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The Mike Herdman Tragedy
A Tale of Three Lucks –or– The Domino Effect

On the 11th of June, 2014, Mike Herdman and Taylor Byars, two Arcadia (California) firefighters/EMTs, accompanied by Herdman’s dog, Duke, set out on a planned 4½ day hiking trip through the Sespe Wilderness area of the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California.

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[Image: Mike-n-Duke_2_zpsvd9zcjwk.png]

At the end of the third day (Friday, the 13th) they made camp somewhere near the coordinates 34°33’46.99”N 118°57’09.32”W…being an elevated area, 200’ (+/-) above the east bank of the Sespe river-bottom.

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Around 9:30 PM, under a full moon, Duke ran from camp, and Herdman, barefoot and dressed only in board shorts and a t-shirt set out after his canine companion.
Byars joined Herdman in search of the dog.
After a mile through the rugged Sespe River bottom, Byars & Herdman agreed to go separate directions to cover more ground.
When neither Herdman nor Duke returned to camp, Byars began to search for either or both of them, traveling up and down the Sespe creek. He continued searching for them all day Saturday…without success.

[Image: picture-10_zpscbsy6jbm.jpg]

The following day (Sunday) Byars continued his search, and, at some point, realized that help would be needed.
He left a backpack with supplies at the campsite (should Herdman return), and, in attempt to make his way out of the unfamiliar territory, became disoriented and lost, but eventually, with the aid of two fishermen that frequent a nearby creek, found his vehicle.
Sometime later that day (Sunday) he contacted ‘the authorities’ with the foregoing tale (*).
Even later the same day an official search (a couple of Deputies) was begun for Herdman (&/or Duke).

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Monday, June 16th, the first full day of Search & Rescue (S&R) operations, crews on foot, horseback and in helicopters were utilized.
By the beginning of the second day of S&R operations “Investigators” said that there were no signs of foul play and that everything Byars had told them checked out “so far”.
S&R operations were headed by Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Search & Rescue Division, who had 50 crews on foot and horseback, in addition to the helicopter crews looking from the air.
On Tuesday, they found ‘Herdman’s “backpack and some footprints indicating his southerly direction of travel along the creek”
One source stated that Duke had run off “for an unknown reason”.
The same source quoted Sgt. Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department as saying that Byars “took a day and a half to get out of the mountains because they were two days back on foot when this happened…”, and that “…he had already been out for two days and nights on his own when we first got notified.”
The same source stated that 45 persons were involved in the S&R operations as of Tuesday.

Wednesday morning, the 18th, The LA Times reported that more footprints (belonging to Herdman) were found “south of the campsite near a creek bed”, and that bloodhounds were being used in the search.
The same article further stated that Byars took two days to hike out of the wilderness area, and that there was no further evidence that Herdman had returned to the campsite.
Said article also stated that both Herdman & Byars were familiar with the area.
Sgt. Buschow added that Herdman should have access to water in the nearby creek.

By Wednesday evening the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles reported that Duke had been spotted, and that Herdman’s wife had been taken into the wilderness to retrieve the dog, but that said efforts were unsuccessful.

As of 5 PM, Thursday, KTLA 5 reported that Duke had again been spotted…but got away from searchers.
It was further reported that 11 special agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Rapid Response Team were transported via helicopter, joining the search for Herdman.
Said report appeared to clarify that Duke had run off while Herdman & Byars were setting up camp…
This report, however, stated that Byars had searched for Herdman for nearly two days before making his way out of the wilderness…and attributed said claim to a statement released Monday evening from the Arcadia Fire Department.
The report also stated that the Los Angeles Times had reported that Duke was spotted northwest of Sulphur Peak near the Sespe Creek.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office had actually announced that one of the search teams was being extracted by helicopter with the dog…but minutes later, the same Sheriff’s Office tweeted that the dog had gotten away.

Friday, June 20th, 50 more ‘crews’ from Los Angeles, Orange, Fresno and Kern counties joined the Ventura County task force in search of Herdman.
According to Sgt. Eric Buschow, these were human trackers, specially trained in recognizing & interpreting footprints. Said article reiterated that Duke had run off while Herdman and Byars were setting up camp, and that a short time after both Herdman and Byars began searching for Duke, the two men were separated.
A certain Andrew Pryor spoke on behalf of Byars, stating that Byars knew he couldn’t find Herdman on his own, and so…went to get help. Further stating that Byars left a full pack of supplies for Herdman, and began walking out of the creek, where he became confused, disoriented and lost.
On said Friday, the 20th, an unmanned aircraft was added to the S&R efforts in addition to harmonicas and four search dogs.
Searchers did not spot Duke on Friday.
One of the Homeland Security Agents said that Duke had looked good on Thursday, but that he was frazzled and would not come to anyone calling him.
He clarified that Duke had been seen on both Wednesday & Thursday about a mile to a mile and a half northwest of the campsite (&/or – where Herdman was last seen…).
Los Angeles Animal Services had set up a trap for Duke in the vicinity where he was last seen.
Investigators furthered the claim that there were no signs of foul play or reasons to suspect the same.
Terrain and other environmental conditions were blamed for both the difficulty of the search and injuries to four searchers.

The San Gabriel Valley (SGV) Tribune stated that Herdman visited the Sespe Wilderness area of the Los Padres National Forest on four prior occasions.

The same SGV Tribune article said that Byars “found help from two fishermen who frequent a nearby creek”.
From another article of the same date and, likewise, in the SGV Tribune, Drew Pryor, an Arcadia firefighter, speaking on behalf of Taylor Byars said that Byars traveled up and down the creek looking for Herdman, and that the two fishermen helped him get back to the parking lot where he’d left his truck… Sgt. Eric Buschow said that the fishermen called investigators after hearing about the missing firefighter on the news and indicated that they found a bag left behind by Byars…

On Monday, June 23rd, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean announced that S&R efforts were curtailed to a handful of volunteers. He stated that almost 100 S&R workers had scoured more than 50 square miles with no sign of Herdman.
Duke had been ‘caught’ on Sunday, 14 miles from where he had been spotted on the two previous occasions. Authorities said that he was dehydrated and exhausted.
In relating the tale of what had happened to Herdman, Sheriff Dean said that Byars had searched for Herdman & Duke throughout the first night (Friday) and the next day (Saturday), and that a pair of fishermen found Byars “dehydrated, disheveled and disoriented”, and guided him back to the beginning of the trail head at Tar Creek, where Byars and Herdman’s trip began. And that after making it to his car, Byars drove to the sheriff’s station in Fillmore and reported his friend missing, after which a couple of deputies began a search, the same evening.
After reiterating the difficulty of the terrain and conditions, ‘Dean said that crews had searched 20 miles of Sespe Creek and 50 square miles around it, with more than 4,600 man hours invested.

No new developments came from the next three days search efforts.
On Friday morning, June 27th, however, a Deputy Pilot who’d just dropped a crew off near the last place Herdman had been seen, saw something, a color or shape that didn’t seem to fit the landscape, and circled a few times until a crew was sent to confirm that it was, indeed, the badly decomposed body of Mike Herdman, some 500’ (+/-) downslope the base of a 100-200’ cliff face, partially hidden from view, in tall grass.
The body location was reported in various ways, but most consistently as 3/4 of a mile from, and 1,200’ in elevation above the last place seen.

Officials stated that the area had not been searched closely as such searches focus on places someone trying to survive would go…such as, near water, shade and shelter, and why someone would go such a distance, and make such a climb, barefoot and barely dressed “in the middle of the night” was a question whose answer remained with Mike Herdman.
An autopsy was ordered.

July 1st, the Medical Examiner reported that Mike Herdman had died from blunt force trauma consistent with falling from a cliff, and that MDMA and alcohol were found in samples taken from muscle & liver tissue recovered from the decomposed body.
Time of death was simply placed at the time the body was found. It was apparent that death had occurred prior, but the state of decomposition and depredation ruled-out any kind of determinate accuracy.

* For the sake of “the Official Story”, we have presumed that Byars told the Sheriff’s Investigators (the Authorities) about the Fishermen.

The entire “Official Story”, as we have been privy, hinges on a tale told by the 27 year-old Taylor Byars.
As the authorities in charge of vetting that story declared that it “checked out”, and that “No Foul Play” was indicated, we are left with a story that neither makes sense to us or them.
Sunday, June 15th, 2014, was Father’s Day. It was reported that Mike Herdman was determined to be home to celebrate the day with his young daughter & wife. He was 36 years old.

Why would a trained Emergency Services professional act so irresponsibly?
Why would a trustworthy canine companion bolt and give long chase?

Little information that would confirm Byars’ story, gleaned from the 12 days of SAR operations made it into the public record, as presented by various sources of news and discussion other than – “His story checks out, so far” &/or that “there is no indication of foul play”.
Many reports of ‘the story’ say that Duke ran off while Herdman & Byars were setting up camp. If this was the case – what was the day’s hike like, if they were setting up camp at 9:30 PM?
The entire circuit for the 4-day hike was measured at 23 +/- miles… Some said that a determined, experienced & capable individual could make said circuit in one day. If so – was there a lot of meandering, sight-seeing &/or rabbit-trailing going on through the course of that third day?

Could Ecstasy (*Amphetamine & MDMA*) and alcohol explain such extreme and irrational behaviors that resulted in Mike Herdman’s demise?
If so – was that also why Duke ran off?

There are 7 major players in this drama…each contributing major question marks to the story’s mystery.
1. The story appears to begin with Duke running & Mike Herdman chasing… Duke survived – Herdman did not. We need to look at Duke.
2. Mike Herdman was the experienced Hiker, the planner, and one would expect “the leader” in this expedition…yet, he appears to have acted in the most inexperienced, incongruous and irresponsible manner, resulting in the ultimate folly. We will look at questions regarding his acts, movement/s and motivation.
3. The bases of the story (up to Search & Rescue operations, and even pervading said operations) is Byars’ tale to the Authorities (Investigators)…and Byars has been strangely silent on the topic, since. We must ask questions of his story and…him.
4. The fishermen were an odd addition to the story in a variety of ways – and, we will look at them and their odd contribution for clarification.
5. The Sespe Wilderness area of the Los Padres National Forest presents its own unique intrigue to the story… So unique, in fact, that it may have contributed more than faulty-footholds to the demise of Mr. Herdman.
6. The Authorities ---The Sheriff, Investigators, Search & Rescue Teams, Professional Trackers and a Fraternity of Emergency Services Personnel laying life & limb on the line for a missing brother. In the end, his death was declared an accident…then…the case was sealed. Why? And with what justification?
7. Journalism – gave us the story as it developed – but didn’t ask the questions we are asking. Why?

Duke The Dog

The drama in this story began with Duke running from camp.
Mike Herdman had rescued the Vizsla (Hungarian Pointing & Retrieving mountain dog) three years prior to the events told in the story above.
It was said of Herdman and Duke that they were inseparable.
Herdman apparently trusted the dog enough to bring him on such adventures as multi-day hikes through rugged terrain and…for 3 days – there were no problems.

It is difficult, therefore, to gain a handle on what kind of behavior Duke might have exhibited to inspire Herdman to leave camp, barefoot and barely dressed…for more than a few minutes.
After all – this was bear, mountain lion, and other vicious predators’ home turf.
Meaning – If Herdman had thought Duke took off after a mountain lion or bear – what are the odds that he would not have dressed and outfitted a little more appropriately?

…Unless, of course, he was blitzed out of his gourd on Ecstasy and Alcohol, as the Coroner’s report introduced for possibility.
If that were the case, then, is it possible that Duke was running from Herdman, rather than from or after something-else?
And, if that were so, we would have two strange events coinciding to start this tragic tale.

If, though, Herdman was blitzed off his rocker…why would Byars accompany him in search of Duke?
If he was blitzed enough to frighten-away his inseparable companion…that forgives and forgets like no other…who else would want to be around him in such a state?
If Byars accompanied him to the point called “Last Place Seen”…they were together for more than a mile, on foot, traversing treacherous terrain all the way…at night.

I have frightened a beloved pet, before…such that they ran from me, and…all it took was – “Come here Buddy – I’m sorry”…and…we would have, in no terms, been considered ‘inseparable’.
Herdman would need to have continued to taunt and/or threaten the dog…all the while, for Duke to have continued running away - - - - and, again…why would Byars stay with him through such antics (and not relate this very significant part of the tale)?

Again – this is bear, mountain lion and rattlesnake country. Rescuers reported seeing bear sign immediately upon exiting the chopper.
If Duke caught a whiff of bear or mountain lion – what should have been new about that?…unless they were in close proximity to the camp and he perceived threat.
If he had, though, perceived threat due to proximity – surely Byars would have heard the tell-tale signs of the predator/s running away with Duke in pursuit.
And, if so – why not tell it that way?

Duke would have come across ample bear and mountain lion scents through the three days of hiking to that campsite.
Did he bolt every time?
…Then why wasn’t this part of Byars’ tale?

Since none of the previous possibilities made it into Byars’ tale – I am willing to allow that they did not take place.
If, though, these ‘reasonable possibilities’ are not the cause of Duke’s sudden and interminable exit from camp…we must consider other possibilities, however likely or unlikely they might be.

If we hypothetically assume that Byars would have reported any extraordinary sounds or other happenings near the campsite, had that been the case, we might also assume that a wandering Duke was not unusual-enough to draw a barely clad Herdman and fully clad Byars into extensive pursuit.
And that would leave the question/s –
Was he pursuing, or fleeing?
Is it possible that someone-else in that full-moon-lit night wanted to lure Duke with a dog whistle?
If so – why?
Especially if…Duke was not the…prey.
How could they (the hypothetical someone-else) have known that Herdman (&/or Byars) would follow for more than a mile of rough treading…?
… … …

Duke was reportedly seen on two consecutive days by Search & Rescuers.
There was, however, a disparity among reporters as to ‘where’ he was seen.

[Image: Overview-DukeSeen_zpsrz6u1rjh.jpg]

Some reported that he was seen a mile to a mile & a half northwest of the campsite.

[Image: Overview-DukeSeen_NWCmpst_zpsdjvlbina.jpg]

Some reported a mile to a mile and a half northwest of the last place Herdman was seen.

[Image: Overview-DukeSeen_NWLPS_zps0zlogzs3.jpg]

And some reported a mile to a mile and a half northwest of Sulphur Peak.

[Image: Overview-DukeSeen_NWSulphPk_zpsp39oarn8.jpg]

Note: The pin labeled “Vantage 2” is where the evidentiary photographs show the body to have been recovered.

Of the three possible locations that Duke was actually seen…which looks to be the most likely?

If you chose Northwest of Sulphur Peak, so did I.

If you were in charge of Search & Rescue operations, wouldn’t you find something suspicious about the dog remaining in virtually the same location two days in a row?
Note that Taylor Byars, apparently, did not see Duke in his search efforts, and Duke was not seen by rescuers Monday or Tuesday.
Unless someone was feeding the dog in that vicinity…wouldn’t you expect that he was remaining near his human companion?
And yet – the search efforts ONLY focused on capturing Duke…

This kind of decision inspires one to hope neither they nor their loved ones are ever in a situation where survival relies on intelligent decisions made by…The Pros.

In the end, the Sheriff clarified that they invested no significant S&R efforts into the area where the body was found because their focus was Rescue…not recovery.
They were looking for someone trying to survive…
It is logical to assume that the magnitude of effort would not have been invested had they known Mr. Herdman was already deceased.
BUT – had Herdman been alive on Wednesday &/or Thursday, they ignored (or – were deaf to) the signs given by the third member of the hiking party.
If Duke was making himself known (visible) to the search parties after two days of obscurity – but would not let them (including one of his own humans – Mrs. Herdman) capture him, wouldn’t just a bit of deduction suggest he might want them to follow, rather than leave?

S&R personnel said that Duke was “scared of people”…after the two sightings. (Days 5 & 6 since Herdman’s disappearance)
After the first sighting (& on the same day…?), the Widow-That-Was-or-Was-To-Be – Mrs. Herdman – was taken by chopper…to attempt to improve the chances of capturing Duke.
The reports did not tell much of what happened.
So – a question mark is painted over:
1. Did they see the dog, with Mrs. Herdman on board?
2. If they did – was it only once?
3. If they did, and it was not only once…how many times?
4. If they did, once or more times – Was Mrs. Herdman set down on the ground (don’t even know if that would have been possible/practical given some of the environs in the general vicinity)…and, if so, was she far enough removed from the chopper, to allow Duke an honest chance to address or rejoin her…?
(Did Mrs. Herdman & Duke even get along? … … … Not an uncommon situation.)
5. Did they fail to see the dog, with Mrs. Herdman on board… ? … …and her appearance was for sex appeal, only… ? (Hollywood! – We Love It!)
Otherwise…we’re stuck with – “The Probable-Widow, tried and failed to retrieve Duke…too.”
If we take a Normal World viewpoint…and that it was just curiosity that led the dog away…, Herdman &/or Byars should have found Duke in relative-short-order.
- If a dog is running away from something… At some point, when it doesn’t feel/sense the threat immediately behind…it will generally turn around…to see if its terror is still…threatening…
Did Herdman…while scrambling through the creek-way…see Duke…atop some boulder…looking for signs of terror? …or, to invite Herdman…on…?
Or --- did Duke…never turn around?
If so – Duke was in pursuit of something that he preferred…over his ‘master/buddy/human-companion’…
– Duke had a vision of the end of the world…and wasn’t turning around or stopping…‘til he…(…the end of the world…)

Three days of setting traps, playing harmonicas and calling with friendly pleas for the lost pet went for naught, as Duke apparently decided he would get no help from the rescuers…and made his way out to a parking area, where family of Herdman caught and rescued the exhausted and dehydrated dog.

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Which parking area Duke was recovered in is unclear from published reports. Sheriff Dean said that Duke was found/recovered 14 miles from where he was first spotted.
Numerous reports stated that Duke was found at the parking area at the trailhead where the hike began…as if looking for Herdman’s (or Byars’?) vehicle.
From where Duke was first spotted, this would only be about 3 or 4 miles, as the crow flies.
The only way this would have been where Duke was found (if the Sheriff was correct on how far the dog travelled from Thursday to Sunday) would be if he backtracked the route of the first three days of hiking.
And, still, it would come short by about 2 or 3 miles.
If Duke was recovered in the parking area where the other vehicle had been stationed, at where the hike was to end, it would still only be another 3 or 4 miles, as the crow flies.
The only parking area this researcher has found that would fit the “14 miles” parameter, was due west of where he had been spotted on Wednesday & Thursday.
It would have been a longer journey, but more of a rolling, grassy terrace than following the Sespe Creek.

With Duke’s exit from the forest, it seemed that hope disappeared for Mike Herdman’s rescue, as S&R efforts were cut back to a skeleton crew of volunteers for the following days.

Mike Herdman

Mike Herdman was to turn 37 years old two days after his body was recovered.
He was born 6/29/1977, grew up in Southern California, and was a resident of Dana Point, California.
He was remembered by his Fire Chief as one that always pushed the envelope, and was always laughing or smiling.
He loved animals, having majored in Animal Science at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo, and seemed to want to rescue any animal he came across.
He met his wife, Bridget, at Cal Poly, and they married in 2003. Their one child, Sienna, was born in 2007.

As Mike Herdman was not a public figure, all we know, past these verifiable ‘facts’, is hearsay.
The Captain of his Fire Station, speaking in remembrance, told of a man full of practical jokes, pranks, and challenges to his fellow firemen. An example given – he challenged another to race around a school – and then, dressed in full gear…and beat his opponent.
He was said to have hiked the Sespe Wilderness area four other times, and that Duke was a regular at his campouts.

With the foregoing in mind, it might be advisable to temper any conjecture that relies on the doings of “an ordinary man” with the recognition that Mr. Herdman (as well as Taylor Byars) was both fit and willing to compete.

Before going any further, it might be worth the pause & effort to address a glaring fault in the foregoing tale.
Information posted in the public domain, purportedly derived through interviews with Law Enforcement, Search & Rescue Operations, friends, relatives and co-workers left much to be desired for anyone following the story as it developed.
And, since no video, audio or written testimony of Taylor Byars was made public, we are left only with the following verifiable facts:
1. Mike Herdman & Taylor Byars were 'co-workers', experienced firemen & physically fit…with the 36 year-old Herdman being an avid outdoorsman (with numerous hikes in the very location that 'the incident' took place), and the 27-year old Byars known as an accomplished martial artist, but inexperienced at such hikes.
2. They (Herdman, Byars and Duke) set out on a 4-day hiking trip in the Los Padres National Forest…along Sespe Creek…
3. A few days after they left for the hike…Byars exited the 'wilderness' into the helpful arms of ‘two fishermen’ - who purportedly directed him back to his vehicle…
4. Minimal (but immediate) Search & Rescue efforts were launched after the Sheriff's department heard Byars' tale, Sunday evening, and a full-scale operation was underway the following morning.
5. Byars purportedly left a backpack full of supplies at/around the campsite, and said purported backpack was found, Tuesday, by S&R (presumably), as well as Herdman’s tracks south of the campsite.
6. Duke was seen on Wednesday & Thursday of the first week, in the general vicinity of where the hikers had been hiking/camping…, specialized human trackers were brought in from the Department of Homeland Security’, and more of Herdman’s tracks were found along Sespe Creek south of the campsite, from which it was determined that he was walking (not running), and was not favoring either leg/side in his gait.
7. A couple/few days later, Duke was seen and corralled in a parking area at a trailhead, some 14 miles from where he’d last been seen…
8. The two fishermen that purportedly assisted Byars out of danger and to his car, “after hearing of the missing hiker” contacted the authorities, saying that they had found the campsite and backpack of supplies (we have no idea when they contacted authorities – this news was not released to the public until Friday, one week after the tragic tale began).
9. Two weeks after Herdman was reported to have gone missing…his body was found within a couple miles of the campsite.

As we have no evidence to the contrary (nor to confirm), we must accept that the story Byars told the Sheriff’s Dept. Investigators is also the story that we were given.
Furthermore – without evidence to the contrary (*), we must begin with one eye counting the story as ‘true’, and the other (eye) inspecting every detail for consistency.

The range of situations that might send a normal man walking/running away from camp attired in little more than befits a restroom break in the rough & rugged Sespe Wilderness a few miles north of the Devil’s Gate, are few and far between.
According to the story related by the Sheriff, Duke left camp around 9:30 PM and both Herdman & Byars went after him.
One of the common skills of Firemen is - the ability to suit-up in a flash.
He had taken Duke on these excursions before. Three days of hike were already behind, and, unless Byars failed to mention it – Duke hadn’t taken off, unexpectedly, or in such a manner as to cause alarm.
And one would think that Herdman had some kind of trust that Duke would not do precisely what he was reported to have done…
So – two red flags go up at the start of this tale:
1. Duke taking off unexpectedly (or staying away too long), and
2. Herdman leaving camp ‘with such urgency’ that he didn't 'suit up'.

Following the most likely path Duke would have travelled, which corresponds to the path finger-traced by the Sheriff, the first quarter mile, from campsite to creek-bed, would be hell on bare feet.
The next mile and a quarter…to the location the Sheriff identified as the last place Herdman was seen would have been hell to traverse in bare or shod feet, as numerous reports from the field claimed that the rocks & boulders were heavily covered in a slimy algae/moss.
The ‘expert trackers’ said that his footprints did not suggest injury. I am willing to accept this statement to the full extent, meaning that they found no blood in the prints, either (did not cut either foot on rocks, twigs, etc…, prior to said tracks). This might further explain ‘why’ – though he was purportedly ‘chasing Duke’ – his tracks did not appear ‘hurried’.

The image below shows 5 spots where he could have exited the river bottom without having to scale rock faces, with the first such place being the “Last Place Seen”. You might note that there are no such exits on the east side of the river bottom. The path from each of these exits to where his body was found would have been terribly difficult, and the “4th Next Exit”, almost undoable (to return back to where his body was found – “Vantage2”).

[Image: 5-Exits_zpsxa2rcavh.jpg]

Did Herdman travel straight to his demise, or search and wander?
Who knows?
We don’t actually know that Duke ran off to start the escapade. We are simply starting by taking Byars’ story at face value, and, since there is nothing in the evidence/s that made their respective way/s into the public domain that can prove or disprove said story, we will continue to follow that path and ask questions where they arise.

As the story developed speculations ran high that he met his match in a cougar or bear. If such were the case, it would, likewise, seem probable that said predator was ‘why Duke ran off’ in the first place.
The likelihood of such an explanation, however, grows dim with the fact that Duke did not return with injuries consistent with such an encounter – and – what dog is going to chase a predator, and not engage said predator when it attacks the dog’s human companion?

To the possibility that Herdman got lost – the fact that he was no ‘stranger to these environs’ and that from any place he might have climbed…Sespe Creek was downhill, and the campsite was by the creek, it seems unlikely.

Was Herdman acting extraordinarily when leaving camp dressed in only board shorts and t-shirt? If so, few things can explain such behavior other than raging testosterone, illicit drugs (PCP, hallucinogens, methamphetamine, cocaine, etc…, ) and/or psychosis, as any of these can delude their ‘victim’ into feelings of super-hero strength & ability.
The coroner reported Ecstasy (or, two of its primary components – MDMA & amphetamine) in tissue samples taken from the corpse, as well as ‘alcohol’.
So, again, we are faced with the question – “Did Duke leave camp because of aberrant behavior?”. And, if so, “Was Byars under the influence of raging testosterone, illicit drugs & alcohol, or psychosis as well?”
If Byars was under said influence (probably not a shared psychosis, I would imagine), did law enforcement test for such when he reported the story and was interviewed by investigators?
We don’t know. The case is sealed.

When the Sheriff reported that the body had been found and recovered, he expressed some confusion at the body’s placement on the mountainside, saying that it was too far from the cliff-face to entertain the notion that it had rolled to its final resting place.
The coroner said that cause of death was blunt force trauma consistent with falling from the/a cliff, and that death was “immediate” upon impact.
If that is correct, then, the only normal explanation for how the body arrived at its resting place would be a large predator dragging it there, as – immediate death does not allow for crawling or dragging oneself anywhere.
On another hand - if he fell from the top of the cliff…perhaps he hit some of the 'jutting' stratigraphy, causing the body to go into a kind of bouncing-tumble once hitting the ground below…and…the "brush covering" could simply be the result of 'rolling into brush, and coming to rest while applying pressure to the base of the brush rolled-into…

There are scarce few possibilities that might result in the story we were told…that do not require USE's (Unidentified Spooky Explanations) …with one/some of them including hallucinogens &/or mdma, etc…
Was the amount(/s) of the substances reported (taking into account, degradation of samples) sufficient to explain his/their behavior.
If so – maybe this story fits the hand called… "Boys will be boys…even when they are Men."

For whatever cause Duke might have left the campsite, questions are raised as to how the rest of the story developed.
Did Herdman note the manner in which Duke 'ran off'…and recognized that he needed to go investigate, with haste…?
If so – (i)did Byars simply follow along, right away (someone reported that Herdman didn't 'boot-up' because his shoes were wet, and that Byars offered another set of shoes/boots…but…Herdman declined the offer -- I have not seen this confirmed or verified -- but allow that it might be the case)…; (ii) was there some discussion before Herdman took off after Duke…that included "we'll go together"…; or (iii) did Herdman take off in such a rush that Byars was left wondering…and after some hesitation/deliberation, set out after them…?

If Duke was fleeing some perceived threat, though…then…imo…a significant portion of the story has been intentionally redacted from the public tale, or Byars didn't remember/recall that part…
If Duke was fleeing – the men would probably have been fleeing, as well…UNLESS…it was one or both of the men that he was running from.

As noted earlier – a few miles south of the campsite was an area known as The Devil’s Gate, being an almost inescapable passage through sheer rock walls out of the National Forest. The name was purportedly given by settlers that misinterpreted the Native American name for “Bad God Tower”.

If you inch along the creek-path on Google Earth, past “Last Place Seen”, there are no nice, pleasant options out of the river bottom…for a long way.
And, if you bypass “1st Next Exit” and “2nd Next Exit”, you will be in for an immediate transition to ‘virtually no opportunities’…for another 2/3-or-more miles…before another difficult, but doable opportunity presents itself.
Virtually every place he might have started climbing out…would have presented an incline ratio of 1 unit forward and 1 unit upward/higher…
That is work.
It wouldn’t matter if he was a marathoner, pentathlete or Iron Man…
He had just spent a full day hiking (being the 3rd full day, hiking) through what is regularly described as very difficult terrain…then, just traversed 1 or 2 miles, barefoot, at night, through the Sespe Creek…and then – had to work like an abused beast to ascend the mountain (for what reason? – a better view? – to prove something? – ?)…

If he elected the first set of doable opportunities…why did he continue going/climbing ‘south’ (SW)?
If he missed the first doable opportunities to climb out…and chose the next group (which would have been a slight overshoot…to where he ended), why would he try (apparently) to climb the rock face, going back in the direction he’d come from?

Taylor Byars

Not a lot was written of Taylor Byars through the days and weeks of this ordeal. What he said or might have said was either relayed through co-workers or related by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
As noted earlier, we have taken the story attributed to him at face value until/unless questions arise in the course of consideration. And, whether the hodge-podge of details that made their various ways into the public domain were accurately reported, or not, we are left with the skeleton of a tale that doesn’t appear to stand on its own.
We were told that Byars decided to hike out and get help, after a failed effort was invested into locating his buddy & Duke.
We were told that the 'hike out' took two days (as well as, he searched up and down the Sespe Creek all day Saturday and part of Sunday before deciding to hike out).
Byars was supposedly not an experienced outdoorsman, or…he was not experienced in this particular forest.
Did he hike the full/solid 2 days…out? Or, did it only take him a few hours of hiking (on Sunday), getting disoriented and dehydrated in the process…before stumbling upon the heroic fishermen?
Did he continue hiking through the darkness…or… stop to rest and make camp…or…?
Where was he found by the two fishermen…?
That information might help in answering these questions.

According to the “Body Found” news conference…Herdman & Byars took off to find/retrieve Duke, together…and at some point decided to split up.
While this is at odds with most of the reports that preceded…it seemed to be the Sheriff's understanding, in the end…

Some questioned - "maybe Herdman took off sometime in the night, and Byars didn't realize he was gone until he awoke the next morning" …
But - how could Byars know that Herdman took off in only shorts & shirt (and that he was barefoot), unless he witnessed the exit? It is not likely that he had inventoried Herdman's backpack…and would know what was not missing

Some questioned why Byars didn’t hear any screams or calls for help…
What about Herdman calling for Duke? One might expect that he would have heard this throughout the first night…unless Herdman immediately headed for the place of his demise once they split up.

If Byars was not culpable, but felt responsible…could that explain the lack of information flowing from his end into the public domain?
… … … ?
One thing that might turn this into a believable story is - clouded-memory.
Terror could cause such a short-circuit.
Mind/Psyche-altering substances could cause such a short-circuit.

As regards Byars coming out with more detail, that makes the rest of his story fit neatly…there are other possibilities…like:
- he doesn't believe he actually saw/witnessed what he recalls…
- he does recall…and fears that others will think he's fabricating…
- he knows exactly what he saw…and was debriefed/(threatened) 'not to tell'
These may be weak attempts…but, they are possible…until other information is forwarded to soundly refute them (imo).
If, though, there is a scary monster in that forest… "Why Herdman?" … "Why not Herdman and Byars?"

Is it possible that Byars (and, perhaps, the fishermen) spooked Duke & Herdman?
If it was just Byars - I don't see Duke running off…before Herdman.
Byars would need to be pretty cunning and intense to pull that off.
He would need to get Duke warm enough to let his guard down…so he could land an "out of nowhere" punch or kick…
Herdman would not have been aware of it…(unless he was already terrified of Byars - but, usually - the dog will not trust someone that you do not trust - & Duke would not have let his guard that far down around someone he had no reason to trust) ---
Again - though - there are scenarios that would justify someone/Byars being good enough to pull this off… (self-made mercenary, gov't-made mercenary, industry-bought mercenary, mob…)

The two fishermen could have been the backup &/or cleanup crew.
The fishermen could have blown a dog whistle.
For any of that to work, though, we would want to know why Herdman would be special-enough that such efforts were worth it?

Is it possible that someone would 'want Herdman' bad enough to place a killer into a/the locker next to Herdman’s…to buddy up…and cozy up…long enough to go through an elaborate charade…and kill Herdman…and cover it with a crappy story?

If so (minus the crappy cover story), then we’re probably looking at a deep grudge or vendetta.
Too easy to put a bullet in him.
Too much time to wait…for “I want him dead!”
Unless you have something special to give him…like…payback…

Could it be as simple as something he saw in the course/s of his Firefighting career…
But, the kind of vendetta that would justify…waiting…plotting…and killing… – … That looks personal

The Fishermen

‘How' were they 'hiking'?
Were they trying to make as much time/ground/distance as possible, each day?
…Taking time to enjoy themselves, and dive in some pools, or relax in some hot springs?
It seemed that they had a destination, and were trying to trek the entire Trail in a given amount of time…
Whatever the case, Byars had a good hike to get back…even if he knew his way around/through that territory.
Where was he rescued by the fishermen?
If they found the pack of goods he purportedly left behind…he must have told them of the situation…since they would need to traverse the entire distance (presumably - back to the campsite) after leading/taking him to his vehicle…and…that seems a rather extreme measure if they had no story to lead them in said direction.

It seems unfathomable that the two fishermen found the campsite without being, at least, 'tipped' to its location, by Byars. (It wasn’t until the second day of operations that the campsite & backpack were found Search & Rescuers)
If he told them nothing more than "I need help finding my car/truck"… why they would have headed back in the direction of the campsite…?
AND…just seeing a 'campsite' during daylight, does not mean that it is abandoned - so - what might have alerted them to its significance if they had not been given some kind of story by Byars…?

If these were ‘normal everyday fishermen that frequent a nearby creek…out doing what they do, frequently’…I don’t think they would immediately drop their plans and progress…and lead Byars back to his vehicle, without hearing enough of the story to convince them of, at least, urgency.
For them to have been able to find/locate the campsite…after discovering Byars, then hiking or driving (or hiking-then-driving) him to his vehicle… They would definitely need to be frequent guests of the park/forest.
What kind of sense can you make of someone’s directions…if they are Clinically “Disoriented”?
[Image: emoticon-wink.png]

Not only did they find the campsite…but, found the Backpack of supplies left for Herdman (according to some sources) – and avoided (presumedly) the first group of official searchers.

When did the fishermen contact ‘investigators’? ;
When did Byars mention them to ‘investigators/authorities’? ; and
When was this information/side-story released or given to the media & public?
Why was this not a part of the story from the start?
Did Byars forget about them until they contacted the investigators?
How did they contact the investigators?
Which investigators did they contact?
Are they reachable - - - without the Bat-Signal?

I find the probability that they were the first to be on site…alone…where all the footprints, and backpacks & gear would need to be left untouched by anyone-or-thing but nature…to give investigators the best chance at determining what happened, in effort to find Herdman alive (if possible)…troubling, at best.
After not seeing their contribution/s reported in the first few days of news…did they suspect that suspicion/s might be drawing their way…?
How could their involvements not be suspicious to Law Enforcement?

They corroborated Byars’ story?

If, after rescuing Byars, and considering his desperate tale, they decided to go ‘looking’ for Herdman (or – whatever-else they might have been looking for) on foot…the shortest crow-flight from the Trailhead, was in the range of 3 miles…with all of it, mountains & wilderness.
If they followed the trail…they probably travelled 6 +/- miles (minimally)…on foot.

Were these fishermen also ‘trackers’?

Unless Byars gave them some outstanding descriptions & directions…how in the freak did they find the campsite… ?

The first mention of the fishermen in the
San Gabriel Valley Tribune, was dated June 20, 2014.
Until then, all that had ever been stated, was – Byars looked for Herdman, left supplies, tried to find his way out…got lost and disoriented…but, made his way back to civilization, and contacted the authorities (Sunday evening).
In this first (that I have found) mention of the fishermen, they are only credited with “helping” Byars. (also saying that they frequent a nearby creek)
So – we are told that they were involved in the story, as of June 15th, but no mention of them until June 20th…

Then, in another article published by the same San Gabriel Valley Tribune, only 20 minutes after the first article…more detail was given, saying that the fishermen helped Byars back to the parking area…and found a/the backpack belonging to Herdman…and that they called the authorities after hearing about the incident on the news

Was it ‘the news’, ‘the authorities’, or ‘whom’…that was purposefully leaving them out of the story?
And – why might it have become convenient/necessary to introduce this piece of the puzzle 5 or more days after-the-fact?

In this article more information was leaked to the public…where Sgt. Kevin Donoghue of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office claimed that “Byars was dehydrated and appeared disoriented when the fishermen found him on Sunday”…

In this article, published by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on June 20th…it is stated that:
Quote:“…The fishermen called investigators after hearing about the missing firefighter on the news and indicated they found a bag left behind by Byars…” (according to Sgt. Buschow)

(How does one indicate that they have found something?)

So – if this is an accurate depiction of what transpired…then – when did they find the “bag”, and when did they call “investigators”?
There were already feet on the ground, on Sunday evening, according to one or more articles.
There were certainly feet on the ground…in the vicinity beginning Monday morning…
WHEN did they find the bag?

…They didn’t know it was a big deal until they saw/heard it on the news?
When did the story first make the news?
Monday – June 16th, 2014.
Surely, they didn’t insert themselves into the search area…after an organized and concerted effort was fully underway…
But – they didn’t know it was important enough to call the authorities until…they heard/saw it on the news?

Puddles & Muddles

From the start, the story presented to the public was mired in fog.
In one telling, Herdman went in search of Duke, and Byars didn’t join the hunt until neither Herdman or Duke returned to camp the following morning.
In another telling, Herdman & Byars went in search of Duke, and became separated when Herdman left the creek-bed into some thick brush.
In yet another telling, Herdman & Byars went in search of Duke and agreed to separate to cover more ground.

Bloodhounds were utilized in the search, beginning the 2nd full day of S&R operations. They should have been able to track Herdman out of the creek-bed with no problem… Did they? Did they start up the mountainside, only to be pulled back (off the trail)?
The Sheriff said that not searching the area where Herdman’s body was found was a tactical decision. Why would they refuse to follow their best trackers/trailers indications (if, indeed, the bloodhounds indicated said direction)?

In the end, there is a little girl whose daddy, that faced terrifying situations day in and day out as a part of his chosen occupation, didn’t come home from a recreational outing.
Was he a victim of the domino effect? Or otherwise?
If you have any thoughts, or would like to add to this treatise, your input is welcome.

Special kudos go to the source of my involvement in this story – being one “randyvs”, a member of, whose eagle-eye zeroed in on the story very early, and quickly saw the similarities between this situation and the Missing-411 cases described by David Paulides.
Any discussion of said Missing-411 cases, and/or other such cases are welcome, as well.


6:24 PM
(video of interest)
"4:31:00 PM - ""...Byars searched for Herdman for nearly two days before he made his way out of the wilderness and reported his friend missing Sunday evening...
""...Investigators said there are no signs of foul play.
""We had investigators talk to [Byars], as well ... to go over those details. And everything he's told us has checked out so far,"" sheriff's Sgt. Eric Buschow said.""
""...crews found the encampment with Herdman's belongings still there.
""We located Mr. Herdman's backpack and we also found some footprints indicating his direction of travel down the creek..."""
...these confiscations were from "four major illegal grow sites in the national forest"…
"S&R believe they spotted the dog...
Crews took MH's wife into the rugged terrain to try and retrieve the dog named Duke, but...were unsuccessful.
""Last Friday night, Herdman, 36, and fellow firefighter/paramedic Taylor Byars hiked to Tar Creek Trail and set up camp along the Sespe Creek when Duke ran away.
""Herdman, who was barefoot and wearing shorts and a T-shirt, along with Byars, ran after the dog
""The two men became separated. Byars eventually made his way back to the campsite, but Herdman...and Duke never returned."""
"5th day Herdman was 'missing'...
""Footprints and a backpack belong to MH...were found Tuesday...""
""Searchers also found more of Herdman's footprints south of the campsite near a creekbed...""
""Crews were using bloodhounds...""
""...Herdman was barefoot and wearing only shorts and a T-shirt when he ran after the dog when it took off unexpectedly Friday night from their campsite.""
""There was no evidence that Herdman returned to the (camp)site since he'd disappeared...""
""About 50 people searching the area...have to be flown in... Herdman &...friend were camping about 15 miles into the forest, an area they were both familiar with."""
"Article date & time: 6/19/2014, 12:58 pm ... updated on same date at 5:05 pm
This was apparently the fourth (?) day of a search for Herdman...
Duke was apparently spotted, again...but got away...again...
11 special agents with US ICE's Homeland Security Investigations Rapid Response Team...joined the search...
""Herdman...was last seen Friday by (Byars)...after the two ran after...Duke near Sespe Creek... The men had been setting up camp when Duke ran off.
""...Taylor Byars, became separated from Herdman, who had run off barefoot and in shorts and a T-shirt... When Herdman did not return to camp by morning, Byars began to search for him...
""...The pair were on a backpacking trip that began June 11 and were several days into the wilderness.
""Despite his best efforts and after nearly two days of searching, Mr. Byars made his way out of the wilderness...and reported Mr. Herdman's disappearance to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office in Fillmore on Sunday evening,""...
""The search...began Monday morning, based at the trailhead to Tar Creek.""
(link to Google map )
34°28'49.1""N 118°55'01.9""W"
"Dated Friday 6/20/2014 - 9:37 am
...two drones were added to the search effort on Thursday
...Herdman's backpack and footprints were found by his campsite
(video from this link... the footprints were analyzed by the professional trackers, and it appeared that he was walking, not running, at the time they were made... He did not appear to have been favoring either side or leg...which suggested that he was not injured at the time, as well... They also, reportedly said that the footprints appeared to have been made 'over the weekend' ...)
(2nd video from same link -- a team of 9 members camped overnight in the vicinity of the focused search area...hoping to hear or notice something/anything... but, no luck)"
"""Herdman, a physically fit paramedic and firefighter from Dana Point who has extensive backcountry experience...""
""Duke (Herdsmans dog) found seven days after Herdman went missing, Duke was found in the parking lot where thir car had been parked."" "
"Article dated 6/20/2014 - 10:10 pm
...they were hiking Tar Creek Trail...and had set up camp along the Sespe Creek...when...Duke ran away.
Byars ""left a pack full of supplies...behind and began walking out of the creek...""
""...Searchers spotted Duke near the creek Wednesday & Thursday...""
""...the dog looked good... ...running all over the place. Mentally he's frazzled because he's not coming to anyone who calls him...""
""The dog has shown up both times...about a mile north to northwest to where their campsite was when Mike was last seen..."""
"""Taylor Byars...spent 24 hours searching for his friend and coworker before going on a day-long hike for help, according to a colleague speaking on Byars' behalf.""
""Byars...hiked out of the Los Padres...dehydrated and disoriented Sunday. He credits two fishermen with saving his life, according to...Drew Pryor."""
"SGVTribune - June 20, 2014""...Byars stumbled out of the forest dehydrated and disoriented after two days of wandering.
""He found help from two fishermen who frequent a nearby creek.
""...Byars told...deputies that Herdman got lost when he went to chase...Duke, who frequently went along on camp-outs.""
"" so loyal to Mike, he doesn't leave him.""
(odd statement...since, of course, it was, supposedly BECAUSE Duke left Mike, that Mike left the campsite in such a hurry... ??))"
"Dated Friday 6/20/2014 - 9:37 am
...two drones were added to the search effort on Thursday
...Herdman's backpack and footprints were found by his campsite the footprints were analyzed by the professional trackers, and it appeared that he was walking, not running, at the time they were made...
He did not appear to have been favoring either side or leg...which suggested that he was not injured at the time, as well...
They also, reportedly said that the footprints appeared to have been made 'over the weekend' ...
A team of 9 members camped overnight in the vicinity of the focused search area...hoping to hear or notice something/anything... but, no luck"
"Herdman, 36, vanished June 13 during a four-day hike with a fellow firefighter. When his dog, Duke, ran off that night, Herdman gave chase barefoot in only shorts and a T-shirt."
"“Sadly, nobody but Mike is ever going to know … why he would take off into this kind of terrain, in the dark, in bare feet,” Dean said."
"""It wasn’t until Friday that rescuers happened upon Herdman’s body in an area 1,200 feet above from his campsite.
During a news conference that afternoon, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said a medical examiner was working to determine the cause of death.
“It did not appear he had been trapped. It appeared he was laying over the terrain, partially covered by brush,” Dean said.
“There’s no indication whatsoever that there was foul play involved,” the sheriff said. """""
“Herdman was found partially covered by brush below a cliff in a location 1,200 feet above and three-quarters of a mile away from the spot on Sespe Creek where he was last seen, Dean said.”
"(causes confusion as to location of body and distance from campsite)
""...Dean said there was no indication of foul play. The sheriff said the body was about 3/4 of a mile from and 1,200 feet above the campsite, which was in the creek basin.
""...Herdman...may have tried to climb the cliff in the dark and fell...""
""...I'm not sure...we'll ever get an answer because he's the only one who can answer...why you go so far in the middle of the night like that...""
""The area had not been closely examined...""
""When you're searching, you're looking at where people...go to survive..."""
(toxicology report info)
(toxicology report info)
(more confusion on body location and cause of death)
"chief deputy medical examiner…that might help in understanding the uncertainty associated with “time of death”.
(difficulty of climb)"
(Funds raised for Herdman's daughter)
(Herdman's Memorial Service)
(discussion of this case beginning 6/17/2014)

It's not uncommon for stories like this to come out piece-meal, and then require assembly like a jigsaw puzzle. To make it even more interesting, some stories have spurious puzzle pieces that never belonged in the box to begin with, and just to make it more challenging, other pieces get trimmed out of recognition, so that it becomes impossible to determine where they go in the finished puzzle, and often even IF they go in the finished puzzle. Reports get stretched out of shape, misplaced, and misreported.... and then some get embellished in the telling, as they are passed around from mouth to mouth. Any investigator can tell you that no two people will tell the exact same story about the same event - it's always filtered through their own perceptions before it ever leaves their mouth. Stories told by different people during the course of an investigation are highly suspect if they agree in all particulars. It usually means they've gotten their heads together before the interview and compared notes to arrive at the same tale to tell.

I would start with the bags in this one. it's not at all clear which are the same, if any. There are potentially 3 to examine: 1) the one left at the camp by Byers for Herdman, in case of his return after Byers' departure, 2) the one reported by the fishemen, as having been left behind by Byers - I can find no links saying that bag was the same one as was left in camp rather than one he forgot to take from the fishing camp, so that conclusion seems to be a leap of faith, and 3) the one found by the trackers alongside alleged or presumed footprints of Herdman - how did they even know those were Herdman's footprints? What was distinctive about them  that led them to that conclusion? There is nothing in the report to link any of these 3 bags as being the same one, so it's entirely possible that it was three distinct, different bags, and that at least one of them may not have actually been connected with the story at all,

It's the one found away from the camp, with the tracks, that intrigues me the most. Experienced trackers should have been able to tell us when the tracks were made, within around 8 hours or so, up to several days after the tracks were made. When were they made? Why did they believe them to be left by Herdman? was the bag found there actually the same one left in camp for Herdman? Or was it a different one? I don't see a potential for the bag left in camp to have been found BOTH in the fishing camp AND with Herdman's tracks... but that doesn't mean that potential isn't there, given the right puzzle pieces.

IF the tracks WERE Herdman's, and the bag found there WAS the one Byers left in camp for him, that changes the whole thing. it indicates that Herdman came back to camp AFTER Byers gave up the search and headed out for help... leading to the question of where Herdman was during that time, and why, if he could find the camp again, he suddenly couldn't find his way out of the woods... and WHY he would leave a perfectly good packed bag just laying there when he went elsewhere to walk off a cliff.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...

All three were the same bag...presuming that the fishermen actually found a/the bag.
The bag found on the same day as the footprints leading away from camp (or - south from camp) was the same bag as the one that Byars purportedly left for Herdman.

Unfortunately, we only have the piece-meal puzzle that you have described.
One report says the bag and footprints were found in such as way that the reader cannot determine if they were found together in physical proximity or on the same day...or if this bag and footprints are different from those described separately in other accounts.
Poor reporting, imo.

It would be nice to know the contents of said bag.
If the bag contained ALL of Herdman's stuff...that would be one thing.
If it contained only drinks, food and first-aid --- where'd the rest of his stuff go?...and why?

If Byars was trying to find/make his way home (out of the wilderness), there should have been no good reason (after searching for "2" days) to take anything of Herdman', why even make the statement that he "left a backpack" of supplies.  He knew he was going to the authorities and that a search would ensue.  Why not leave everything the way Herdman had last left it...?  Could someone have thought that "tidying" was in order?  If so... Who?
(06-09-2016, 01:45 AM)Minstrel Wrote: All three were the same bag...presuming that the fishermen actually found a/the bag.
The bag found on the same day as the footprints leading away from camp (or - south from camp) was the same bag as the one that Byars purportedly left for Herdman.

Which report indicates that all 3 are the same bag? What was the source of that report, where did they get that information? It becomes far more problematic if that is the case. Who took it from the camp and left it with the prints? If the trackers found prints the same day, even if not in proximity of the bag. why would the fishermen report a bag was in camp instead of the trackers? Obviously, the trackers would know it was still there, because they would have seen it when they started tracking at the camp. They would have started there, because wandering aimlessly hoping to cut a track is far less efficient than starting where you KNOW there are tracks to start with.

Quote:It would be nice to know the contents of said bag.
If the bag contained ALL of Herdman's stuff...that would be one thing.
If it contained only drinks, food and first-aid --- where'd the rest of his stuff go?...and why?

Too many "ifs" there to speculate in the absence of information to guide the speculation.

Quote:If Byars was trying to find/make his way home (out of the wilderness), there should have been no good reason (after searching for "2" days) to take anything of Herdman', why even make the statement that he "left a backpack" of supplies.  He knew he was going to the authorities and that a search would ensue.  Why not leave everything the way Herdman had last left it...?  Could someone have thought that "tidying" was in order?  If so... Who?

To be honest, I would have done the same thing. I would have packed it for my partner, because if he were wandering around aimlessly for two days (obviously disoriented if he could retrace his steps back to camp with two whole days to cover the ground he covered in one night), he'd likely be in sad shape from hunger and possibly thirst, potentially injured as well, to do his own packing when he got back to camp, and might have only enough resources left within to start out of the woods.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...

Thanks for the reply, Ninurta
Life is calling, at the moment, and I will not be able to get to your questions and comments until tomorrow.
Thanks for your patience.
Excellent posting Ninurta and I have to agree with you in regards of the original account 'morphing'
due to the media's need to sell their story.

I worked in the newspaper business for nearly thirty years and even from my limited amount of access
to how reporting is done, I'm aware of how polishing stories to create a certain slant for readers is often
done in the name of acquiring and maintaining a good level of that readership.

Television journalism resides in an entirely different kingdom, it juggles with the glittering orbs of ratings
and entertainment. These two vital ingredients are needed to succeed for one simple formula:
Excitement means lots of viewers, lots of viewers means larger advertising potential, advertising pays
the salaries, salary means I eat tonight!

Many times, facts are omitted due to limited space and time, a Sub-Editor's perspective of how a story
should be seen by the medium's assumed readers and in a worryingly far-too many cases, slip-shod

The realities of the media trade constantly struggling for the sake of readership and ratings in this world
of twenty-four-hour news, has changed into a forum where a true account of an incident can -within only a
few hours, become a totally different animal!
I would like to add that this type of behavior isn't a recent phenomena, if one  investigates the 1906 San
Francisco earthquake, one will discover that the news medias of that time were implicit in the alteration
of photographs and reports.
And I know that I witnessed at least two such 'changes' in my time in the business.

By the way and not wishing to wander from the story, some time ago I took a hit from a member of
'The Site Which Will Remain Nameless' in which it was stated I wasn't a journalist and had no right to say
the things I said.
I was and am not, but there are other areas of the newspaper business that work alongside journalism and
at times, are heavily involved in assisting reports into 'coming to life'

If it's seen that non-journalistic folk such as myself may have diluted the trade in the name of saving money,
then there lies a possible answer to why today's reports may not have the disciplines that we assume were
around in days of yore.
But I digress.

In this particular case of Mike Herdman's disappearance, it's obvious that most media-outlets used the
same original source and as the search continued, the story lost it's initial 'juice' as an eye-catcher.
It's not uncommon today, for some -if not most employees of media companies to occasionally copy and
paste a story from somewhere else, add some 'fact-based' spice and call it done.
This in most cases happens as long as the website the story orginated from has at least some form
of journalistic respect, but sometimes is not necessarily a prerequisite.

So... you've-go-what-you've-got and you get on with it.
A few Posers.

'...Around 9:30 PM, under a full moon, Duke ran from camp, and Herdman, barefoot and dressed only
in board shorts and a t-shirt set out after his canine companion. Byars joined Herdman in search of the
(From this thread)

There's no mention of a bag being taken with them as they struck out after the dog.

'...Earlier in the day at Del Flats, the family dog Duke was located in “Okay shape; dehydrated
and thinner, but appeared not injured,” according to spokesperson Beth Stogner.

Hikers initially found him and alerted authorities and that’s when Bridget Herdman, Mike Hardman’s
wife, was escorted to the site where the dog had been seen. Duke, recognizing Bridget immediately,
ran to her waiting arms...'

'...On Tuesday, they found ‘Herdman’s “backpack and some footprints indicating his southerly
direction of travel along the creek...'
(From this thread)

If the dog was close to the water and assuming there's areas that an animal can reach the water,
then why would Duke be dehydrated? I would have thought that it's instinctive for an animal to
quench it's thirst and especially when it's close to water.
(I'm not a camper/hiker, so I'm just thinking off the top of my head!)

But... if the dog's natural loyalty had been 'altered' and Duke's owner was no longer perceived
a friend but now a foe, would Duke risk going near the creek for a drink?
Is this too critical?

'...After a mile through the rugged Sespe River bottom, Byars & Herdman agreed to go separate
directions to cover more ground...'
'...Dean said there was no indication of foul play. The sheriff said the body was about 3/4 of a mile
from and 1,200 feet above the campsite, which was in the creek basin...'
(From this thread)

Did Mr. Herdman attempt to come back to the camp site? I have no idea of the terrain and it's effects
on people using it nor what negative effects distance combined with this terrain can have.
Can it be said that the fishermen were better equipped for this sort of countryside and if so,were the
two Arcadia (California) firefighters/EMTs trained to a lesser degree than the two fishermen?

More investigation is needed, comrades!
[Image: attachment.php?aid=953]
"They watch from behind complacent smiles whilst polishing their cutlery. Yet, with egg between the prongs"
The piece-meal aspect of such cases often relies on deductions and processes of elimination in determining some facts, while others may not be established or eliminated as readily.
As to the possibility that three or two or one pack were referenced in the story, I will leave that to your discretion.  While it was, likewise, confusing to me (and others) in the early days of the story, it seemed to iron itself out with other testimony and/or reports... But - that's my take on it.
No particular report (that I recall) spoke of more than one pack, and thus there were no reports that needed amendment to correct/establish said assertion.
Nevertheless, I will cede that you (@Ninurta) have reason to suspect otherwise.

My own belief is that Herdman was deceased or incapacitated by the end of the first night.
Unless he was running/hiding from Byars, there would have been no reason not to respond to his partners calls (presuming Byars was, indeed, calling) throughout the night and following day/s.

Would Duke have remained near Herdman's body, while thirsty - when water was available straight down the mountainside?  Maybe.
To the question of the availability of water - reports were that there was more water in the Sespe Creek at that time than usual as a result of recent rains.
I believe that pinning down how many bags there were is a crucial piece of the puzzle. If there was but one, where did the fishermen find it? in their camp, in Herdman's camp, or along the trail where the foot prints were found? It has implications for when Herdman actually met his demise. I think that it's most likely that he died the first night, but finding his bag (which Byers had left in camp) along a trail with presumably his footprints, would be a strong indicator otherwise - he would have to have returned to camp some time after Byers' departure to retrieve the bag and carry it along. Since Byers claims he searched for two days, then in that case Herdman would have to have survived two days beyond the first night - why would it take him so long to get back to camp? 5 or 6 miles is not enough space to get lost in in the woods, especially considering he knew the paths he took, and could retrace them. Remember, this was in mountainous terrain, so one cannot just wander in any direction - "natural lines of drift" are followed, meaning ridges, valleys, and waterways. That seriously restricts the directions one can travel in, and reduces the chances of getting lost.

If, on the other hand, he died the first night as seems more likely, then WHO moved the bag from camp to the footprint site, and why? Obviously not Byers, as he's the one who left the bag in camp for Herdman. That leaves the fishermen and the trackers. Why would they move the pack from camp? And perhaps more importantly, why did they suddenly abandon it at the track site? Why carry it any distance just to dump it?

One plausible theory would be that the fishermen, for whatever reason, abandoned their fishing trip and went looking for Herdman in a wilderness area where they had no idea where he might be found, and found the bag at it's deposit site. There's also the possibility that THEY carried it from the camp and dumped it there, only to report "oh, we found his bag", but it makes no sense to me that they would just dump it there to report a "find" - they would be more likely to either leave it in camp or carry it on to whomever they reported the find to.

If it was neither the fishermen, Byers, nor the trackers who moved it (assuming they were the same bag), then that indicates the presence of someone else in the area, someone who wanted to make it look like Herdman survived long enough to move it. The only logical reason for that is that they wanted to cover their OWN tracks - I'm sure you can follow that chain of reasoning to it's logical conclusion.

That's why it's important to find out how the trackers determined the tracks near the pack actually WERE Herdman's tracks - they may not have been. The only other possibilities are the fishermen, Byers, or... the hypotheical fourth party with ulterior motives to move the pack.
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...

As to the bag/s... I believe I have already pinned down that there was only one backpack left behind (by Byars) and found by both the fishermen & S&R.  I did it in the same manner that almost every other 'fact' in this 'case' has been established...with any degree of certainty --- process of elimination.
But, to be painfully honest - we don't KNOW that there was a bag/backpack, at all.  We were told that there was a backpack.  We were not shown evidence thereof...but based on the number of colluding participants required to pull off such a trick, I believe there was one (at least).

We do, though, thanks to Taylor Byars, know that Herdman indeed had a bag/backpack on the trip, as TB, after a year or more of apparent silence on the subject, posted 4 photos taken on the backpacking trip that ended Herdman's life.
If you go to the following URL...and scroll down a frame or so - there is a 4-photo montage that, if clicked will take you to another page, where said 4 photos are a little bit larger.  You can see that both Herdman & Byars had backpacks...and Duke, as well.

A set of footprints was found 'leaving the campsite' (in a southerly direction, which is the direction, likewise, indicated by the Sheriff in the "Body Found" news conference).  Other footprints were found along the creek bed, heading in a southerly direction...(also, the path traced by the Sheriff on the map at the "Body Found" news conference).  It was, purportedly, from the creek bed footprints that the trackers were able to determine that he was barefoot, in no hurry (not running), and uninjured when making said prints.

As you say - the terrain should have dictated most decisions made that night (or however long he was alive, and Byars was searching).  Even if he climbed the mountainside...terrain would have limited his options for paths up (&/or down).

If the fishermen abandoned their fishing trip to search for Herdman...Sunday (presumably), why was there no mention of them until the following Friday?
The media reported that they heard about it on the news...which could only mean that they didn't realize until they saw/heard the news that the hiker was still missing, and a massive S&R operation was underway...and decided to call in and capture some praise... ... ... (?)
By Friday, the news that the campsite and backpack and footprints and multiple sightings of Duke had already been well covered... So - what did they think they were adding to the puzzle?  I can only imagine that they were trying to cover their asses...if indeed they did find said backpack and their footprints, etc...should have been all over the place, as well.... ... ... (or were they?)
(Why was there no report of other footprints in the area prior to the disclosures about the fishermen?)
(In fact - I never saw a report that mentioned any footprints other than Herdman's.)

I agree with you that determining if there was one backpack or multiple backpacks, and if any of said potential backpacks had been moved between the time Byars last saw the campsite and when found by S&R is a critical piece of the puzzle.

The possibility of a 'fourth party' begs the question - "Why Herdman?"
(And - I do not rule a fourth party out.)

Sorry if these seems to ramble incessantly.
The following are the some of the references used to piece the puzzle together regarding my conclusion that there was only one backpack in question, and that Herdman did not return to the campsite after leaving the same on Friday night.

Backpack was not mentioned in first reports (6/16/2014).  Says he had no food or water with him (when running off from the campsite).

6/17/2014 - - mentions that crews found the campsite "with Herdman's belongings still there".
Backpack found, "and we also found some footprints indicating his direction of travel down the creek".

6/18/2014 - - "Footprints and a backpack belonging to MH...found Tuesday..."
"...also found more of Herdman's footprints south...near a creekbed..."
" evidence that Herdman returned to the (camp)site since he disappeared..."

6/20/2014 - - "Herdman's backpack and footprints were found by his campsite..."
"...they...said that the footprints appeared to have been made over the weekend..."

6/20/2014 -
It was not mentioned in any report/s that I have seen, that Byars left a/the backpack for Herdman until 6/20/2014...which, coincidentally, was the date that the fishermen story came out.

6/20/2014 -
"...Herdman's backpack and footprints were found by his campsite..."

While there are other references to the same, they all (imo) indicate that only one backpack was in question, and that there were no signs that Herdman had ever returned to the campsite.

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