Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/14

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

Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:10 pm

I submitted a FOIA request today. Hopefully I'll receive everything in a few months. Looking through the aerial photos will likely be too much for 1 person alone and require a group effort.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:57 pm

I received a response from the park today. It will take a long time because of all the documents I requested that have to be reviewed for redaction and also the backlog of numerous FOIA requests about the government shutdown.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:49 pm

Here's another update. I did receive some documents about the first 2 days of searching. Everything else has to be reviewed by the regional office. I'll post what I have in late September when the weather starts cooling off.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Sun Sep 22, 2019 1:32 pm

Here's what I've received so far:
large_files/1streleaseoffoiadocuments.zip
large_files/2nd_release_of_FOIA_docs.zip
Most of the documents require redactions and are still waiting for review by the regional office. That includes operational period 4 which is skipped in the 2nd release.

Conversion tool for UTM to lat/long:
http://www.rcn.montana.edu/Resources/Converter.aspx
The park is in zone 11 north. If someone wants to create a Caltopo map or similar that would be very helpful. If not, then eventually I will get around to making something. Aligning overlaid images, zooming in on handwriting, and converting UTM can be a bit tedious.

I noticed that the dogs lost interest approaching the oasis, and there were no footprints in the SW drainage which has some soft sandy areas. My guess is that he left the trail shortly before the oasis and headed west because the main wash has been searched multiple times and the helicopter looked east of the main wash. There's also a plateau to the west that is probably fast travelling after the initial climb away from the trail, and he could have later attempted an exit to Indian Cove Road. That general area stands out as being unsearched.

The lower SW drainage from the oasis is also a quick way to travel, and theoretically he could have gone on boulders to skip the sandy parts, if the dogs were wrong or if they lost interest only at the very end. The lower SE drainage from oasis is slow-going and the bushwhacking kind of sucks. The ridge to the west of the oasis is rocky with some bushwhacking (I have not been to the very top of that peak). I suppose he could have climbed the plateau to the south (a hardcore scramble) and been unable to safely descend the scree, but I'm guessing people would have looked at the aerial photos of there because it's an obvious place to look, and the helicopter search area on day 2 includes the north end of that southern plateau. A friend of mine suggested the possibility of him getting buried in a landslide in that area. There are also crevices and caves in various areas that could hide a person.

Thoughts?
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby RichardK » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:56 am

Thanks for posting these documents. Tom Mahood could interpret these for us better than anyone else.

At a glance, not knowing much, it seems reasonable to say, if Paul Miller were anywhere in the area of the trail out in the open, he would have been found. If you discount the "conspiracy" theories of foul play and deliberate disappearance, then the conclusion is that he either wandered far from the area or is well hidden from view or both. Since the search started shortly after he was overdue, how far could he have gotten? The documents do discuss areas that were difficult to search due to boulders.

They found stuff like a cold pack and food wrappers, but they were on the trail. Unless they could be tied directly to Paul, they mean nothing. Even if one or more could be tied to Paul, all they show is that he was on the trail. We knew that to begin with.

The Operational Period 1 document reports that blood was found at 34.4138?4 116.100365. That is my read of the handwritten numbers. I cannot make out the next to last digit in the latitude. Can anyone do better? Plotting the digits I can make out puts the blood in Fortynine Palm Canyon east of the middle of the trail. Obvious questions include: Was the blood fresh? How long did it appear that it had been there? Was there more in the area? Was a sample taken for DNA testing?

My theory is that Paul left the trail looking for a photo op. He got lost and moved away from the trail instead of back towards it. Maybe he climbed a steep hill to get his bearings and took a fall. It was hot. Dehydration and overheating may have played a role. I do wonder about mountain lion activity. Could he have been attacked by a big cat and his body drug into a spot hidden from view?
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:50 pm

I started a basic map:
https://caltopo.com/m/5P0L
Obviously it's missing all the info from the FOIA docs. I'll slowly add more things as I have time and others post tracks.

Somebody on the Web Sleuths forum did some searches over the summer. There are 3 threads over there:
https://www.websleuths.com/forums/threa ... 18.380891/
https://www.websleuths.com/forums/threa ... -2.390026/
https://www.websleuths.com/forums/threa ... -3.465356/
I have not read every post. A lot of it is opinions and some slightly off-topic detours of conversation, not that it's never happened here, and not that I haven't done that too. I tried to skim and look for facts and carefully thought out opinions.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:00 pm

Here's OP6 (3rd release):
large_files/OperationalPeriod6.NoRedactionsNecessary..pdf

I'm also curious what Tom thinks.

Re: lions, I'm not a biologist, but if I had fur I would stay out of the summer heat. In the unlikely event that someone stumbles across a den in a very close encounter, that would probably not be a good outcome, but I don't know if that's ever happened.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_f ... th_America
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Thu Sep 26, 2019 11:13 pm

Here's another release with OP's 7 through 11:
large_files/4th_release.zip

Adding OP 1 to the map took way too long. I'll probably do something more basic with the other OP's and wait to hopefully receive the GPS tracks...

On pages 16 and 17 of OP 1, there's a description of footprints returning to the parking lot after going off-trail. If anybody took a photo, even a cell phone snapshot, and if that matches Paul Miller's boot tread that would be very significant. A few days prior there was a lot of rain which would have likely degraded all the previous footprints. I'm just posting this here in case anybody reading this remembers anybody taking photos. Of course, if it doesn't match or is not well-defined, then the footprints would not mean anything.

I was thinking more about that SW draw. With other teams going up there and with more sandy areas beyond the hasty search, I think it's unlikely that he went that way because they would have mentioned footprints. The odds of dodging every sandy spot or every searcher missing all the footprints seems unlikely.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby RichardK » Fri Sep 27, 2019 9:17 am

A recent news reports that I missed until now offers this report. Robinson is Miller's sister-in-law.

There was one witness who told officials he saw a man matching Miller’s description that morning on the trail and Robinson said they were recently able to talk to him as well.

The witness told the family he was coming off the trail when he passed Miller, who was about halfway in, going the opposite direction of the witness. The witness also told the family that, when in his car leaving, he saw another group of about four people coming in.

But no one else has reached out to the family, who wonder if they would have also seen Miller, maybe passing him as he came back off the trail.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Fri Sep 27, 2019 12:13 pm

If anybody wants to search this fall and is looking for a hiking partner, you can send me a PM. If you're not a member, my cell phone number is in the ICANN registration for the web site. The email feature of this message board is not reliable. I think email providers block the emails entirely.
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