Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

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Jim Hatt

Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by Jim Hatt »

I was notified by one of our forum members (Roger) that another hiker has "gone missing" in the Superstition Mountains.

Jesse Capen 35 yrs old from Denver, Colorado decided it was time for him to have a first hand look at the Superstition Mountains. He arrived in Arizona sometime just before Thanksgiving, and began organizing his search for Superstition's Gold.

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Jesse Capen

Nobody knows exactly when Jesse went into the mountains but on Sunday December 20th 2009, an unidentified hiker notified the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, via the Canyon Lake Patrol, that he had found an abandoned campsite and vehicle not far from the site of the Old Tortilla Ranch.

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Jesse's Jeep when it was still at the Trailhead

The Sheriff's Office took the report, and on Monday morning, ran a check on the vehicles license number, but since there were no missing persons reports, thought little more about it at the time. A call to the Colorado residence where the vehicle was registered, resulted only in them learning that Jesse was in Arizona on a Treasure hunt.

Tuesday morning 12/22/09 someone was sent to Jesse's campsite to check on him and ensure that he was OK. They found his campsite in poor condition, having been ravaged by a storm, and all of his personal effects (Wallet, Credit Cards, Cash, Cell Phone, Food and Water) inside the tent. By all appearances they estimated that the campsite had been abandoned for 8-10 days.

Wednesday morning, 12/23/09 search and rescue teams with search dogs, were dispatched to search for Jesse Capen, but found no trace of him.

Thursday 12/24/009 the MCSO sent in more ground rescue personnel and air support for the search.

After hearing about this, I made a few phone calls and found out that Jesse still had not been found, and the "Official" search had been called off, because they had already covered the area where they had expected him to be, and had no idea where else to look.

I had a hard time sleeping last night, thinking that if he was lost out there, he could still be alive if he had any kind of rations with him at all. There has been enough rain in the last few weeks, that he should not have any trouble finding water, even if he had fallen, broken his leg, and had to crawl to get to it. The fact that his backpack was found in his tent, suggested to me that he was not intending to venture too far away from camp when he left it.

Being very familiar with the area where his camp was found, and the legends that apply to that area. I concluded in my mind that he could have only been working one or two places out of that camp. It appeared to me that he had done a considerable amount of homework on the subject, before coming to Arizona, and if I was correct in what I was thinking. I had a couple of hunches about where to search for him. Indian Spring Canyon, or the area where Bilbrey had found the Stone Crosses. More than likely, Search and Rescue had already covered those areas, but I knew I wouldn't be able to get it out of my mind until I went in and looked around myself.

It was around 10:30 Am when I arrived at the Tortilla Trailhead and the only vehicle parked there, was a small compact car with Colorado plates on it. I assumed it to be a vehicle owned by friends or relatives of Jesse's that were continuing to search for him alone.

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I pulled into the area around 11:00 AM where Jesse had parked his Jeep, and it was no where to be found.

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I decided that the MCSO might have considered it to be evidence and towed it away, so it would not be vandalized. I headed up the trail hoping I was wrong, and that Jesse had driven the Jeep out himself.

I spent about 5 hours searching in Indian Spring Canyon. Climbing to high points and looking all around for any signs of anything unusual on the ground or in the sky. It was about noon when I heard a chopper that sounded like it was going down Fish Creek Canyon. Next thing I knew it went right over the top of me and headed up Indian Spring Canyon.

Link to Chopper video
http://s212.photobucket.com/albums/cc73 ... hopper.flv

I don't think they saw me, and made no attempt to get their attention, because i didn't want them to see me and think I was Jesse, whom I assumed they were looking for. That ended my hope that he had driven his Jeep out.

They made three passes over me circling the area before they flew south and out of sight. I never saw them again the rest of the day. It was around 3:30 PM when I started heading back to my truck. Never saw any other people out there the whole day.

I did get to search one of the areas I wanted to look in, but the other one (Where Bilbrey's mining claims were) will have to wait until Thursday. Hopefully the people that own the little blue Toyota at the Trailhead will have found him by then.

In the mean time, If anyone hears any updates on the news please bring us up to date.

Jim


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Re: Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by djui5 »

Jim,
Did you look in all the mines around there? Isn't there a bunch of mines just S/E of the Tortilla Ranch parking lot? I'd really like to get out there Sunday or Mon and help try to find this guy. I have a hunch after reading your story that he possibly fell into one of the mine shafts around there. I really don't see him making the hike to his search area without a backpack or anything. Did you leave a note on the car? I spoke with Robert from the SSAR and he said if we can get the families contact info to let him know.

This is really sad :(

Jim Hatt

Re: Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by Jim Hatt »

Hi Randy,

I think you are talking about the old Miller Mines? There are two old shafts there that are surrounded by thick brush, and about 25-30 feet deep. if a guy wasn't paying close attention he could stumble into one of them. But... Jesse's camp was at Kane Spring. His backpack was found in his tent so I don't think he would gone all the way over into the Miller area without it. If he were interested in that area, there is plenty of water in Tortilla Creek this time of year, and he probably would have set up his main camp over there. I have already spent a whole day in Indian Spring Canyon, and not found anything. Tomorrow I am heading up to the area where Bilbrey had his claims.

I have other things I should be tending to right now, but the clock is ticking all the time on this guy. I know I don't have much of a chance of finding him before it's to late to do him any good. But, I do believe he is still alive at this point. I never saw a single buzzard in the sky when I was up there yesterday. That's good news! I am hoping I will run into some personal friends, or relatives of his tomorrow, and maybe get some idea of what books he was reading or what websites he was interested in. I have gone over the member list here and can't make any kind of connection to him, but most people don't put much on their profiles, so it is a hopeless angle to pursue.

If you want to go in on Sun or Mon let me know and I'll be ready. My plan right now is to go in every other day until he is found. I wish I could do it every day. 20 years ago I could have, but my knees and hips can't hold up to that kind of stuff any more. Hopefully I will meet up with someone tomorrow that knows Jesse, and can give me some personal background info about him, concerning his experience in the outdoors. Anything at all could be helpful in determining how he was thinking, and how far he would have ventured from his camp without his backpack.

I hear you my friend... This is really sad!

I know that area well, and I would never forgive myself if I didn't put everything I have to give into trying to find him.

Jim

P.S. No, I did not leave a not on the car. Been kicking myself for it ever since too! It was a long day, I was dead tired, and hungry, and anxious to get home. I just didn't think of it at the time. Maybe I'll get another chance tomorrow.




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Re: Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by djui5 »

Jim Hatt wrote:
I know that area well, and I would never forgive myself if I didn't put everything I have to give into trying to find him.

Jim
Jim,
I will go up Sunday. What time do you usually hit the trail head? I can drive my Jeep all the way to the windmill/ranch so if you wanna meet me there that would be fine. Just gimme a time and I'll be there.

Jim Hatt

Re: Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by Jim Hatt »

Sunday sounds real good right now Randy. I just got home and I am one hurtin' puppy! I don't know how many miles I logged today, but my GPS was tracking me all the way. When I get it downloaded to my computer I will post a map showing my track. I do know I covered a lot more ground than I had planned to. (All in the high cliffs above Kane Spring) Got back to my truck just as the sun was going down and great big moon was coming up.

Sunday will give me an extra day to rest before another trip.

Jim

Jim Hatt

Re: Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by Jim Hatt »

Randy,

I finally got all my notes and maps from both trips organized. Below is a map that shows the area I searched on Tuesday (inside the green circle) when I saw saw the small blue car from Colo. at the trailhead. The red line is my GPS track from yesterday.

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On my way driving in yesterday I met a hiker/camper a short distance North of Tortilla Ranch, that had been back on the Hoolie Bacon trail all the way to Horse Camp Ridge. I told him about Jesse and he said that he had seen nobody in that country during the last two days. He also said that there were hunters in the area that he talked to, and they didn't mention seeing anyone else in that area either.

When I got to Kane Spring I could not find any sign that anyone had been there in a long time. The big tree that used to stand over it has been blown down and can't be seen from the trail any more. I have doubts about if that is where Jesse had his camp. There is a lot of running water around Indian Spring and I suspect that Jesse may have been camped there.

Farther up the trail from Kane Spring there is another fallen tree that is blocking the trail. I was able to climb over it, but horses will not be able to get through there until it is removed.

I went west of Kane Spring up into the high country and followed the base of the cliffs South checking all the caves and crevices I knew about up there, and found a few more that I had not seen before. I saw no signs that anybody had been up in that area recently either. I took almost 300 photos from up there looking all around at the low country below. I will be going over them later today to see if I can find anything in them.

I am thinking that when we go in Sunday we should go up Indian Spring Canyon, all the way to the saddle at the top of it. If a person goes up the very bottom of the canyon, (the easiest way to go) there are a couple of places where large boulders (Waterfalls) force you out of the bottom up on the side of the ridge to get around them. These are nasty places and I have taken "Spills" there before myself. There are a lot of big trees there and a fallen hiker would not be able to be seen from the air.

I tried to contact SAR to find out exactly where Jesse's camp was. but I only got a recording. I left my number with them last Wed. but they still have not returned my call. I called the MCSO to see if they could tell me where his camp was and they recommended I call SAR.

It is one of those never ending loops that get you nowhere!

I know it is a terrible thought, but I did not see any buzzards in the sky yesterday, and I take that as a sign that Jesse hasn't given up the fight to survive yet. On the other hand I didn't see any smoke rising from a campfire either, but it was very windy out there, and that could have dispersed it before it could rise very high.

I am feeling much better today, than I thought I would be when I got home last night. If anybody out there could be ready for an Indian Spring trip tomorrow morning, I will be ready to go, and Randy and I could hit another area on Sunday.

At this late date, one day earlier could make all the difference! If nobody else can make it tomorrow, I may go in alone again.


Jim

Jim Hatt

Re: Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by Jim Hatt »

UPDATE: 1/1/10 1:38 PM

I just found out that Superstition Search and Rescue (SSAR) had not been called out to look for Jesse. They need to be contacted by a family member before they are dispatched for a search. If anyone knows how to contact a member of Jesse's family, please let them know they should get in touch with Mr. Cooper. His email address is included in the email correspondence below.

Jim



Re: Jesse Capen - Lost Hiker in the Superstitions Friday, January 1, 2010 1:24 PMFrom: "Jim Hatt" To: "Robert Cooper" <racooper49@gmail.com>

Hello Robert and thank you for your prompt reply! I have had a call in to SAR since Wed when I left a message on their answering machine. They have not called me back yet. I just updated my info on my search at the website below. If you have any contacts that might know how to find out exactly where Jesse's camp was, it could be a big help to me if I go in again tomorrow morning.

Also - If you can find out what area was searched by SAR (and post it on the website), it could prevent me (or anyone else) from having to search the same area again.
Thanks,

Jim


--- On Fri, 1/1/10, Robert Cooper <racooper49@gmail.com> wrote:From: Robert Cooper <racooper49@gmail.com>


Subject: Re: Jesse Capen - Lost Hiker in the SuperstitionsTo: "Jim Hatt" Date: Friday, January 1, 2010, 11:06 AM

Good morning Jim, We were not called out on this search. Is Jesse Capen the prospector whos camp is near Canyon Lake? If so Maricopa SAR spent 3 days over Christmas searching and from what they told me members are now poking around on their own. We offered our services to them but they have not called. If a family member were to call us we would begin searching. Keep me informed of your efforts in case we are contacted.

On Fri, Jan 1, 2010 at 10:39 AM, Jim Hatt wrote:


Mr. Cooper,

My name is Jim Hatt and I have spent many years hiking around in the area where Jesse Capen had his camp. I just learned about him being lost out there last Monday. I spent all day Tuesday hiking around in the low country around Indian Spring and all day yesterday in the high country above Kane Spring.

I took around 300 photos yesterday from the high country and will be reviewing them most of the day today. I am very interested in knowing exactly where Jesse had his camp and talking to his mother if you have any contact information for her.I am keeping a record of areas I have searched and will be posting it at:

http://www.desertusa.com/mb3/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=1569

If you can post the areas where SSAR has searched and any additional info you have that would be of any help in that forum It would be deeply appreciated.

I will be going back in this weekend with 1 or possibly more people to search another area. I will be posting a map of the areas already searched on the website later today.

Jim Hatt



Jim Hatt

Re: Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by Jim Hatt »

This is the approximate route I plan to take through Indian Spring Canyon tomorrow. I may alter it if I see signs of broken branches or tracks once I am in the canyon bottom. I have made this trip several times before, and know it is possible to do in/out in one day.

Image

This is not an easy hike or one for beginners. There is no existing trail in the canyon. The brush is very thick almost everywhere, and there will be lots of huge boulders to find a way around. Cell phones do not work in the area. The elevation will start at 3,112 feet and climb to around 4,500 feet before starting back down.

If anyone is comfortable that they can make the trip, and wants to go along, I will be at the Tortilla Trailhead on the Apache Trail at 9:00 AM tomorrow morning - 1/2/10.

Jim


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Re: Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by WildBoarProspecting »

Here is the Email address for Jesse Capen's mother Cynthia Burnett cb88@comcast.net ...... I do not have her Phone Number

Jim Hatt

Re: Colorado Man "Goes Missing" in the Superstition Mountains!

Post by Jim Hatt »

To everyone that has been following this topic,

I just received an email from David Bremson, Operations Chief, WEMT Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Mountain Rescue, Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association, in response to a phone call I had with him.

It appears that much of the information that I originally received about Jesse Capen, where he was camped, and when he "Went Missing" was incorrect. I was also misinformed about the "Official" search being called off. It is still in progress. A copy of his email is included below asking all of us to keep clear of the area as long as the search is still in progress.

I informed him that I will be cooperating with the request, and asking that everyone else does also.

Jim Hatt



Tortilla Search
Friday, January 1, 2010 5:52 PM
From:
"David Bremson" <dbremson@cox.net>

To: Jim Hatt


Mr. Hatt,

As we discussed, Maricopa and Pinal County Sheriff's Offices will have search and rescue personnel in the area you mentioned in your forum. We ask your forum members to please stay out of the area during the active search. Mr. Capen has been missing for several weeks, and any potential clues in the area are very fragile. If untrained searchers are in the area, they may accidently destroy any remaining evidence and decrease the possibility of locating the gentleman.

We understand that you are concerned with his well-being, however, we are also concerned, in addition to the safety of non-trained people operating in the area.

Thank you for your assistance and understanding.

Regards,

David


http://www.mountainrescue.org
http://www.mra.org

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