Joe Domin (aka GPS Joe), Disappeared November 8th, 2010, Mount Peeley trailhead to Sheep Mountain, Arizona
Joe Domin was also known as GPS JOE on the various Arizona outdoor websites such as HikeArizona.com and ArizonaHikers.com he posted on and was a keen hiker. He profiled the trails he explored on his website with pictures and descriptions, www.gpsjoe.net, which is now sadly defunct. He was 68 years old when he was last seen on Monday, November 8th, 2010 before he headed to the Mount Peeley trailhead.He went for a solo hike without leaving an itinerary with anyone, and as a result, no one realized that he was missing until a week later.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office first received a call that Joe was overdue was on Monday, November 15, at about 9 pm.
His car was found at the the Mount Peeley trailhead, north east of Phoenix and close to Payson. Friends said Joe was interested in finding an "off trail" route to summit Sheep Mountain on the Mazatzal Divide TR23 . He had attempted to climb the rugged north to south ridge line that runs up and downhill to the summit of Sheep Mountain at 6996 feet three times before since the late autumn of 2009. The area is covered with thick vegetation.
An extensive Search and Rescue effort was mounted to try and find him. On November 16th, the search and rescue responsibility was transferred from Gila County to the Maricopa County S&R team. The Maricopia Mountaineering team (10-15 highly qualified) were deployed via helicopter drops to concentrate on the more rugged areas around, up and down the slopes and cliffs of Sheep Mountain.
Even though official Search and Rescue was called off after five days, the hiking community in Arizona volunteered their time to check the rugged terrain and dense vegetation in the area. These unofficial searchers were warned that the off trail vegetation was thick, difficult and can be dangerous for the unqualified and unprepared.
David Bremson of Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Mountain Rescue/ Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association, the primary team involved in the search for Joe with assistance from Gila County/TRSAR warned that:
It seems as though many of you would like to venture in to the area to search for Joe. Although we can not restrict you from doing so, please be aware of the following issues:
-As untrained searchers, it is likely that you could destroy any evidence of his presence by being in the area.
-The area is very challenging, do not go somewhere that is hazardous. We don't want anyone to get injured as this will delay the on-going search.
-If you do decide to search for him and you find him, please do not approach him or touch him or his equipment in any way. This will inhibit our ability to conduct an investigation in to the incident.
-If you do find him, contact the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office immediately and mark the location with your gps. Return to the trailhead and wait for a responding Deputy.
-I recommend that you wait until after the weekend as we will have many resources in the area and need access to the trailhead, which is very small and has limited parking. We also may need it to land our helicopter. If your vehicle is in the parking lot, we will not be able to use it.
It is great to see how close knit this community is and how you want to support a fellow hiker and his family. This would be a better place if everyone cared as much.
David Bremson Mountain Rescue
The area around Mount Peeley trailhead to Sheep Mountain can be treacherous. However, given Joe's significant off-trail experience it was surprising he just vanished that week in November 2010, despite his advanced years. Despite a huge official search and then unofficial search by Arizona hikers, no sign of GPS Joe has ever been found. No clothing, gear or body. What happened?