On Saturday, Gary, Mike, Justin, Paul and Julia left the Posse Hut at about 9AM to resume the search for a camper and hiker who has been missing since July. The proposed search focus was in the western edge of the Buttermilk area,north of the Piute Crags and at the headwaters of Birch Creek. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a key to the gate for the road along the penstock, so we’d have to walk from Buttermilk Road. Recent snow had left enough on the north-facing slopes and upper elevations to make much of the projected search area unreachable, so plans changed.
During the Thursday training session, Gary presented all the information available on the missing camper, gleaned from police reports and GPS tracks the man had saved on his computer, which was recovered from his vehicle. Several parties from InyoSAR and other agencies have already searched much of the terrain close to the missing person’s camp, and Gary showed these search tracks along with the missing person’s saved tracks. He reviewed the Madsen Grid created in the early stages of the search process and discussed the sometimes contradictory information this search tool was based on. Since little searching had been done SW of the man’s camp, it was decided to try that area on the Saturday mission.
Starting from a skeet-shooting area just past the penstock road, the team spread out and climbed the ridge paralleling Buttermilk Road to the northwest. Once on top of the ridge, the team set out to explore the drainages, ridges and gullies and stands of trees to the west and north. Some of the area has been burned, some is forested, much is open and either brush-covered, grassy or covered with rocks and gravel. Some walked to the base of Bishop Bowl, while others concentrated on the Horse Creek drainage and various springs. It was a warm spring day, sunny and calm. Many deer were spotted, but no other people or vehicles.
One goal was the missing person’s waypoint found in the tracks recorded on a computer recovered from his belongings. Unfortunately, this point was on the snowy north-facing slope NW of the springs at the ehad of Horse Creek, so it will have to wait for another mission on another day.
After a few hours of steady walking and searching, with no results, the group returned to the Posse Hut in the early afternoon, with a better understanding of the size and complexity of the terrain in the search area. Even if many more members had participated in the search, it would not be possible to do a thorough grid search. Anyone who wants to go for a nice walk and explore some territory should consider checking out the maps at the Posse Hut to help decide on likely areas to be searched. Gary and others are investigating better ways to collect and combine search data from members’ GPS units and to put it on area maps. Ideally we’ll eventually have a good collection of maps showing all these data, and we’ll be able to print out custom maps of specific search areas which we can update as more people participate.