I have a new theory regarding GPSjoe's possible exit route back to the Mount Peeley TH
Looking back at the hardest hike I ever did. In Feb of last year, I left the warmth of my truck and began my solo trek in 17 degree weather. The temp would be 37 when I was finished some 14 hours later. I reviewed my track recently(after my most recent trek), and I noticed it took me 5 hours to navigate 2 miles from around the junction of Sheep Creek to the top of Sheep Mountain.. The terrain on the south side for the most part is so much easier to navigate. The north side is easier in some spots, harder in others, but overall I would say its mostly the same. Once my ankle heals, I hope to be out there again searching. I also hope to be flying over there to take some aerial photos this weekend (Re: see 11/2/12 picset.. http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=22199
My new theory is that Joe found some navigable hiking sections in the area of his published "Last Chance Route" to actually summit Sheep Mountain (close-to or after dark) on that Mon-11/8/10. Then, after a short period on Sheep Mountain summit, he needed to quickly decide on an exit route back to the Mount Peeley TH. He knew from experience/prior attempts that the SE Ridge and Ravines were a brutal, time consuming bushwhack to connect with trails- Thicket Spring or Cornucopia. Also from experience (and also a time consuming bushwhack), he did not care for the ridge line route back to connect with the Mazatzal Divide Trail or to take the ridge line back and over Mt. Peeley Summit to connect with the Mazatzal Divide Trail. Also, HAZ/AZH group and individual search efforts along with other official and individual search efforts have spent considerable search time since Nov'10 in these above noted search areas without finding any GPSjoe clues. Of course this having been said, we all know that due to the thick vegetation and difficult to safely navigate the existing rugged terrain on the North-NW-W-SW sections of Sheep Mountain, it is also true that search efforts could have come within a short distance of some GPSjoe clues without noticing.
My new theory says that near dark or after, maybe Joe decided to exit Sheep Mountain summit directly to the WNW, West, or Southwest to try and connect with Sheep Creek Trail #88 then to Thicket Spring Trail #95 then back to the Mount Peeley TH.. http://hikearizona.com/map.php?QX=2234
(and yes, after this off trail connection to Sheep Trail #88 this would be a longer hiking route for him back to the Mount Peeley TH, but
he had not previously tried this off trail route back and I know he was familiar with these trails and I'm sure he had these two trails loaded in his GPS-Garmin 62s for his necessary off trail route reference to connect with them). To date, if I recall correctly, with the exception of Bob's above referenced Feb'11 brutal fourteen hour search hike and Outlander's most recent, we have had additional minimal search effort on this difficult to reach and navigate WNW, West, and SW exit route options from Sheep Mountain summit..and there are reasons for this: with few exceptions, these off trail search areas are not easily accessible for a day hike search effort, but rather better suited for a weekend or multi-day backpack trip. I have often viewed Angela's 11/26/10 pic to the West/SW side of Sheep Mountain 6996 taken from Sheep Creek Trail #88.. http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=168361
and continue to wonder