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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:32 pm
by OtherHand
There's currently a blanket drone prohibition at all national parks. As part of the Orbeso/Nguyen search some drones were used, but the operators were from Grand Canyon National Park and thus part of the NPS "family". They could actually be NPS employees for all I know.

Theoretically it would be possible to apply for a permit to do drone imaging, but I have no idea how amenable JTNP would be to it. My previous relationship with the park's management could best be described as strained, but there have been several regime changes and I don't know what current management's view on it would be. I would never advise anyone to flagrantly disobey rules...that is a purely personal decision. But for me, having worked most of my career in bureaucratic organizations, I value product over process. And Smith Water is a VERY remote place, with some regions being pretty damned dangerous to explore on foot.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2018 8:51 pm
by drndr
"I value product over process." I love that. I've always liked, "better to apologize after the fact than to ask permission and to be told no". I think the same idea.


Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:16 pm
by Perry
That's too bad about the drones. I was thinking of the hill above Lost Horse Ranger Station and also the hills near Quail Picnic Area.

Pancho, I just saw your reply tonight. Thanks for offering to help. It would be interesting to read the radio log from Fri and Sat when Ranger Grayson was searching for Ewasko's car. The radio log on Tom's site starts on Sun. It would also be interesting to know what technical words Verizon used to describe the accuracy of the ping.

I was quick to post earlier today and didn't see your post needing to be approved. A note to anyone joining: first post needs to be approved to eliminate spammers. After approved, it appears in the thread as if it was instantly approved, although that's often not the case.

Here are some photos that Stephen took on our search last Saturday. (sh44, doesn't mind if I use his real name) They are probably not significant but seem worth posting here.

This is probably a fragment of an animal bone, but I'm not an expert. It seemed kind of large for a bone fragment.
IMG_0042.PNG (1.04 MiB) Viewed 2922 times

Here's a shoe that was mostly buried in sand. When I kicked it out, it was a relief that there was no leg attached to it! How does a shoe end up in a remote area? The guy had to hike out. I could understand dropping a climbing shoe by mistake, but this doesn't look like a climbing shoe. And would it float or sink in wet sand during flash floods? Edit: it probably got buried by the wind.


Nutritional label for hot dogs. Probably some hiker's food.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:23 pm
by Perry

Anyone? Bueller?

Since nobody is saying anything, I'm going to assume that we found nothing significant, nothing worth reporting to authorities. Just some dude that went on a barefoot acid trip and lost his shoes in the middle of the wilderness. Typical Joshua Tree stuff.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 5:47 am
by OtherHand
It's not clear to me exactly where you found the items, but looking at your tracks you covered a region that was heavily traversed historically. Originally, the main access to the area around Samuelson's Rocks and Keys Ranch was via Quail Wash. Park Road came much later. The area in the valley southerly and southeasterly of Samuelson's Rocks had several homesteads, traces of which can still be seen on Google Earth if you know where to look. I've stumbled upon them several times and there's quite a lot of debris remaining.

I've also came upon a number of bottle and can dumps, seemingly in the middle of nowhere (There's a good one in the middle of the Quail Wash floodplain, almost at the mouth of Smith Water). I suspect these were remnants of temporary cattle or hunting camps. So over time, there were a lot of people dumping their junk out there.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:18 am
by AZeagle
Perry, the FOIA'd narrative has a picture of the footprint attributed to Bill, it's a well treaded boot type. This sole is pretty worn down.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:08 am
by Myth
That's a nice search track, Perry! How was the terrain on those hills? I see some gnarly stuff along that track ... I'd also be curious to know where you found the items - the 'My Photo' marker?

What is the scale on that animal bone picture? How large is it across? I'm trying to parse which part of a skeleton that might be from. Looks like it might be 3-4 inches based on the sand? I usually use my hiking GPS in pictures for scale. It is exactly 4 inches across so it makes a good impromptu measurement tool ( and sometimes a reminder of which waypoint the object was at if I get the screen in the picture as well ).

The label is probably from a recent hiker. It would have been way more weathered if it was out there for 8 years. From memory Bill did carry some "meat snacks" which was probably something like Slim Jims ( yucky ).

That is a fairly modern shoe and it kind of looks like a loafer type shoe, so maybe a camp shoe dropped by a hiker? It is possible that the wash buried it, actually - there's a lot of churn around plants, etc during run-off that could catch something in a little whirlpool and bury it.

panchocolorado - I don't often smell the "stench of death" in JT. But I have smelled it around Smith Water Canyon a few times and there are 3-4 sets of bighorn skeletons just in the first part of it as you walk westerly towards the green areas. It is a common water hole and probably a predator hangout. Come to think of it I don't think I've ever smelled it anywhere else in JT. I still think of Smith Water as a reasonable place to find evidence, but I've been on those slopes and they're hairy! I could see how Bill could be in any number of crevices there ... close enough maybe for searchers to have detected a scent, but nigh impossible to observe or reach.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:33 am
by Perry
Otherhand, that sounds more likely than my explanation, although Myth thinks it's a more modern shoe. I added the location to the Caltopo map. There's no waypoint, so it's approximate and based on memory. Here it is on Acme Mapper:,-1 ... 0-116.2464

Myth, the traversing and up and down through small boulders was interesting in the northern part of our track. I saw 2 hawks at the same time. The steep part in the middle of the track actually wasn't that big of a deal, easy handholds and stable boulders, no traversing. I don't remember exactly the size of the bone, but my guess is that it's part of a backbone of a bighorn sheep. Next time I'll try to remember to add something for scale, maybe a quarter or a dollar bill.

Edit: AZeagle, my concern was that the shoe could belong to another missing person from a long time ago.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 2:58 pm
by OtherHand
If you found the shoe near marker F, then that's very close to the old homestead sites. They are very easy to miss until you come directly upon one, then there's lots of debris, old cans and broken glass.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2018 4:20 pm
by bretpct
I noticed a bit of a blank spot in the search tracks in SWC. Specifically this drainage I've marked in green.


It looks like prime real estate and is the only part of the southerly slopes not covered in tracks.

The nearest track to the west is from JT27, aka "The Smith Water Death March", in which the coverage level is described as "low". Judging by the terrain, it may not have been possible to see down into that drainage at all.

Here's the view in Google Earth:


Seems likely to me that if he's in the area of SWC he would be found in a drainage, or at least some debris may of washed or blown down into one.