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JT38, 7/5/2012

Date:  July 5, 2012

Participants:  Tom Mahood, Patrick McCurdy (Who can be talked into very stupid trips by the mere offer of a free lunch at Pappy & Harriet’s)

General search area:  The isolated, unnamed valley encompassing Quail Wash at the far northerly edge of Joshua Tree National Park.

Rationale for searching this area:

In some ways, this was a continuation of the previous JT37 search. If Bill had descended into this valley from the Covington Flat area, he would have seen the homes along the northerly park boundary, appearing deceptively close. JT37 explored the upper reaches of such a possible route, and this trip completed the area all the way to the northerly park limits. It might appear obvious from looking at a map that the best way to exit this valley, northbound, is via Quail Wash. However when viewed from the westerly side of the valley, the narrow gap in the hills Quail Wash passes through northerly is rendered invisible by the terrain. Thus the only apparent exit points of this valley, northbound, to someone descending from the west is via two low saddles  This trip cleared the area between the terminus of JT37 and those saddles.

This area also is covered by reflected cell signals from the Serin Drive cell tower, which could produce a path length of between 10 and 11 miles  It is well outside the primary search area, and to my knowledge has not been searched (Although Quail Wash itself receives a lot of local hiking traffic).

Impressions of area and findings:

This was a fairly flat, extremely open area with minimal areas of brush or rock coverage. At one point Patrick found a bone that appeared to be a scapula, which after-the-fact analysis shows is animal. It exhibited significant erosion probably inconsistent with an exposure duration of two years. Search of the surrounding areas turned up a few other bones a few hundred yards away, that were clearly animal long bones. However these bones were much more worn and weathered than the scapula, so it was hard to say they were related.

Coverage level:  Very good, 80% or better.


The backcountry of Joshua Tree in July is perhaps not the wisest place to be. However there was a window of lower temperatures that allowed us to cover the relatively modest distances safely. We were able to leave the vehicle by 7:30 AM and return just after Noon, with the temperature only in the mid-80s.

We began this search with a very logical plan to search the area, but once onsite and observing the terrain, we chucked the plan and went with what the terrain dictated (i.e., we made it up as we went along). Hence our GPS tracks look like those of drunken sailors. But effective drunken sailors.

GPS mileage submitted for this trip:  16.2 miles

Cumulative GPS mileage submitted to date:  536.9 miles

GPS tracks for this trip in Garmin gdb format

GPS tracks for this trip in gpx format

JT38 GPS tracks

Descending westerly into search area (middle of image) from the Park Road

This scapula looked interesting at first, but appears to be animal. A few other bones were found nearby, but they appeared significantly more weathered than this.

Panorama looking southerly up valley from northerly park boundary

Homes visible just outside the park to the north. They are visible from many high points in the park, including Quail Mt., and appear deceptively close.

We’ve come across a lot of these antlers in our various trips out to JTNP.

This Tortoise shell was a surprise to find.

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