(Note: Written by Myth)
Participants: Myth of the Mt. San Jacinto Forum and spousal unit.
General search area: Lower portion of the central bowl area of Smith Water Canyon, exiting out east of the bowl.
Rationale for searching this area:
As explained in JT54, this area appears to be a good fit. I tend to think Bill was not incapacitated while on his way to Smith Water Canyon – simply because this isn’t the kind of terrain you crawl or limp across. If this is the case, his cell phone was likely in his pack, off, so whether or not he went through cell coverage zones didn’t matter until he was injured.
I wished to see the terrain for myself, but I was pressed for time so I had no time to perform a thorough search. Therefore, I decided to examine a portion of the lower bowl on the guess that some effects may have been washed down one of the drainages in the bowl.
Impressions of area and findings:
This terrain is steep. We started climbing the easternmost chute, and had to bail after a bit because the terrain was very steep and becoming scary for my companion.
I found that it was much easier to traverse up this area on the shoulder areas between the slopes than it was to traverse the chute itself. This is potentially interesting when considering routes Bill may have taken.
Dry waterfalls are common and some required exiting the chute to traverse around.
Went up very slowly, stopping often to scan the slope. On the shoulder areas between the chute and even outside the chute, coverage can be about 80%-90% within 75 feet, especially if looking down slope. However, sight is also frequently blocked by vegetation or larger boulders. In the chute itself, coverage was probably about 80% on average, but again, there are a lot of nooks and crannies.
This area is very interesting and I believe would benefit from a thorough search.
I walked down the Smith Water Canyon bottom both ways. Plenty of footprints in the canyon bottom, so the bottom of the canyon gets noticeable traffic. Towards the mouth of the canyon there was evidence of recent rain. I also noted this in another area of the park the day before, but Smith Water Canyon didn’t get nearly the precipitation of the other areas I were in. Thus, I think it is unlikely that recent rain would have washed anything down into the canyon.
Close to the search area there are two clumps of vegetation. Both of these clumps have use paths through them – not only for human use. Multiple bighorn bones of various vintages were in evidence. One lower leg bone still had fur on it. There is a well-fed predator in the vicinity. None of the bones gave off any smell at all, even the fresh ones.
After ascending the slope a ways we angled to the east and descended a chute outside the primary bowl.
GPS mileage for this trip: 5.9 miles
Cumulative GPS mileage to date: 729.7 miles