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 RichardK » Tue Nov 19, 2019 9:22 am

With all due respect, it's speculation on top of speculation on top of more speculation.

I am firmly convinced that Bill's car never moved. The people who were actually next to it (Habers, Mendoza, and the CHP who found it), all saw it in the same orientation. Only the drive-by's saw it differently. The superintendent's report for the year Bill went missing says that one employee was fired for cause. Could that be Ranger Grayson for incompetence?
RichardK
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:52 pm

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Carnivore » Tue Nov 19, 2019 2:50 pm

RichardK wrote:With all due respect, it's speculation on top of speculation on top of more speculation.

I am firmly convinced that Bill's car never moved. The people who were actually next to it (Habers, Mendoza, and the CHP who found it), all saw it in the same orientation. Only the drive-by's saw it differently. The superintendent's report for the year Bill went missing says that one employee was fired for cause. Could that be Ranger Grayson for incompetence?

I do agree that there's a considerable amount of speculation in the timeline I posted, but that's the most reasonable explanation for the differing accounts of Bill's vehicle. Other scenarios would require someone else to have moved Bill's car, which does not seem remotely plausible.

If Bill's car never moved, the timeline is simplified considerably and requires a lot less speculation. The first part remains the same. On Thursday, June 24, Bill visits other sites at JTNP before reaching Juniper Flats in the afternoon. After a quick hike on the path leading to Quail Mountain, he turns around and decides to hike to Ryan Mountain. On his way there or on his descent, he gets injured or is attacked by an animal. Although unable to return to his car, he is mobile enough to crawl to a crevice to take shelter in.

On Sunday morning, he senses that he is running out of time and figures that a search team may be nearby, so he uses the last bit of his strength to climb to a point that may have a signal and a greater visibility to rescuers. His phone pings the tower for a brief moment before its battery dies or the signal is lost. Bill tries again and waits for help but crawls back to his shelter as the heat sets in. He is too dehydrated and exhausted to move anywhere after that last effort, which explains why his remains were not widely scattered by animals and why other hikers may have missed them. The tower's recorded distance of 20.6 or 18.6 miles is mistakenly transcribed as 10.6 miles (Did the "8" look like a "0"? Was the "20.6" a typo? An 18.6 mile radius would match the area near Ryan Mountain almost perfectly, and a 20.6 mile radius would make sense if the signal bounced off some rocks and gave a larger distance. If the 10.6 mile reading was indeed correct, it's certainly possible that Bill dropped his phone somewhere else in the park on Thursday morning, and the person who picked it up is the person who made that call from a location outside of JTNP). In any case, I still stand by my post yesterday that the area near Ryan Mountain is the most likely place he's in, especially when you consider that most areas west of Juniper Flats have been thoroughly searched in the 9+ years since his disappearance.

If he is not found near Ryan Mountain or if the bandanna is somehow proven to be Bill's (i.e., there's a photo of him wearing that exact same bandanna), the next logical place to look for would be the extreme southwest edges of the park that run parallel to Dillon Rd. John Donovan and the lost Palm Springs tram hiker duo (Gina Allen and Brandon Day) tried to descend through even more inhospitable terrain in their attempts to reach Palm Springs. Taking that into account, it's not hard to imagine Ewasko making a similar decision as he hiked under a full moon and saw the Coachella Valley lights in the distance.
Carnivore
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Nov 16, 2019 11:24 am

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby ColCopperpot » Wed Nov 20, 2019 1:52 am

In your narrative you have Bill returning to his car and yet not drinking anymore of the water he has stored in his trunk nor getting to a phone to place a hold on his bank and credit accounts to ensure no one can just go on a spending spree on him. I mean I know we’ve had Bill in some wacky theories before but to have him willingly and knowingly trigger what is going to be an expensive SAR mission to find him because of a phone and wallet is out there.
ColCopperpot
 
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Jan 29, 2019 7:25 pm

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby bretpct » Wed Nov 20, 2019 3:30 am

I don't think Bill would overnight in his rental car when he had a condo 45-60 minutes away.

I know it seems like a small detail but why park your car at the West end of the lot, pointing West, when you're hiking East?

I too have problems with SWC being a premeditated target of Bill's. In terms of water supply, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Why risk a wilderness water source when you've got clean water not that much farther away? I think it's more likely he headed toward Quail and needed to bail and could save over a mile by going cross-country back to his car where he got lost/injured. I myself attempted to hike from Quail to Lang Mine with admittedly poor orienteering skills and wandered through some weird areas before finding my way back to my car at Juniper Flats. This would of course mean 10.6 is not gospel. Which may be corroborated by Nguyen/Orbeso, although using a different network, phone, tower, etc., it used newer technology and was still incredibly inaccurate in the same general region as Bill.
bretpct
 
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:40 pm

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby OtherHand » Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:32 am

There's been an article posted about using some advanced probabilistic techniques to find Bill, available here. Not exactly light reading, but some might find it of interest. I think it highlights a few areas that could be searched more carefully, but there aren't any major revelations.
OtherHand
 
Posts: 240
Joined: Mon Dec 28, 2009 2:07 pm

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Carnivore » Wed Nov 20, 2019 2:30 pm

ColCopperpot wrote:In your narrative you have Bill returning to his car and yet not drinking anymore of the water he has stored in his trunk nor getting to a phone to place a hold on his bank and credit accounts to ensure no one can just go on a spending spree on him.


bretpct wrote:I don't think Bill would overnight in his rental car when he had a condo 45-60 minutes away.

I know it seems like a small detail but why park your car at the West end of the lot, pointing West, when you're hiking East?

Perhaps Bill was confident that he would find his phone and wallet before anyone else would find them, especially if he observed that there was very little traffic in the park. To increase those odds, he decides to overnight in his car to be sure that he would be able to start searching at the earliest possible time, right at sunrise. Saturday's searches could have been used to look at areas off-trail ("I remember going to this one place off the trail on Thursday that I forgot to check on Friday. But it should still be there since I doubt that anyone would have seen it since Thursday") Was it wise? Of course not. But could I see someone making that decision? Definitely.

We also don't know exactly how many bottles of water Bill ended up consuming. I do agree that two or three 12 oz bottles would be too little for that Thursday - Saturday period. But is it proven that he didn't buy or have another (smaller) pack of water, completely finish off that pack, and then threw away the empty bottles at one of the trailheads in JTNP?

If Bill's car was moved, what other explanation would make more sense than Bill searching around the park for his lost items? If the sightings were mistaken and the car was never moved, there is still nothing to suggest that he never went east of the Juniper Flats Trailhead (except the questionable 10.6 mile ping distance, but even if it were accurate, it can be explained away if someone else found his dropped phone and turned it on in a location outside of JTNP).

Whether or not the car was moved, it's completely plausible that he arrived at the trailhead in the afternoon after seeing other sights in the park. Although he initially intended on hiking in the direction of Quail Mountain, he changed his mind a short distance into the hike after seeing how late it was and headed east. If he returned to search the area again for his missing items, he may have searched the path leading to Quail Mountain before searching the area near Ryan Mountain. This would explain why his car was at the west end of the lot, pointing west.

bretpct wrote:I too have problems with SWC being a premeditated target of Bill's. In terms of water supply, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Why risk a wilderness water source when you've got clean water not that much farther away? I think it's more likely he headed toward Quail and needed to bail and could save over a mile by going cross-country back to his car where he got lost/injured. I myself attempted to hike from Quail to Lang Mine with admittedly poor orienteering skills and wandered through some weird areas before finding my way back to my car at Juniper Flats. This would of course mean 10.6 is not gospel. Which may be corroborated by Nguyen/Orbeso, although using a different network, phone, tower, etc., it used newer technology and was still incredibly inaccurate in the same general region as Bill.

I do agree that it's more likely for Bill to have attempted a shortcut back to his car from Quail than to have attempted a diversion to SWC. The 10.6 mile distance is more likely to be bogus than to be reasonably accurate.
Carnivore
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Nov 16, 2019 11:24 am

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby bretpct » Wed Nov 20, 2019 2:55 pm

OtherHand wrote:There's been an article posted about using some advanced probabilistic techniques to find Bill, available here. Not exactly light reading, but some might find it of interest. I think it highlights a few areas that could be searched more carefully, but there aren't any major revelations.


Good read, Tom. It's interesting how strongly the map suggests the hill west of Samuelson's Rocks (I believe it's called Samuelson's Spur?). That was one of the first places I suspected Bill may have ended up. It seemed more in line with his military training to seek high ground to find a cell signal and get a call out. However, I know you've been up there a couple times. I've been up there once, and as I recall the topography was nothing too tricky. Once you get to the top you can see much of the surrounding slopes. It seems like the tracks you laid on the NW portion would be sufficient to clear that hill, but the Bayesian analysis says there's more work to do.

Though not exactly a scientific data point, I've seen wonky stuff happen with cell reception in the backcountry. I've gotten calls out seemingly due a passing cloud that was in the exact right spot for a minute or two, never able again to connect with tower once it blew away. I believe the morning of the ping there was an overcast layer. Again, not exactly scientific, but something I think about a lot.
bretpct
 
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Feb 13, 2017 2:40 pm

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Carnivore » Wed Nov 20, 2019 11:33 pm

OtherHand wrote:There's been an article posted about using some advanced probabilistic techniques to find Bill, available here. Not exactly light reading, but some might find it of interest. I think it highlights a few areas that could be searched more carefully, but there aren't any major revelations.

The reddish areas just west of Samuelson's Rocks on Figure 7 would not be a bad place to search if Bill is in the search area. But the last few words, "if Bill is in the search area", is key.

The search area needs to be as wide as possible since we only have a few solid facts to work with:
1.) Bill was at or near Monterey Ave. at 8 AM on Thursday, June 24. At that time, he was driving westbound on I-10, intended to be out of the park by 5 PM, and planned to take dinner in Pioneertown.
2.) His car was not at the trailhead at 10:20 AM on Thursday. He should have reached there by 9:15 if he headed there directly, drove at a normal speed, and did not stop anywhere else.
3.) His car was at the trailhead, facing west, at 5:30-6 PM on Thursday and at 4:56 PM on Saturday.
4.) The search effort at Juniper Flats started at 6:46 PM on Saturday. 700+ miles were accumulated during the initial organized search, and an additional 1000+ miles were covered since the initial search ended.

Everything else is either unknown/speculative (the amount of water he took on his hike, injuries he may have suffered during his hike, his hiking destination(s) that day, his reasons for not going to Carey's Castle, etc.) or cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt (the bandanna might not be Bill's, the witnesses claiming differing accounts of Bill's vehicle on Friday and Saturday may not be credible, someone else may have been using Bill's phone on Sunday morning, the cell phone ping distance may not be accurate, etc.)

So we need to start with a blank slate of a hiker who is at Juniper Flats with an unknown destination. Given the maximum amount of water he was thought to have carried (three 12 oz bottles) and weather conditions typical of late June, where are the furthest points he can reach in each direction if he were headed out on a one-way trip?

Once that is determined, we can begin setting the search boundaries. Park Road would be a good northerly boundary, as there is no way Ewasko would have continued going further north after reaching a road. The area just west of Covington Trailhead would be a good westerly boundary since that is about as far as you can realistically go at that time of the year with only 36 ounces of water. But the search zone in the article should be expanded by at least 3 miles to the east and to the southwest. If anything, hiking east would be more logical than hiking west given the limited amount of water he had and how late in the day he started. As for the southwest direction, I could see him trying to reach the area between Sky Valley and Indio Hills if he ended up near Stubbe Springs and got lost. While hiking under the full moon to avoid the heat, it would be incredibly tempting to try and reach the lights near the 10 Freeway instead of heading for an invisible destination to the northeast (your car or Keys View Rd) and possibly getting even more lost or going in circles. If you make it, you'll get to civilization below, and even if you can't get there, you may have a decent chance of pinging one of the towers in the Coachella Valley if you stick to a ridgeline.

The final steps would be to exclude all of the areas within the search zone that are either unclimbable, have been searched on foot before, are easily visible from an aerial search, or are very close to a road or popular trail. The article does this but, IMO, gives undue weight to the cell ping.

So what locations do we have left? Near the northwest area of the search zone, we have the hill west of Samuelson's Rocks that was identified in the article. Near the center part of the zone, we have the possibility that Bill attempted a cross-country shortcut route from near Quail Mountain back to his car.

And the east and south-southwest edges of the search zone would be the areas that I think he's in - near Ryan Mountain or in the rugged terrain 2-4 miles southwest of Stubbe Spring.
Carnivore
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Nov 16, 2019 11:24 am

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:35 am

What happened to Bill is most likely what nearly happened to hiker Claire Nelson in May, 2018. She lost the trail and climbed on top of a boulder to get her bearings. A slip resulted in a fall that shattered her pelvis. She was in between rocks unable to move.

Nelson's mother, Maggie Hickton, told the New Zealand Herald that her daughter heard a helicopter overhead and put a T-shirt and her hat on a hiking stick and waved it around to signal them.

"That is what caught their eye," she told the Herald.

Nelson tweeted that one of the rescuers told her they wouldn't have found her if she hadn't made that flag and waved it around.


If Claire had been unconscious, then she would have been another vanished in Joshua Tree case. All search methods fail if Bill is so out of sight that he can't be seen. Looking under every rock pile in the search areas is not feasible. No missing wallets, no deliberate disappearance, no moving cars, just an injured hiker that is out of sight. Occam's Razor: "when presented with competing hypotheses that make the same predictions, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions" - Wikipedia
RichardK
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:52 pm

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Ed » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:11 am

Certainly a highly plausible explanation. I am not so sure about Occam's Razor. The explanation does make four or five joint assumptions: (a) Bill became lost, (b) Bill climbed a rock to get a better view, (c) Bill fell, (d) the fall immobilized him, and (e) he was either unconscious or out of cell phone range. There is another rule for dealing with uncertainty, Laplace's Rule of Insufficient Reason, which is to assign equal probabilities to uncertain events, in the absence of objective quantifiable information. Whether or not it is compatible with Occam's Razor may depend on what you consider to be the fundamental events.
Ed
 
Posts: 654
Joined: Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:04 pm
Location: San Diego Area

PreviousNext

Return to Outdoors-Related Topics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests