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JT90, October 13, 2018

Writeup and photos by Adam Marsland

Date: October 13, 2018

Participants: Adam Marsland, Teresa Cowles

General Search Area: Side washes and canyons east of northerly Quail Wash

Rationale for Search:

It is not far from a possible place Bill’s phone might have pinged, and nobody has searched this area, so why not.

Impressions of Area and Findings:

Picturesque washes framed by dramatic rock formations, with lots of potential sheltering spots, and fairly easy terrain for the most part.

Coverage Level:

Good, though in the main wash there were some sheltering rock formations that I would have liked to take a closer look at (we were walking on a height of land halfway between the wash and the rock face on the opposite side, searching both from that vantage point).


I’m back in the United States for a short visit and Teresa took me along to Joshua Tree en route to a gig of hers, so we stopped off in the Quail Wash area for several hours and poked around.

I didn’t have very high expectations – this is very much in the “Bill got himself somewhere nobody would ever think to look” category of locations – but it wound up being a little more productive than I thought.

The wide, winding wash canyons that extend east from Quail Wash are surprisingly picturesque – I recommend them for exploration. They do not appear to see much visitation although a clear trace of a trail unexpectedly appeared from out one of the washes (at a point quite far from the main trail) and just as quickly disappeared about 100 meters up. We were able to find more traces of this trail later hugging the side of the wash that indicated (from the mode of construction) it was quite old, despite the one visible section appearing recent and in good repair. Further back into the hills we found a few cairns indicating people do get back here, though with the recent heavy rains it was hard to tell if anybody had visited recently. (Note from Tom: There are a number of non-maintained trails or routes in that area which aren’t shown on the usual JTNP handout brochures. They are shown in guidebooks and the Nat Geo Trails Illustrated map. This could be a segment of the Panorama trail.)

Mysterious trail that emerges from the wash and vanishes at this point.

It was an interesting area with many rock formations that could be used as shelters and some downright inviting flat spots that would make wonderful camping spots if they weren’t so (relatively) remote. Picking our way back down to Quail Wash from there was steep and painstaking work, but we made it safely.

The wash canyons east of Quail Wash are surprisingly picturesque and infrequently visited.

No trace of Bill, but him being here would be odd since turning up into these canyons would require him leaving Quail Wash with the community of Joshua Tree and rescue very close at hand. Still, being in the area for probably the only time, this was an accessible spot that I’d always wanted to take a look at. My ankle (broken eight months ago in Bali) is still not quite stable enough to get into rougher terrain than this, and without my stick I probably would have been in real trouble on the descent, so this is probably as much as I can do for now, anyway. Other hikers and amateur sleuths of greater skill than I have admirably taken up the gauntlet of searching for Bill, anyway. But it was nice to get back into this area, which smelled and looked wonderful after the recent heavy rains, and take one more look around. Who knows when I’ll get another chance, and it was an absolutely gorgeous day for it.

GPS Mileage: 6.5 miles

Cumulative GPS mileage to date: 994.4 miles

GPS tracks for this trip in Google Earth kml format

GPS tracks for this trip in Garmin gdb format

GPS tracks for this trip in gpx format

JT90 GPS tracks are shown in dark blue. Tracks from the original search are shown in black, searches since then are shown in red and tracks from the Orbeso/Nguyen search. The yellow line is the 10.0 mile radius from the Serin Drive cell tower.

View of the mountains north of Smith Water Canyon from a vantage point east of Quail Wash.