Participants: Tom Mahood
General search area: Multiple areas from Park Road southwesterly past Samuelson’s Rocks to the mouth of Smith Water Canyon
Rationale for searching this area:
These areas were all miscellaneous locations I had been wanting to cover for some time before moving on to significant new areas. Prime among these loose ends was the large bowl on the southerly slopes of Smith Water Canyon at its mouth. I had passed through it once on JT29 over a year earlier and it had intrigued me. It was a large area near the 10.6 mile distance from the Serin cell tower not covered by previous searchers. I couldn’t really think of a good reason for Bill to have been in there, but I’ve long run out of good reasons for him to be anywhere and am looking more toward gaps in the search coverage. And this was one such gap.
Since it was a significant trek to get to the bowl, I decided to incorporate along the way a few other locations I thought could use additional coverage. Chief among these was an area from Park Road southwesterly, along the 10.6 mile Serin cell tower radius. All of the previous searching I was aware of to date had managed to miss this relatively flat open area. It seemed low probability, but hey, Bill’s gotta be somewhere.
Impressions of area and findings:
I hadn’t intended to climb high up the southerly slopes of the bowl but while scanning the area with binoculars I noticed something shiny very near the top and got sucked on up. It turned out to be only a shiny rock face but while I was up there I had a look around a small hanging valley right at the edge of the canyon rim. I recognized the location from my JT 29 trip where I had passed a few hundred yards to the east.
Getting ready to descend I was surprised to look down and see a plastic two liter bottle in a bush. There were no markings on it that I could see, other than routine plastic stampings on its base. It was lacking a cap and though I searched the surrounding area I found nothing further. To me it looked like an apple juice container. As far as I knew, Bill had nothing this large just smaller water bottles. Still, it was something unusual in a remote spot, and we seldom find anything at all.
From where the bottle was there was an obvious descent route to the north, down into Smith Water, with the homes of Joshua Tree clearly visible in the distance. I went down this route rather carefully but failed to find anything of interest.
Nearing the end of my hike, I was doing traversing through my other area of interest near Park Road. Lying across my path was an abandoned, fully extended hiking pole. It was a “Summit” model aluminum from REI. It appeared to have some substantial gouges from rock damage to the point there was a nick out of the handle. I thought this very odd because while it was certainly conceivable a collapsed pole could fall off the back of someone’s pack without them noticing, it’s hard to lose a fully extended pole. Unless it’s deliberately abandoned. And this pole, while a bit scratched, was a pretty nice hiking pole. My interest was really raised when I realized the pole’s location was right on the 10.6 mile Serin cell tower radius. A brief search of the area surrounding the pole failed to turn up anything additional.
The area between Park Road and the Quail Spring/Smith Water/Samuelson’s Rocks vicinity has been saturated by not only searchers but by casual cross country hikers. Bill’s not there. I was able to cover the bowl at the Smith Water mouth to a high degree, although there were some ravines up high on the southerly slopes I was not able to see.
I have concluded the pole is highly unlikely to have any connection to Bill. I had been told by Mary early on that Bill didn’t use hiking poles so I had some level of skepticism of the pole. That didn’t stop me from collecting and bringing it home. However it occurred to me that Bill could have borrowed it from the condo where he was staying. So I inquired with Mary if that was a possibility. She responded that the owner of the condo wasn’t a hiker and she thought it very unlikely he owned any poles Bill could have borrowed. Furthermore, upon close examination of the pole I discovered the wrist strap was adjusted for a very small hand. I could barely fit my hand in and couldn’t grip the handle appropriately. Thus the previous owner was someone with a small hand, probably a child or smaller woman. Finally, I found the pole only about a half mile from the paved Park Road, and even closer to an area of rocks frequented by climbers. If the pole were Bill’s he’d be in the vicinity and would have been discovered by now.
I’m still experimenting a bit with how best to display the GPS tracks included with these writeups. As with the previous report I’ve shifted to a screen capture of USGS topo map layer on Google Earth. But I’ve decided to add the original June 2010 search tracks in black and our searches since then in red putting this reports GPS tracks in a context showing their gap filling aspects. I think this method displays the cumulative situation more clearly but does make for a very busy exhibit. There’s been a lot of searching out there.
GPS mileage submitted for this trip: 15.1 miles
Cumulative GPS mileage submitted to date: 571.2 miles