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

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

Postby Myth » Fri Sep 27, 2019 4:37 pm

Thank you for posting these. We recently moved and my computer is still in its box but I'd love to crack open these files and have a good look. It will be a long haul for us now to get down to JT ( we're up the Eastern Sierra in the Mono Lake vicinity now ) but I'd love to execute a search sometime this winter. JT soothes my soul like no other place on earth. Not even the beautiful Sierra speaks to my soul the way the desert does.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Sat Sep 28, 2019 11:04 pm

Myth, that sounds like a great place to live.

The park released GPS tracks, and I added them to the map:
https://caltopo.com/m/5P0L
Red is foot, including dog teams. Blue is helicopter. Green is ATV/OHV. I deleted most of the filled-area search assignments except a few that possibly had useful info in the comments. Also deleted the alphabetical markers for the zones and trimmed a couple ATV and helicopter tracks that extended a long ways away. This was all to speed up rendering and make the map easier to use.

The raw files are here:
large_files/49_Palms_Oasis_Incident_7-13-18_Paul_Miller_without_phone_number.kml
large_files/Paul_Miller_Search_Tracks.kml

In case anyone is considering it, there's no need to do any technical climbing because there will be legal drone searches by professionals:
https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/lo ... 716276001/
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Myth » Sun Sep 29, 2019 3:18 pm

Very interesting. I noticed that there is also reference to blood found here, same as there was with the Owasko case. I've walked many miles in JT's backcountry and I have yet to find anything resembling blood. That said, walking the Sierra in winter I've seen blood in the snow more than once. Predators and prey do not all hibernate.

Not surprised to see the foot search tracks peter out up canyon from the oasis. That is a gnarly route.

From memory, the terrain southwest of the oasis is inviting, especially to someone who might hope to spot a bighorn. I see some search tracks in that area, but also gaps that might be worth searching.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby drndr » Mon Sep 30, 2019 4:08 pm

That is a lot of tracks and the search just started hours after he was late showing up. Hard to explain.

I've been "semi lost" in JT before not far from where this is. Once I figured out where I was I was surprised at how far I had gone. Just a hint of panic had set in and I was really moving fast looking for something I would recognize. It was an hour into the hike so I was still fresh. I could see this happening to Paul. And if you're heading the wrong direction you could make it out of the search area. I think a witness said he saw him on the trail at about half way to the oasis and said he was moving fast.

I'm surprised he wasn't found but also surprised more of the search wasn't done south of the oasis. So much was done between the oasis and the parking lot.
"Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time"
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Mon Oct 07, 2019 9:30 am

Searched yesterday and added some new tracks to the map. The western area is relatively fast travel, and we reached it quickly after leaving the trail a little below the trail crest. We did see a group of bighorn. Is it a big deal to share the location publicly? From the highest point, I saw the rock formations near Indian Cove but did not see the road.

20191006_101834.jpg

I don't think I'll buy ASOLO shoes if the outsoles rip off like that. How could somebody keep hiking and not realize their outsole was gone? I would have picked it up and used Shoe Goo or contact spray at home. The brand does not match Paul Miller's, and it was very close to where SAR had passed through.

20191006_112504.jpg

Cairn near the SW part of my tracks ("New Track" below).

New Track 10_6_19 9_59_48 AM.gpx
(123.08 KiB) Downloaded 6 times


track-10619-94713am.gpx
(71.94 KiB) Downloaded 4 times
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby Perry » Tue Oct 08, 2019 9:51 am

It looks like the helicopter pilot saw something of interest on that high southern plateau. I think he could have reached that point and still had time to make it back to the hotel, and the witness has a slightly different timeline on Websleuths. Back in May, I was near the oasis in about 23 minutes carrying a full load of water. Then I slowed down massively with the bushwhacking in the lower SE drainage, but the return route on the other side of the palm trees wasn't too bad. If he crossed the oasis and climbed up from the SE drainage, that would explain why there were no footprints in the SW drainage. I heard that tracking/trailing dogs are not reliable in the desert. Also, I have hiked/scrambled with someone who only stepped on rocks and avoided stepping on sand, kind of like "hot lava" that kids play in living rooms. So it's possible he took the SW drainage and didn't leave footprints, then took the non-technical route to the S plateau.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby zippetydude » Tue Oct 08, 2019 9:29 pm

The crux of the matter in this disappearance to me is his total disappearance with such immediacy.

I was amazed when I looked at those tracks (thanks for that posting) with increasing zoom and realized the sheer number of searches that had been conducted, starting within such a short time of his actual late return.

There is no evidence whatsoever as far as I can tell that he "self-disappeared". So forget that.

There is no evidence of criminal cause either, though I believe that is a remote possibility. Very remote, however, since there seemed to be no financial gain involved.

And the whole idea of a mountain lion grabbing him and dragging him into a den or hidden rock enclosure would fit well if
a) mountain lions frequented the desert (they visit but are few in numbers and short in duration due to lack of prey)
b) mountain lions were known to be active during the day during the morning (they are largely nocturnal, though I have seen 6 over the years during broad daylight) , and
c) mountain lions actually killed and ate people more than once every few years where there are actually sizable mountain lion populations.

Since none of those factors are predominant in this case, and since abduction by aliens is (theoretically) improbable outside of Area 51, I just don't see any likely scenario at all.

And yet he is gone.

Truly baffling,and even more tragic. His family have been steadfast to a remarkable extent. I wish their efforts had already been rewarded.

Is there any realistically possible scenario, especially based upon the brevity of the time involved, that has not been brought up yet?

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

Postby Perry » Tue Oct 08, 2019 11:01 pm

There are a couple steep faces close to the trail that haven't been searched thoroughly. There are also some large boulders nearby that have only been partially searched. The southern plateau, western ridge, and western areas need more searching, even the ridge east of the wash if bushwhacking isn't a major time factor. If he's not found after drone searches and a lot more hikes, then I'll be baffled too, but at this point I think there's more searching to do.
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Re: Search under way for hiker missing in Joshua Tree NP 7/1

Postby RichardK » Wed Oct 09, 2019 9:22 am

Other missing hiker cases may offer insights. On May 22, 2018, Claire Nelson sat on a large boulder to find out where on the trail she was. She slipped climbing down and shattered her pelvis leaving her immobile. It took searchers 4 days to find her. When she heard a helicopter overhead, she attached a T shirt and hat to a hiking pole waving it to get the pilot's attention. The pilot said, had she not done that, they would have never seen her. Then there is Ed Rosenthal who got lost on a trail he had hiked a half a dozen times in 2010. He was found 8 miles from where he left the trail. The Paul Miller case is frustrating because the search started so soon. But, check this reference. There are a surprising number of people who vanished without a trace in National Parks.
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