First of all, to Christy, Cathy, and all of James' friends and family: I can't even begin to imagine how hard the past year must have been, and hope that if nothing else, you have been able to sense the genuine concern and sadness of all of those who love the mountains out here. We all continue to believe that one of us will eventually stumble across something that may help to bring some measure of closure for all of you.
I'm planning to slip out for a long day hike or two after the kids are back in school and before the snow arrives again. Since I just want to get up high in a pretty place, I'm planning to hike through some sections of the route James planned to take. I completely agree with the earlier comment by djkest that after the comprehensive searches of the entire area last year by SAR and several folks on this site, it will just be a matter of luck for someone like me without any formal training to spot anything useful at this point.
Despite the long odds, I will be keeping my eyes open (and should have along a cheap but reasonably effective spotting scope we bought for a recent trip to see grizzlies in Yellowstone), so figured it was worth posting my tentative plans in case any of you who know the area best have any thoughts regarding specific places that may be worth scanning more closely. Since access is tough this year at the beginning of his route, I'll most likely hike the second half of his route during my first trip, then possibly follow Shaun's directions for the east side of Fancy Pass later in the fall. I plan to take a long day hike up Cross Creek, probably from the Cross Creek Trailhead, or possibly going up Martin Creek and back Cross Creek. If I successfully target a day with good weather and no thunderstorms, I hope to get up to the turnoff toward Fancy Pass, yielding views of the entire west side of Holy Cross and Cross Creek drainage along the way.
As an aside, I know that one of Cathy's foremost wishes is for all of those out looking for James to stay safe. So, a quick note just so I don't raise any concerns that I will inadvertently create new issues for SAR. I know this will be a long hike, but have done several this long in the past, including Snowmass and Whitney as 20+ mile dayhikes (not sure I'd do that again, but that's another story...), so I think I should be able to safely do a hike of this length as long as I avoid getting into technical terrain off trail. I will finalize and leave details of the plan with my family before I go, and plan to stick exclusively to the trails for similar reasons (and due to my nonexistent technical skills...).
A few specific questions / requests for input:
1. I know Tigiwon is still closed. In spring of 2010 Bill posted a trailhead update that said "the gate closure is 0.7 miles up from the bottom of the Tigiwon road", and his description looks like it matches a gate shown on the Trails Illustrated map. Does anyone who has been through there this year happen to know if this is also the closure point for this summer, or if the road is closed all the way down at 24? (I'm mostly interested in how many miles it will add to get to the Cross Creek trailhead if I decide to go in that way).
2. I'll be sure to watch the creek closely the entire way for any signs that may have emerged during the spring runoff, and will definitely carefully scan the entire East Cross Creek drainage. If anyone has any thoughts regarding other specific areas to scan more closely along this route I'd be excited to hear them (Shaun and Makalu, see specific questions below).
3. Shaun, if you happen to see this: one location that clearly seemed to warrant a long look is the ramp heading up from Reeds Meadow toward the East Cross Creek drainage that you describe in this trip report: http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=9383
. I'm just trying to make sure that I have a correct sense where this is, so marked it on the terrain map below. Does this look about right based on your memory of the area?
4. I'm 99% certain that we would have heard something if there was anything on it, but just to be sure: I assume no new information was obtained from the camera that was found in this trip report by Makalu? http://www.14ers.com/php14ers/tripreport.php?trip=10242
. (about halfway through, the report mentions that Eagle county SAR was looking at the camera to see if any of the images could be read). Assuming that the results were inconclusive, I figure this location would be another good place to scan carefully, so also attempted to mark this approximate location based on the trip report. Makalu, if you happen to see this, does that look approximately correct to you?
(Cathy and Christy, I know this entire thing is awful beyond words, and apologize in advance if my final question adds to that.)
5. Finally, if a person's remains have been in the woods for this long (or potentially were buried during the winter and only emerged recently during the spring runoff), are there any less obvious signs I watch for? For example, would there tend to be birds circling over the area or other things along those lines?
Thanks to all for any input. Stay safe out there.