Jean McDonald - Strange disappearances from U.S. state parks

Gloria White Moore McDonald, disappeared 26th January 2001, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Polk County, Arkansas.

Gloria mcdonald

On Friday, January 26, 2001, Gloria White Moore McDonald (Mena, Arkansas), aged 68, her husband Daniel, her husband's son, and the son's girlfriend, went for a hike on the Lover’s Leap trail in Queen Wilhelmina State Park, in Polk County, Arkansas, arriving at around 12.25 pm. Daniel McDoanld’s son from a past marriage, Sean McDonald, was visiting from Florida with his girlfriend, Erin Jemmott.

Located on top of Rich Mountain, Arkansas’s second highest peak, Queen Wilhelmina offers some of the most breathtaking views in the state from the fully renovated lodge. The original lodge was built in the late 1800s as a Victorian resort named Wilhelmina Inn to honor the young Queen of the Netherlands. The park is located 13 miles west of Mena.

The hike along Lover’s Leap trail was along one of the nature trails that borders the lodge property near Rich Mountain. The attraction of this loop trail is an overlook on a high rock bluff with a sweeping view of the surrounding Ouachita National Forest. It is described as moderate difficulty, and with a 1.3 mile, 1 hour duration.

Queen wilhelmina state park.jpeg

About 150-250 yards down the trail the group found several tree limbs and debris blocking it, caused by a recent winter storm, and Gloria decided she did not wish to walk any further as she wasn’t a “woodsy” person (according to her husband) and returned to the park's gift shop and restaurant whilst the others continued onwards. Around a half hour later, when the group returned and went to the lodge they could not find Gloria, she had disappeared without a trace. To this day, no sign of her has ever been found.

Lovers leap trail arkansas

The car the group had used was parked where it had been originally left and the possessions were all locked inside. A search of the car indicated none of Gloria’s personal belongings were missing.

A red head, she was wearing a blue plaid flannel shirt, a glossy bright yellow hooded jacket, blue jeans, sneakers, rose-tinted sunglasses, a plain gold wedding band, a platinum ring resembling two balls intersecting one another, a three-and -a-half carat sapphire ring, a necklace with a cross pendant and possibly a small-sized gold filigree ring. She weighed about 120 pounds and was 5 feet, 6 inches tall. She was also carrying a Minolta Riva Zoom 90 camera (serial number 40907425).

Lovers leap train arkansas
Lovers leap trail, arkansas

On January 27th, Arkansas State Police Special Agents were contacted by Polk County Sheriff's Deputies at Mena after a search of the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge area failed to turn up any sign of Gloria. A thorough search of the area was done using sniffer dogs, helicopters and search and rescue teams.

McDonald was a court reporter for the Mena Star newspaper and there was a theory that someone she had written about had abducted her. But some friends reviewed her notes and articles to see if a clue might exist about her disappearance and found nothing. The family had the theory that she may have “walked up on something” involving illegal drug activities and been killed to silence her.

Gloria was born in New York and raised in the Texarkana, Texas area. McDonald led an active lifestyle and enjoyed aerobics. She graduated from Texas High School and attended Beech Street Baptist Church.

Arkansas State Police senior special agents Lynn Benedict and Hays McWhirter conducted the state police investigation along with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department the Polk County Sheriff at the time. Mike Oglesby, said only one room at the lodge had been rented and “There were about six guys there who work for the state park, the kitchen help and waitresses. Add to that a few men who were piling brush and cleaning up after the storm and that’s it.” , "This woman disappeared without a trace in 30 minutes. We have no motive, no evidence of any kind. We've got nothing."

McWhirter said during the same time period bloodhounds searched “all over the mountain” and no remains were ever found, “The bloodhounds followed a scent which led down to a paved road below the lodge, but they lost the scent at the road. There are no suspects and we don’t know what happened to her. “

What happened on January 26th, 2001, has baffled authorities and there are many theories online about kidnapping, murder and even a Big Foot attack. Some believe she just got lost and fell somewhere, others that she ran away intentionally given her husbands behaviour after her disappearance and was picked up an accomplice/friend. Police even wondered if she ever was in the 460-acre park.

Daniel McDonald, 63, Gloria’s husband said at the time, "I was the No. 1 suspect. I demanded to take a polygraph test.” State police investigator Lynn Benedict confirmed that Daniel passed this. Daniel complained that authorities spent too much time questioning him before bringing out search dogs the next day.

Gloria’s family were certain she was dead at the time, speculation that disturbed investigators who say they can't link anyone to a crime. "In my mind, she's dead," Daniel said. "I think she saw something she shouldn't have seen ... so they took her. Or maybe she was snatched up by someone and tossed in one of these buildings."

Less than a week after his wife's disappearance, Daniel said he would move back to Florida. "I don't want to be the guy in Mena whose wife was killed on the mountain," he said. The sheriff says he hasn't ruled out Daniel as a suspect, but authorities didn't have any evidence against him. In an interview, Daniel said he couldn't imagine anyone abducting his wife "for her body" because she could not be considered pretty. Gloria was Daniel's second wife and they had been married around a year. His first wife died in her home of natural causes, according to a funeral home in Chiefland, Florida. Sean McDonald said in a telephone interview from Florida that sometimes his father can come across the wrong way: "He's a great man, but he'll say whatever's on his mind and he doesn't care what anyone thinks." Still Daniel’s comments and his fast departure to Floria were baffling and somewhat suspicious.

Sean said all three family members were interrogated separately the day after Gloria disappeared. Police seized his camera and found pictures taken the day of the hike, but there were no shots of Gloria. "They were so focused on us but we didn't have anything to do with this. You see this stuff in the movies and on the news, but this one hit home."

A maintenance worker says he may have spotted a woman in a yellow jacket but can't be sure. Authorities said the worker was the only person who was able to place Gloria in the park, except for Daniel, Sean and Erin.

The scent trail detected by the sniffer dogs indicated that Gloria may have been taken off in a car, either intentionally or by force but no firm evidence supports this theory.

Kerri, Gloria's daughter from a previous marriage said, "The first thing I think is that more than likely, she's dead. I know my mom. If someone did get her into a car, she would've mouthed off so much they would've had to kill her."

If she was lost on the mountain in a bright yellow jacket and fell, it seems she might have been fairly easy to see from the air since the forest is primarily deciduous and it was January. But no sign was ever found, even 18 years on. Authorities did not find any clues relating to foul play or that she had intentionally disappeared. If she was never in the area in the first place, then where could she be? A baffling, strange case from Arkansas.

Connie Johnson - Strange disappearances from U.S. wilderness

Connie johnson, Fog Mountain Idaho, disappearance

Connie Johnson, Disappeared October 5th 2018, Fog Mountain, Big Rock, Idaho

Connie Johnson, 76, was an experienced outdoorswoman. In October 2018, she was working as a camp cook for Richie Outfitters (Salmon, Idaho) in the area around Fog Mountain near Big Rock in Idaho. An area with no roads and only accessible by horse or on foot.

She had previously worked as a U.S. Forest Service wilderness ranger at the Moose Creek Ranger Station, was a member of the Selway-Bitterroot Foundation, and she frequently led young people and other groups on tours of the backcountry in the area. Her friends said she was very well experienced with the back country and knew how to survive even if something went wrong.

She was last seen October 2nd 2018, when the hunters left the camp. According to County Sheriff Doug Giddings, the next day the hunters had radio contact with Connie but they were unable to understand what she was saying. When they returned to the camp on October 5th, Johnson and her dog, Ace, were gone.

A large search with searchers on foot and tracking canines was quickly deployed and involved aircraft deploying FLIR heat technology from the U.S. Air Force, the Idaho National Guard, the Clearwater County Backcountry Helicopter Rescue team.

Chris Adkins, a former colleague says "It's reconcilable. You know, what everyone is dealing with, with this, because like you said, this isn't like some pilgrim's first rodeo. This is a woman who spent literally the last 25 years of her life, most of them, on foot in the wilderness, alone, doing her wilderness range work, and if there's anybody that has a skill set that positions them to beat this, it's Connie."

But no trace of Johnson was found and the search was ended on October 16th.

Three weeks later, the dog, Ace, turned up at the Moose Creek ranger station, around 15 miles from the camp, but without Connie. The dog was examined, fed and then taken out to search for Connie but to no avail.

Moose creek ranger station, Idaho

In an oral history Johnson recorded for the Selway-Bitterroot Foundation she talked about her experience in the backcountry after relocating from Iowa years before:

“I don’t remember really being afraid of anything. I’m a spiritual and faithful person and I kind of gave over my life to, you know, there’s God taking care of me and I know that but I did learn to, and I don’t remember being fearful. There were lightening storms and there were creek crossings and there were lots of challenging things physically, but I’m naturally an impatient person and this taught me, since I was by myself, to be very careful about where you put your feet. You know, Connie, if you get hurt here there’s no way anybody’s going to help you; you’re on your own. So it taught me to plan ahead about how I would negotiate this or that or how I would deal with the water supply or bee stings and that kind of thing. I just love being in that place so much. It just took care of me, you know. It’s a pretty overpowering feeling to look up into those hills and especially being a flatlander like I was. I still am in awe of the power of those mountains and the power of the weather and the creeks and just the sheer hugeness of it and the fact that we’re not in control of anything.”

Her daughter said she can only speculate about what happened to her mother, but did not believe her disappearance was intentional. “I think that she was enjoying the outdoors, which she loves, and something happened. The weather came up; she fell … I don’t know, but I think that she got surprised. Given the temperature, given the lack of time, given the lack of signs of her and the fact that Ace is not with her, all points to …”

Terrence woods, idaho disappearance

By coincidence, Terrence Woods, 27, was reported missing around 5.30 p.m on the same day in the Orogrande area of Idaho in mysterious circumstances. He was a production assistant from Maryland helping film a documentary on penman mine for a British TV show called Whitewater.

At some point he ran off into the woods for some reason and has never been found. Terrence's father said, "they [production crew] thought he fell off a cliff, but by the time he got over there, my son was 15 feet down the cliff, running like a hare. So I said what do you mean running like a hare. He said he run so fast I ain't never seen nobody run that fast. You can't get lost out there because if you get lost out there, you're going to run into a road or houses. So he didn't just poof, vanish and disappear. No, he made it to that road, someone picked him up."

Despite an extensive search, no leads were obtained from the previous seven days of searching, and no signs of Terence were located in the search area or the expanded search area.

What happened to Connie and Terrence in October 2018? Given Connie’s experience in the outdoors she was well equipped for survival. Did she fall ill or have an accident or did something else happen that day? What caused Terrence to run off into the woods and never return?

Sources

https://lmtribune.com/northwest/no-plans-to-resume-search-for-missing-nezperce-woman/article_59e375fa-eb1f-5760-b16d-93fb039f88c9.html

https://idahonews.com/news/local/where-is-connie-and-terrence-two-people-are-still-missing-in-idaho-county

https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/northwest/idaho/article220610130.html

Jerika Binks - Strange disappearances from US National Monuments

jerika binks disappearance timpanogos cave

Jerika Binks, disappeared February 18, 2018, Remains discovered April 14, 2019 (a mile northwest of the Swinging Bridge picnic area), Timpanogos Cave National Monument trail, American Fork Canyon, Utah.

See update below April 2019

Jerika Binks, 24, was last seen on February 18th, 2018. She was staying at a residential treatment / integrated recovery centre near North County Boulevard in American Fork, Utah. She told a roommate at around 9am she was planning to go for a run in the Timpanogos Cave National Monument. She was a keen long distance runner and often visited the park. On that day she vanished and she remains missing, either as a result of foul play, misadventure in the wilderness or other unknown factors

jerika binks disappearance

Timpanogos Cave National Monument is a United States National Monument protecting the Timpanogos Cave Historic District and a cave system on Mount Timpanogos in the Wasatch Mountains in American Fork Canyon near American Fork in Utah.

The site is managed by the National Park Service. The 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trail to the cave is steep, gaining close to 1,000 feet (300 m), but paved and fairly wide, so the caves are accessible to most. The three caves of the system, one of which is specifically called Timpanogos Cave, are only viewable on guided tours when the monument is open, usually from May through September depending on snow conditions and funding.

TIMPANOGOS CAVE NATIONAL MONUMENT TRAIL, utah

Jerika left behind her ID and bank card and all her possessions apart from her cell phone, AirPods and water which she took on the run, according to her mother, Suzanne Westring.

It was common for Jerika to go running but she would always return back to the integrated recovery centre at a reasonable time. She voluntarily lived there for multiple reasons, for several months, and had been doing well with her treatment (exact issue unknown). She was known to occasionally leave the centre and meet with boyfriends. She used her Snapchat account to meet an individual approximately one week before she went missing, but that man was tracked down by detectives who determined that he was not involved in the case.

She is a white, female, 5-foot-4, 120 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. She was wearing black five-toed running shoes and a two-toned hooded sweatshirt, with dark grey on the back and light grey on the front and dark green leggings.

Her mother, Suzanne, spoke to Jerika the day before she disappeared on the run. The two planned to go car shopping. But when the treatment centre called and said Jerika never returned, she grew very concerned believing that some sort of foul play befell her daughter as the only explanation.

In May 2018 new photo evidence concerning Jerika's disappearance was released, three months after she vanished. Images captured by a wildlife camera owned by the NPS showed her running down the National Timpanogos Cave Trail and up American Fork Canyon on February 18th around 1:30 p.m.

This NPS camera was placed on the closed Timpanogos Trail in fall 2017, and retrieved March 27th, 2018. They were taken in an area that was closed to the public for the winter about halfway up the trail. When park staff downloaded the images, they recognised a woman matching Binks’ description in photos date stamped as February 18, the reported date of her disappearance. The photos were immediately turned over to the Utah County Sheriff's Office.

NPS camera which captured Jerika Binks 1.30 pm running February 18, 2018

NPS camera which captured Jerika Binks 1.30 pm running February 18, 2018

In his post on the Finding Jerika Facebook page, Jed Binks, Jerika’s brother, said the family has been “waiting for a month to release these photos. Out of respect, and not wanting to step on anyone’s toes who are aiding in the investigation. That’s why our searches have been so dedicated to this area.”

“They say it’s her coming down the trail, there is not footage of her coming up, which leads us to believe she gained access to the trail elsewhere. Furthermore, that leads us to believe someone showed her an entrance prior to her run that day.”

The family released the photos without the knowledge of investigators. Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said deputies believe someone in the family snapped photos with their cellphone while investigators privately showed them the pictures on a computer. The reason the sheriff's office did not want the photos released was to avoid compromising the investigation should Binks' disappearance turn out to be a criminal matter.

A cell phone ping registered in Saratoga Springs at the mouth of American Fork Canyon at 10am, around the same time as she headed up the canyon. The family believes she may have accessed the trail elsewhere.

The family and other donors offered a $10,000 reward for information about Jerika’s disappearance.

Since her disappearance, family and friends have spent hundreds of hours walking routes she might have taken, reviewing drone and video surveillance footage from various businesses and homes. Using cellphone tower triangulation data, the family narrowed down the possible routes and areas she might have been in, including routes north of American Fork Hospital, along 4800 West/North County Boulevard, east along State Route 92, and trails and roads crossing the Cedar Hills Golf Course in between.

Using video footage from the Utah State Developmental Center that very possibly shows her running, the family extrapolated Jerika’s running speed at about an 8.8 mile pace. With that pace, she could not have made it to the American Fork Canyon by 10 a.m. But, if the ping data had a margin of error of about 10 minutes, then it possible she could have made it there running. That timing could mean a difference of if Binks made it to the canyon and possibly had an accident, or if she was possibly attacked and carried there in a vehicle, or even if her phone was stolen and moved without her.

A major search of the park and surrounding area lasting several days was conducted by the Sheriff’s Office and highly trained search and rescue teams. The search included helicopters, drones, dog teams and ground searchers rappelling through steep terrain. On weekends and evenings during fair weather in March and April, the family searched the area.

Adjacent scree slopes, animal trails and other possible but unauthorised routes were also searched multiple times. The cave trail gate is locked from below but can be opened from above at all times, leaving open the possibility that she continued down the trail and left the park.

Despite the efforts of professional search teams, family and volunteers, the disappearance remains a mystery and there have been no solid leads for detectives working on the case. Foul play has not been ruled out, according to the Sheriff’s Office. It is unknown what route Jerika took to get above the locked NPS gate and into the closed part of the hiking trail where the photos were taken.

She was clearly alive and well at 1.30 pm when the NPS pictures of Jerika running down the trail were taken. What happened to her after that? Investigators do not have any evidence about happened to Binks, including whether she was abducted, ran away, or whether she was injured somewhere and trapped.

A series of search warrant affidavits has been filed since her disappearance including social media accounts. In one warrant, investigators looked at a second possible sighting of Binks on the same Timpanogos trail taken a few weeks before she went missing. In the photo, a woman with similar features as Binks is seen walking with a man. Police later determined that the woman in the photo was not her.

On the day Jerika disappeared, she left two uncashed checks in her bedroom along with her ID and debit card. She left her cellphone charger and her room was tidy indicating that she probably did not run away or leave town voluntarily. Detectives also checked her bank accounts and found "no activity" since February 18 nor any suspicious activity on her credit union account.

Another case of a runner who mysteriously vanished was Amy Wroe Bechtel in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming in 1997. Theories included that she was killed by her husband or the Great Basin Serial Killer, Dale Wayne Eaton. Read more at: Link to Amy Wroe Bechtel story.

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Update April 2019

On Sunday April 14th, 2019, a 70 year old local hiker came across the skeletal remains of a body, along with several personal items including shoes, running clothes, and a cellphone, in a ravine near Jerika’s last known location. Local police announced the discovery on Monday 15th, and confirmed the body was that of Jerika Binks on the 17th after a completed medical examination.

The man who found the remains was an experienced local hiker who has explored the area for years, and had never been to that spot before. She was located 850 feet in elevation gain (a distance of about 2500 feet) above the road in a wash/ravine on the North side of the canyon in an area above Swinging Bridge.

The area was well outside of those searched by Search and Rescue, the family & volunteers, and all drone searches. While searches covered lower parts of that area, it was easily 2000 feet outside of these search locations. It is an area that really does not have developed trails and is not a common hiking route.

Authorities did not confirm an official cause of death, but a statement from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said Binks suffered “a serious break to both bones in the lower part of one of her legs.” Police do not believe foul play was involved in her death and the most likely theory remains that she decided to explore beyond the area’s manmade paths, and suffered an accidental fall.

The location of Binks’s body helps to explain why a robust search effort after her disappearance failed to find anything, being located halfway up a steep ravine, away from any trails or manmade structures, around a mile northwest of the Swinging Bridge picnic area, which is half a mile down the road from the trailhead where Binks was last seen.

The location of Jerika Binks’ remains were marked with a pink flag

The location of Jerika Binks’ remains were marked with a pink flag

Jerika Binks remains location marked with a Star.

Jerika Binks remains location marked with a Star.

Sources

https://www.facebook.com/findingJerika/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timpanogos_Cave_National_Monument

https://kutv.com/news/local/police-searching-for-missing-utah-county-woman

https://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/north/american-fork/jerika-binks-family-still-searching-for-answers-and-missing-woman/article_c769c480-f656-5c6a-b09a-d6ba353c67e0.html

https://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/north/american-fork/family-of-missing-jerika-binks-releases-camera-footage/article_c1c8cbf1-1796-5316-9d56-98171ae8490f.html

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900018914/photos-raise-new-questions-in-search-for-american-fork-woman.html

https://fox13now.com/2018/09/04/mother-of-missing-utah-county-woman-pleads-for-publics-help-in-finding-her/

https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a27169088/jerika-binks-possible-body-discovery/

Susan Clements - Strange disappearances from U.S. National Parks

Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, disappeared September 25th, 2018, Body found October 2nd, 2018, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North carolina/TENNESSEE

susan clements disappearance

Update October 3, 2o18

Search crews found the body of Mitzie Sue "Susan" Clements approximately two miles west of the Clingmans Dome parking area and three-fourths of a mile south of the Appalachian Trail on the afternoon of October 2nd. Why did she walk away from the parking lot when she separated from her daughter and then what happened? Authorities have dismissed foul play.

Mitzie Sue "Susan" Clements death clingmans dome

Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, 53, was hiking with her 20 year old daughter on Tuesday, September 25th, 2018 near Clingmans Dome in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains, when she mysteriously vanished after they lost sight of each other.

Susan, a mother of three, disappeared around 5pm in an area close to the parking lot, about 1/4 mile from Andrews Bald, on the Forney Ridge Trail in the National Park after her daughter decided to hike ahead a short distance with the intention for her to turn around and meet up. Susan’s daughter wanted to climb up to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower (6,643 feet in elevation), and because she was hiking faster, she told her mother she would go ahead and then meet her back at the parking lot. They weren’t separated for very long but when when she arrived back at the lot, she couldn’t find Susan. She waited a short while, walked around, retraced some of her steps and then contacted the park authorities when her mother failed to arrive some hours later. The two of them intended to do a day hike only so were not carrying supplies or heavyweight clothing.

Clements is white with light brown hair and blue eyes, 5'6" and 125 pounds. She was last seen wearing a green zip-up sweater, black workout pants over black leggings, a clear rain poncho and gray Nike running shoes with light green soles.

Susan from Cincinnati was on vacation in North Carolina when she disappeared. The Great Smoky Mountains lies on the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, and Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park

forney ridge trailhead Great smoky mountains

125 trained searchers with drones, sniffer dogs and helicopters from 30 “search and rescue agencies” helped park staff in a large-scale search of the area but nothing was found including clothing or other clues. The weather was poor with rain, fog, wind and low temperatures in the 40s which hampered search efforts due to limited visibility. Clingmans Dome Road was closed to accommodate the infrastructure needed to manage and expedite the search. The area also has poor cellphone service so Verizon set up a portable cell tower. In a news release, officials said the cell booster is “providing the critical cell and data coverage needed to effectively manage and support the search effort in this remote location.”

As of October 1st, searchers had hiked more than 500 miles on trails and conducted intensive off-trail “grid-searches” of approximately 10 square miles in the steep, rugged terrain that straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border. The searchers were left frustrated by lack of evidence given the resources deployed in the area where Susan disappeared.

search for susan clements morning briefing

Susan Clements disappearance is in the same area as that of Trenny Lynn Gibson who also vanished from the Forney Ridge Trail in 1976 and was never seen again and was believed to have been abducted.

Susan’s disappearance from the trail is strange given the limited time she was away from her daughter and proximity to the parking area. Maybe she was bundled into a car and driven away or left the Forney Ridge Trail for some reason and was lost in the wind and rain? Another disturbing story from the Great Smoky Mountains.

Sources

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article219306345.html

https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/hamilton-county/cleves/search-intensifies-for-cleves-woman-missing-in-great-smoky-mountains-national-park

https://eu.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2018/10/01/great-smoky-mountains-searchers-missing-hiker-clingmans-dome-smokies/1486631002/

https://heavy.com/news/2018/09/mitzie-sue-susan-clements-missing/

https://eu.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/10/02/body-cleves-hiker-mitzi-susan-clements-found/1505507002/

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/

Samantha Sayers - Strange disappearances from U.S. mountains

Samantha Sayers, Disappeared August 1st, 2018, Vesper Peak, North Cascades Mountains, Washington State

Samantha Sayers, Vesper Peak disappearance

Samantha "Sam" Sayers, 28, went missing whilst on a solo hike on the Vesper Peak trail in the North Cascades mountains in Washington on Wednesday, August 1st, 2018.

Sam left on the trail at around 8am and was expected to head home and check in with her boyfriend, Kevin Dares, that evening by 6pm. He couldn't accompany Sam because he was working but headed to the trail that evening with darkness coming to search for her when she hadn't returned. Around 1am the following day her family reported her missing.    

The Washington Trails Association describes the Vesper Peak Trail as "Vesper Peak is definitely not for the novice hiker, but for those thirsting for one step beyond hiking into backcountry adventure, it's a good leaping off point. The potential consequences of stumbling here are decidedly lesser than they are on other summits along the Mountain Loop. Some hikers have said that the Vesper Peak trail is “hard to follow,” implying that Sayers might have accidentally strayed from the trail.

Vesper Peak, Washington

She was last seen wearing light grey hiking pants and a black sports bra with green eyes, and bald due to alopecia, that causes hair loss. She was an experienced hiker and had hiked the Vesper area before. 

The Snohomish County Sherrif's Office undertook a search which was one of the longest and largest rescue efforts authorities have undertaken in years. 70 searchers, fourteen dog teams and helicopters searched the area to no avail. At one point, drone operators and the sheriff’s Marine Unit were involved. In addition, volunteer searchers from around the state spent thousands of hours of time, leaving bags with a note saying "Stay Strong! We're looking for you. Everyone is thinking of you" with a poncho, socks, energy bars, compass, flashlight, fire sticks and a lighter. The sheriff’s office spoke with witnesses who saw Sayers the day she went missing, but none saw her come back down the trail.

Her boyfriend said she had lunch with an unidentified male before she disappeared. This unidentified person checked in with searchers and reported that after seeing the news of the disappearance that he had lunch with Sam near the summit on that day at roughly 3 pm. He also said that after they parted ways he later saw her from a distance making her way down the west side of the mountain towards Spada Lake.

The sheriff’s office said since August 2, search operations had included 357 hours of air operations from the sheriff’s office and other agencies, 105 hours for drone operations in the search area, 82 hours for the marine unit to support search teams in Spada Lake, 329 hours for sheriff’s office search-and-rescue personnel and thousands of volunteer hours from search and rescue teams from around the state.

Sam's car was found parked at the trailhead, 27 miles south of Darrington on the Mountain Loop Highway in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

After three weeks, on August 23rd, 2018, the official search was called off with no sign of the hiker. Search and Rescue Sgt. John Adams said “We have exhausted all leads and tips. We’ve interviewed all witnesses who have come forward. We have checked and double checked the possible routes we believe Sam could have taken. If there was a place we thought she could get to, we put people there to look for Sam, often putting our volunteers and personnel at great risk due to the rugged, remote, and dangerous terrain.”

Vesper Peak Area, Washington state

Family members however continued the search, with private helicopters, dog teams and a professional tracker using the $39,000 raised on a GoFundMe page. Members of a Facebook group set up by the family helped with tasks such as searching through hours of drone video for any signs.

Despite the extensive search, no evidence relating to Sam's whereabouts has been found as of the time of the writing of this article. Another baffling disappearance. 

Sources

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/official-search-ends-for-seattle-hiker-missing-since-aug-21/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6071107/Search-Seattle-hiker-missing-two-weeks.html

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/08/23/missing-seattle-hikers-family-friends-remain-hopeful-despite-suspension-search-operations.html

https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/vesper-peak

https://heavy.com/news/2018/08/samantha-sam-sayers/