detail could depend on which route you took around a bush. Very, very granular.
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Postby RichardK » Mon Jul 08, 2013 6:10 pm

Jim - I see your point. Indeed, there is a principle of logic (Occam's Razor) that says the simplest explanation of an event is the most likely. What bugs me about Bill is that he did nothing to call attention to his location. His people knew he was in JT. His car was at the trailhead. He must have realized that, sooner or later, a search would come. He could have spread his hiking gear on the ground or made a large letter "X" with rocks or even spelled out "SOS". Heck, if I were Bill and had matches or a lighter, I would have set fire to bushes hoping that the smoke by day or flames by night would be visible. Yet, Bill did none of these obvious things. He seemingly did the very opposite by hiding under a rockpile making discovery difficult to impossible. Why?
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Postby Hikin_Jim » Mon Jul 08, 2013 6:55 pm

Bill may have had the mindset that "no one knows where I am; I either get myself out of here or I die" -- if he was even coherent. After a couple of days in the desert sun he may not have been thinking clearly.

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Postby OtherHand » Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:22 pm

Hikin_Jim wrote:.... "no one knows where I am; I either get myself out of here or I die" ......


That's been my motto on far too many hikes.

Hyperthermia is a funny thing. Not ha-ha funny, VERY strange funny.

There a book called the "The Devil's Highway: A True Story" by Luis Alberto Urrea which chronicles an attempt in 2001 by 26 men to sneak across the Mexican/USA border into southern AZ, in May. All but 12 died and it's a very compelling read. In it there's an entire chapter that details what death by hyperthermia is like. Aside from being a nasty way to die, it often is accompanied by a certain amount of seemingly nonsensical actions on the part of the victims.

A good part of that chapter has been placed online by the Tucson Samaritans:

Killed by the Light

The Wikipedia entry on hyperthermia is also pretty good (considering it's Wikipedia):

Hyperthermia on Wikipedia

The bottom line is that thinking rapidly deteriorates as hyperthermia progresses and the final stages can manifest very strange behavior.
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Postby RichardK » Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:25 pm

Hikin_Jim wrote:no one knows where I am


But, Mary knew where he was. What did he think would happen to his rental car at the trailhead? It would just sit there until it fell apart and the desert claimed it.

OtherHand wrote:The bottom line is that thinking rapidly deteriorates as hyperthermia progresses and the final stages can manifest very strange behavior.


Exactly. I find it difficult to believe that Bill suffered a simple physical injury (broken leg, twisted ankle). I think it was mental (concussion, stroke, hyperthermia, unexpectedly quick dehydration). Whatever it was, I suspect he lost rational thought early on.

Of course, I am playing armchair quarterback here because you guys have been out there looking and I have not. I don't have the physical ability to deal with terrain that rough with any kind of speed. Otherwise, you would be looking for me.
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Postby Hikin_Jim » Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:05 pm

RichardK wrote:But, Mary knew where he was.
Did she? She thought he was going elsewhere:
Bill was on his way to do a hike to a place called Cary’s Castle, which was listed first on a planned itinerary Bill had left with Mary... Mary was uncomfortable with Bill’s destination choice, due to its remoteness, and asked him to reconsider. Bill laughed about it, but didn’t give Mary any indication he was changing his mind.
Mary had no idea that Bill had changed his destination to Quail Mountain -- and Bill went into the remote area beyond Quail Mountain. Assuming he was rational, he would have no reason that anyone would know where in Joshua Tree he was.

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Postby RichardK » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:28 am

At least Mary knew he was somewhere in JT as opposed to maybe JT or maybe the Salton Sea or maybe up on Mt. San Jacinto. The rental car did lead searchers to the correct trailhead eventually. If it wasn't for that idiot ranger who couldn't see a white car parked a dozen feet off the road, the search would have started two days earlier and Bill might well be alive today. I can't help but think that a rational person would realize that the car would be discovered sooner or later and that SAR was on the way. Bill's case shows the importance of leaving an exact itinerary rather than a laundry list of possible hikes. What was Bill's mental state on the first night out? All we can do is speculate because we will never know.
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