Dang, not a great image but there, center left is a black rattlesnake, the first I have seen. This also is wilderness encounter #15 of meeting a rattler. I extended my hiking pole, reached in and managed to bring it to the center of the trail but by the time I grabbed my camera, it had gone back into the brush. He was rather agitated. My 3 brave hiking companions, even with the sound of the rattle, skipped past and we continued our hike. More to come and soon.
In the last few days, I have received nice messages from some of you describing how much you enjoyed the hiking reports of this week. Even complete strangers were sending me well wishes on Tuesday prior to the Wednesday rediscovery of the site and subsequent discovery of the remains of Mr. Smallwood. Today, Dan Shearer, editor of the Green Valley News, sent me a nice message thanking me for working with him on the story.
Still, when I think back to that moment of rediscovery and discovery I get a little choked up and I question if it was out of relief which was profound or perhaps it was the reality that on that spot, a man had died and I was looking at what nature had left behind. Probably both and of course the enormous satisfaction that I was helping to bring closure to the family. Well, besides all that something was gnawing at me because I had not finished the hike. An Ohio friend, Mark V aka "March Mark" stated, after I told him I was going back to hike the correct route, "Your Monday route could not have been more correct." and of course that is true but I wanted to start and finish the intended route so I did. More to come, soon.
My friend Decent Dan, a cyclist of some very modest repute in central Ohio, sent me a link to an article listing the top 100 cycling blogs from around the world. There in the 80th place on the list was this silly blog. How about that!?! That mine could be above something called "Cycling Galicia Blog" is quite the honor:)
Recently, I presented evidence that I was more than just a cyclist and hiker but also a kick baller. To that I can add a ping ponger too. This is approximately the 6th such event I have hosted at a place called the Culinary Dropout which has 3 tables.
The common thread among us all is that we haven't played since we were kids but it doesn't take long before everyone becomes at least competent at it. I've had groups ranging from 15 to 30 attend and some people are content to simply eat, drink and watch. If you are wondering, I'm about as good at this as I am a cyclist so pretty average:)
The sun rises over the beautiful Arizona landscape once again. I hardly slept for a variety of reasons, the unique opportunity to help solve a missing hiker case, worry about retracing my route back to the scene, the possibility of letting down the SAR team and their many associates who had been notified of the find, etc... At 4am, I did not need the alarm to wake me and was glad to start the day.
The sun briefly hides behind the iconic Elephant Head, a feature at the western end of the Santa Ritas. The ascent up the right side is exciting with some mild exposure. I arrive a little before 6am and soon....
…..sheriff SUV's come rolling up. The last time I had 2 of them parked behind me was when fleeing the scene of a crime. Ok, just kidding but the deputies got a kick out of my comment. It was a great group of search team members, totaling 11 and one very small.....
….dog who had been trained to search for what we were hoping to find. I assumed a dog with this skill would be a Lab or similar dog but nope, this little guy was very capable if not especially fast when walking through the woods.
Everyone gears up and begins the steep descent from the road.
I led the group down and down while one of them would periodically tie green tape to mark our return. Noting each of them carried a sidearm, I stated I had never felt so safe during a hike. Later, while opening their packs, numerous snacks could be found and they confirmed not only was I safe but if we became lost, I'd be well fed too.
Yes, steep was the hill side and the bed of pine needles made the slope slippery but we all navigated it just fine. We were about .5 of a mile into the descent when it appeared I had reached an area similar to where I made my discovery on Monday. I notified the group and we fanned out into a line. Soon, a guy announced he had found the log with the hiking poles. I turned to walk towards him.....
….almost immediately saw a bone and a couple of steps later, I found a group of clothing. I was briefly overcome with emotion for realizing I had successfully navigated the group to the correct spot, which was not certain, and that human remains were there too. What a relief and of course knowing the hiker's family would finally have closure.
Both hiking shoes were close together and I am certain that on Monday, one had been close to the hiking poles a little higher on the slope but I could be wrong. The leader of the group called us all together and announced this was now a crime scene. I asked if I should return to my car but he said no so I participated in the search for more remains.
Nature's predators had done what they do so the remains were spread over a broad area. As remains were found, green tape was fixed to the location. Communication was made to the Sheriff's department giving updates and soon word got out to the media. I was told the interest was high and all the local media outlets created updates.
The forest was relatively open beneath the canopy so walking is not difficult other than the steepness of the slopes and occasional boulder fields that prevent direct walking up the ridge.
Everything that could be recovered was recovered. GPS devices were consulted to compare past search segments with where we were now. I heard conflicting distance comparisons but the 120 people who contributed to the February effort and done a comprehensive job given the evidence they had. The hiker, once a 911 call had been made, should have stayed in place and he would have been found but given the conditions on the ground and an unknown mental state, it made sense to him to continue to walk.
I was given permission to hike out but they insisted I have an escort. It is a steep ascent out of there. I reached my car, thanked my 3 escorts and was told I would receive a certificate of appreciation from the Sheriff's department which I will value.
I began the long drive from the peak, a combination of pavement and scraped dirt. It has been an interesting 3 days and I am glad I have this blog to record the experience. I have purposely excluded some images and content and maybe some of what I did post was borderline suitable given the audience. If so, I apologize.
I am pretty excited to be part of a group effort that hopefully will result in the discovery of the remains of the lost hiker described below. It would thrill me to help bring closure for the family but first things first, I have to find the site which I am pretty sure I will be able to do. I'm prepared for a long day of searching but hopeful for a short day. A local paper, the Green Valley news, ran a story this evening if you would like an update. The family of the hiker has been notified so that's good. https://www.gvnews.com/news/items-belonging-to-missing-hiker-discovered-in-santa-ritas/article_e499e36a-a2be-11e9-9f95-4b6ceaffd293.html
I'll cut to the chase. I have an interesting story to tell and will but above is probably where an Ohio man sought some shelter on the final night of his life. I became lost today, stupidly, but while looking for the return route, I found this spot where there were two hiking poles, a waist pack containing car keys among other items and one hiking shoe still laced. In February, an Ohio man became lost and despite the efforts of several SAR teams, no evidence of him was ever found, until today. I was interviewed by deputies and asked if I would lead a group back to the site which I am glad to do. Lots of images and the story to come. I hope the human remains can be found and it brings closure for the family.
I did a 2 mile group hike in the morning and had a nagging sense that just wasn't enough (it isn't) so saw a Meetup group was playing kickball at 5:30pm. Hmmmm, that could be a decent workout so drove south into Tucson and was prepared to turn around, as who would come out in this heat (104)? Well, 10 of us did and was told typically they have at least 20 but the holiday weekend must have kept some away. OK, full disclosure, I was the oldest by at least 20 years and have not had a kickball kicked my way in at least 45 years. I stroll out to the field and the shortstop position is vacant!!! Nooooo. The only thought is, "please don't kick it towards me.". 2nd kicker, fly ball, wind blowing in, I jog forward and.....CATCH IT!!! I am stunned and try to be nonchalant about it. Next inning, 3 consecutive balls are kicked in the air toward me and I catch each of them....how bout that?!?! Our team wins 11-5 and the "kids" were a lot of fun. Well, back to hiking and a big one coming tomorrow.