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 cmitchelli » Wed Mar 17, 2021 4:30 pm

Hi Perry -

Tomorrow will be my first time, going to try the Stubbe Spring area.

As far as cell reception going from nothing to strong, its my understanding that Bill turned his phone off after calling his fiancée on Thursday morning. I think that was the conclusion based on no more pings between then and the Sunday morning ping.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Sat Mar 20, 2021 6:28 am

Hi cmitchelli, I am sorry to be the one to throw cold water on your theory, but it is pure speculation with no evidence. Bill's written itinerary did not include the Maze Loop. He could have added it in place of something else, but he equally also could have not. His car was parked at the Quail Mountain trailhead. His itinerary included Quail Mountain. Where did Bill hike? How about Quail Mountain? As for what Bill was doing between 9 and 10:30AM, how about Lost Horse Mountain. It was on Bill's list and was close to where his car was found. Note that the Maze Loop area has been searched twice recently. It was searched in July, 2017, for the missing couple Joseph Orbeso and Rachel Nguyen. It was searched again in March, 2018, for Paul Hanks. No Bill in either case. Could Bill have lost his phone? Maybe or maybe not. Toss a coin. I would hope if anyone found a phone, they would not toss it back. Phones are expensive and likely contain personal information. Please take it to park headquarters. I think most hikers would. Good luck on your search.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby jdclifford » Wed Mar 31, 2021 4:23 pm

I'm back from both of my trips. I saw the somewhat rare on foot sighting of a mountain lion, but no Bill.

On my first trip, I searched the southerly portions of the mountains between Upper and Lower Covington. This area checks the mark when it comes to being remote...absolutely no signs of footprints within any washes. Yet, it has probably gone unsearched because it lacks Serin Tower cell reception. Full disclosure...I had previously planned to hike the mountains between Keys View Road and Stubbe Springs until someone on this forum wisely talked me out of it. It is wise that I not completely disregard the cell phone ping. I know a few people on this forum believe he is still between Quail and SWC. I now have to agree with that assumption. Not only are there three zones of cell reception from the Serin Tower, but there are remote areas as well. On all future trips, I will be focused within this area. Hopefully, however, someone finds him before then. I'm convinced he's out there. It's just a matter of time. The important thing is that he is found, but I'm sure we are all very curious as to why his cell phone only pinged once and three days after he set out on his hike. It's very mysterious. I'm sure where he is found will shed light on that.

As for my second trip, I hiked up the eastern slope between Quail and SWC, trying to cover ground in between previously laid tracks. I realized that I would only have the stamina for one more high elevation hike before leaving two days later. That was not to be...I arrived to find I had a flat tire. What a bummer! It was late in the day, so I made the decision to hike in a mile from the road (close to the bottom of Samuelson Mountain). If not for the flat, I would unquestionably be camping while parked at a backcountry board. I spent all of the next day dealing with the flat. I was very fortunate that my car was parked in an area where I could actually get calls out. On Sunday, I did a lower elevation hike before driving six hours to Tucson. I simply couldn't see myself hiking Quail then doing that. I still hiked 12 miles, but that's far less taxing than an 8 mile Quail hike. It was on this hike that I saw the mountain lion for about 2 seconds. As I was approaching one of the islands of rock outcroppings in Quail Springs, I spotted one curiously checking me out from a hill of rocks directly in front of the larger outcropping. Within two seconds, it turned and disappeared behind the rocks. I walked straight to there, hoping to get another look but, unsuprisingly, it was nowhere to be seen. I made sure I didn't smell the stench of death because I knew walking up on one of it's kills could spell trouble for me.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to return to JT until December because of school and work commitments. I still have at least a few years of searching for Bill ahead of me, unless he is found prior. The only disappointment every time is in not finding him. All the rest are positives. I love my time getting away from home for a bit and searching in JT. I plan to make two trips yearly, from here on out. Probably a one week vacation and a four day weekend between November and March.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby jdclifford » Wed Mar 31, 2021 4:44 pm

cmitchelli...welcome. I have been out to JT 8 times now and have produced tracks both near and far from the 10.6 mile arc from the Serin Tower. My current feeling is that Bill is within or fairly close to one of the cell zones between Quail and SWC. There are a few people on this forum who would agree. He would obviously be in a place that is incredibly remote...remote even for that entire area. I was on a small section of the eastern slope of Quail this last trip and thought to myself that it could be possible that I was the only one to walk there within a decade. Within a minute, I found a Smartwater bottle that had a best by date of October 2022 (I placed it in my pack to discard later). Clearly, someone else had been there within the last half year.

As for how far Bill got after the cell phone ping...I doubt very far. The only way he would have achieved a favorable distance is if he had located water. I got lost in the Gila Wilderness of NM back in 2008. After two cold sleepless nights, I got separated from the person I was with and decided to hike level ground in a fight for my life. Finding a mud puddle 20 minutes in gave me a tremendous boost. Suddenly, I could move with some vigor and not completely labor through my movements. That was two days into being lost and it was not nearly as hot during the daytime as it was when Bill was in JT. Bill was a tough and hardened military vet, but nobody is going to make it far without water for 3 days in that heat. Just my two cents.
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