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 Myth » Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:59 pm

Ric that is a good point and confirms my suspicions. In my searches of this area I've found it to be at an uncomfortable confluence of topos - kind of on the edge of Indian Cove. You don't have to wander too far to be on a new topo sheet.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby ColCopperpot » Thu Jan 09, 2020 9:45 pm

I am not wont to be flippant but maybe be just tried for Quail and heat exhaustion caused him to become lost and wander to some random place no one can logically guess because there was no logic to it.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby jdclifford » Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:06 am

Been looking for Bill the past two days and about to go out again. Using the available GPS data is such a great tool in helping to inform me as to where to look. Thanks Tom and everyone else who has contributed. I think how Tom has put out all this information and created this community-sourced effort is pretty ingenious. The fact Bill hasn't been found yet is merely an anomaly.

I have a friend coming down from Death Valley and might do an overnight backpack with him elsewhere in the park, but I still have 3 days of searching left even with that. If I don't find him (highly probable), then I'll head home, regroup, and come up with some other theories for when I'm back a month from now. Today I will be hiking a location not yet searched, so long as no rogue searchers who haven't submitted GPS tracks were already there. I'll provide some updates once I'm home.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby jdclifford » Sun Feb 23, 2020 7:20 pm

So, no dice this last trip. I have one more shot this year (8 days of searching) in a few weeks to find Bill. My full-time work, full-time grad school, and counseling internship simply don't allow me to drive the over 17 hours round trip again until I run into some more vacation time next calendar year. Hopefully the GPS tracks I submit can at least help the person who does eventually locate him.

Was on a mission, but an enjoyable trip overall. Cowboy camping in Upper Covington was fun. Waking up feeling like my sleeping bag was not adequate for the 20 degree cold, not so fun. Here's to hoping the nights are a little less cold and my luck a little more apparent the next time around.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Ric Capucho » Mon Feb 24, 2020 1:00 am

Eager to see the GPS tracks.

Will they be posted as trip reports on Tom’s web site?

Ric
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby jdclifford » Mon Feb 24, 2020 10:07 am

Probably not because I'm fitting in so many different trips into short periods of time. I'll definitely write a detailed post on here about how my theories have evolved over my three excursions to Joshua Tree, why I search the areas I do, any items of interest I might find, and any closing thoughts after my March trip.

Before I first went out there in early January, I only had a little over a week to catch up on the case. My intentions had been to search for Paul Miller, which I did over the course of a day when I visited the area over a year ago. This year I planned to search for Paul for three days, but fortunately he was found shortly before I headed out there. That is when I entered this rabbit hole.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Myth » Tue Mar 03, 2020 1:25 pm

jdclifford wrote: Cowboy camping in Upper Covington was fun. Waking up feeling like my sleeping bag was not adequate for the 20 degree cold, not so fun. Here's to hoping the nights are a little less cold and my luck a little more apparent the next time around.


Spent what was probably my coldest night out shivering up in that area, also on an expedition for this effort. 20 degree bag, tent, slept in a warm base layer plus hiking clothes, and it was miserable! Good times. Remembered to put my water bottle in the foot of my sleeping bag - carefully! - for the next morning, since it already started flash freezing the evening before as I poured.

Desert gets real cold on a winter night!
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby jdclifford » Tue Mar 03, 2020 10:08 pm

Myth wrote:
jdclifford wrote: Cowboy camping in Upper Covington was fun. Waking up feeling like my sleeping bag was not adequate for the 20 degree cold, not so fun. Here's to hoping the nights are a little less cold and my luck a little more apparent the next time around.


Spent what was probably my coldest night out shivering up in that area, also on an expedition for this effort. 20 degree bag, tent, slept in a warm base layer plus hiking clothes, and it was miserable! Good times. Remembered to put my water bottle in the foot of my sleeping bag - carefully! - for the next morning, since it already started flash freezing the evening before as I poured.

Desert gets real cold on a winter night!


Wow, it sounds like it was even colder when you camped there. I'm hoping it stays above 30F while I'm there for the sake of comfort and rest, but I'll take whatever nature brings my way. I'm also looking forward to choosing better spots to set up my tent. I only cowboy camped because the ground had eroded a bit under my non-freestander and I couldn't locate an adequate spot in the dark anywhere near by. I also have my fingers crossed that I won't have too much trouble finding parking spots in the Covington area, particularly at the backcountry board, with spring break being in full effect.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby ColCopperpot » Mon Mar 23, 2020 9:57 pm

I’m coming out there this summer. I intend to find Bill. No matter what. This chaos with Covid19 seems like the perfect opportunity. I will find him. I feel like I have to.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby jdclifford » Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:23 pm

So I'm back and the mission was not successful. I did, however, have a lot of fun.

Just to somewhat briefly lay out my evolving theories, which were created with respect to where people have already searched:

When I first spent 3 days there in January, I mainly searched to the east of Smith Water Canyon and near the northern boundary on that eastern side as well. I believed that he had made it to Smith Water Canyon or near there. Given the heat, he would have been hiking at night and been lured northern by the lights of civilization. Except, this would seem a lot more viable if it wasn't a full moon or damn near close to one at the time he was out there. Near full moon, I would imagine Bill would see Park Blvd in the moonlight.

I got so into this case that I decided to use up a vacation week in February and March to look for Bill. In February, I strictly stayed on the Covington side. I had been looking at Google Satellite images and thought he may have found some relief from the sun under a California Juniper or some other kind of tree or bush Looking at the map of GPS tracks, I saw some gaps that I thought should at least be filled in. My first day in Febrary I climbed up the mountain north of Smith Water Canyon. The hiker in me loved it, but I felt like I was probably wasting my time there. I just can't see somebody in Bill's predicament going down the south side of Smith Water and hiking up the north. It doesn't make sense and it might not be physically possible given his situation. I also put some time into searching Upper Covington Flats.

My theory heading into this last trip was that Bill had not hiked Quail, but hiked to the west of there and had somehow gotten lost. I also read Ric's post several years ago that made me really question the cell phone ping reading accuracy. First, I wanted to check out Juniper Flats (which I had not yet been to), to get a greater feel for the landscape, and then I wanted to return to Upper Covington Flats to conduct more searching. Well, I ended up messing up my lower back the very first morning I was in the area. I camped in BLM dispersed camping land the night before and nearly got stuck in a pothole that had been flooded by rains earlier in the day. The next morning I see a guy get stuck in these potholes. He used my phone to call a friend and, being a local in the know, he told me that tow truck companies refused to go out there. Nearly getting stuck in my 2-wheel drive Jeep Patriot the night before, I started sweating it. Tow truck companies won't help and I don't know a soul out there, so I friggin' floored the damn thing over these potholes. I ended up ripping half the bumper cover off my vehicle and, having gone over these potholes in such a violent nature, messed up my lower back. I was more mad about my back potentially getting in the way of my searching. My first two days, both at Juniper, basically just amounted to camping and resting my back. Once there, I figured that if the ping was inaccurate, it probably wouldn't be that wildly innacurate. It was also a much more vast area than I imagined. Nevertheless, it was important to see where Bill started his hike. When I moved to Upper Covington, I was surprised by how good the cell reception was at the southern end. This practically killed my leading theory that Bill had stumbled into there lost. This led to me, though still camping in Upper Covington, to only search in Lower Covington thereafter. My previous plans had been to conduct a more thorough searching of Upper Covington. I, admittedly, have not read through the entire forum thread because I did not want it to give me too much bias, though this might have been a mistake. I will be reading through its entirety before I go back to Joshua Tree sometime in 2021. I'm a little sick of Joshua Tree right now, but I'll definitely be back for at least one more vacation week to search next year if nobody finds Bill before then. Very possibly more than one week. In the meantime, I have some closer lost person cases in or near SW New Mexico to keep me busy.

Current theory: Geez, who knows? I believe that when I go back I will be searching gaps in between current GPS tracks between Quail and Smith Water Canyon. I am also now firmly in the "cell phone ping was innacurate" camp.

And as far as Coronavirus interest goes: I have never been there on a spring break before, but it certainly didn't feel like a spring break. It was also unseasonably chilly, with me needing to wear a long-sleeve every day I was there. I can't even say that for January. Upper Covington was absolutely DEAD, except for my last day hiking. Covington Flats was absolutely besieged on Saturday. I couldn't believe the number of cars filtering in. When I arrived at the Joshua Tree Inn, the receptionist filled me in that the gated areas of the park had closed to vehicles and then it all made sense. I definitely got lucky on this trip. Covington was so quiet and peaceful while I camped there...not anymore.

And lastly, I noticed on the Gaia app a track from somebody else last month which I had not exported. Does this mean you would already have access to my tracks Tom, or do I need to send them to you?
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