Mystery of the Joshua Tree Missing Hikers

Early on Thursday, July 27, these two people entered Joshua Tree National Park.

At 4:50 pm that day, there was a ping from the guy’s cell phone that put them in the park.

That was a darn hot day in the park:

On Friday, July 28, says The Hi Desert Star, the person who took care of the Air BnB where they were supposed to be checked out found their stuff.  So they started a search.

Their car was found near the Maze Loop trailhead, one of the closest trails to the West Entrance of the park:

With terrain:


Here it is on Tom Harrison’s map:

For perspective, here is the whole park, which is, in our nation’s tiredest comparison, almost as big as Rhode Island:

All the more tragic to think these folks weren’t too far from a road.  The Maze Loop looks like this:

It’s trippy and weird and spooky and cool:

The trail is pretty well marked but it’s easy to get lost if it’s a hundred degrees and you’re out of water.

All day that Saturday, July 29, there were helicopters over the park.

Walking along the northern edge of the park that evening I ran into a search and rescue team, who told me the troubling tale of the missing hikers. They had crossed up from the trailhead looking for these folks.  They’d found a water bottle, weren’t sure it was related.

There was strange weather in the desert around this time.  On Sunday July 30 a monsoon blew through:

An interesting detail that emerged, again from the Hi Desert Star, that the young man had been out to the park a few weeks before, on “a scouting trip,” with a friend who could now not be found because he was in Japan.

“Interesting,” I thought.

Perhaps someday they would be found alive like this lost couple.

Time passed.

The search was downgraded from “search and rescue” to “search and recovery.”

But the persistent searchers, including the missing man’s father, kept at it.

On Sunday, Oct. 15:

The cause of death was a twist: gunshot wounds.

A curious case.

The absolute source I would want to get on this story would be Desert Oracle, and wouldn’t you know it, Desert Oracle radio came in with a strong take.  Let me encourage you to listen to Desert Oracle, Episode 12, to which I award a spontaneous Helytimes Prize for Best Podcast Episode, California Division, 2017.

You can subscribe to Desert Oracle print quarterly here, and at $25, you’re crazy not to.

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