Paul Miller - Strange disappearances from U.S. national Parks

Paul Miller, disappeared July 13th, 2018, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Paul Miller disappearance, Joshua tree national park

Paul Miller, 51, and his wife, Stephanie, from Ontario in Canada, were on vacation in California and Nevada including Las Vegas to celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary.

A typical vacation for them was camping in the backwoods, hiking and kayaking and they had hiked across Canada, North America and Mexico.

They were getting ready to leave their hotel room in Twentynine Palms on July 13, 2018, but Paul wanted to take one more short hike in the hope of  photographing some bighorn sheep as he was a keen hiker. He left the hotel alone at around 9am and drove to the 49 Palms Oasis trail in Joshua Tree National park and promised to be back later that morning. Stephanie was going to accompany her husband on the morning hike, but with time constraints pressuring them on the morning of their last day, she decided to stay at the hotel and pack.

The couple had both hiked in the park on the day before the solo excursion and July 13th was the last day of their trip. He hasn't been seen since. 

49 Palms Oasis Trail, Joshua Tree national park

According to the NPS "The 49 Palms Oasis Trail offers a three-mile round-trip hike to a fan palm oasis. It requires two to three hours and is rated moderately-strenuous, ascending about 300 feet each way. This well-maintained trail climbs to a ridge where large numbers of barrel cacti dot the landscape. After winding around the ridge top, the trail descends steeply to the oasis located in a rocky canyon. Towering palms create a canopy over clear pools of water. Large boulders provide a place to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of this small ecosystem." George Land from the park said “It’s not a real difficult trail. You go in and come out the same way. However, it is a little bit of a rigorous trail.”

When he hadn’t returned by 11 am, his wife grew concerned, but decided to give him another hour and at noon, when she still had not heard from him, Stephanie called park officials who began a search by 12.30 pm. Paul's rental car was quickly found at the 49 Palms Oasis trailhead. His cellphone was left behind at the hotel, but apparently this was not unusual for him.

He was wearing dark shorts, dark grey, almost black Hi-Tec Altitude VI WP hiking boots, black hat and carrying sunglasses, CamelBak hydration pack and a Nikon D5300 camera.

Despite an extensive search involving 600 people putting in 6000 hours in total (90 people at peak), up to twenty dog teams, an ATV search team and a helicopter no sign of Paul has been located and no other evidence other than his car that he was in the park such as his camera has turned up. Park Superintendent David Smith said that "We have a witness who saw (Miller) at the trailhead that morning, but that’s all.” The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputies, detectives, search and rescue and emergency services; California Rescue Dog Association; Nevada Search and Rescue; and the National Park Service with personnel from the Investigative Services Branch, Mojave National Preserve, Death Valley National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Joshua Tree National Park all participated in the search. Due to steep ravines and cliffs, technical specialists with high-angle rescue skills were also deployed.

Despite the large number of K9 teams, the dogs were unable to pick up a scent. The search was scaled back on July 18th after no sign was found.

Park Superintendent Smith said as of mid-August 2018 there were no new clues as to what happened to Paul Miller sating “I assure them, the park service will not forget about Mr. Miller. We are doing all that we can. The FBI is called in only if there is a murder or homicide and at this point, there is no indication that is the case ... nothing to indicate this was a planned disappearance.” 

Stephanie said during an interview "Maybe he finished the trail and came out and something happened. We really don’t know. But if they can’t find him in the park, then what’s to say he’s not out of the park?”

Another national park solo hike with a mysterious disappearance.

Sources

#findpaulmiller on Twitter

https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/upload/49siteMap.pdf

https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/2018/07/21/missing-without-trace-family-friends-canadian-hiker-paul-miller-hold-tight-hope-hes-alive-joshua-tre/813118002/

https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/2018/08/18/guelph-ontario-canada-resident-paul-miller-missing-hiker-joshua-tree-national-park/1032363002/

https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/missing-guelph-man-s-family-urges-search-to-continue-1.4062417

https://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/8854051-wife-of-missing-guelph-hiker-remaining-hopeful/