CA - Jonathan Gerrish, Ellen Chung, daughter, 1 & dog, suspicious death hiking area, Aug 2021 #6

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rahod1

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Well, @MsBetsy, this is where I think we (and hopefully the public at large) can learn from the decisions EC/JG made that day. One of them, as I opined up thread in my 10 lessons learned about crisis management in such a situation, is they did have a choice when they started up the SLT. One obvious choice is to retreat to the river and WAIT there until SAR came for them - perhaps the next day. Better to be hungry than dead. Another choice they could have made much earlier, when they first hit the South Fork Trail, is to hike the other way (7 miles, down hill, along the river) to Route 140 either at the end of Hites Mine Trail or Hite Cove Trail.

That is the key lesson here... your car, 3 miles up a steep sunbaked trail, may not be the best recourse. That all said, I doubt their brains were working well at that point.

True. Although the hike to the 140 would be an additional 2-3 miles, it would be relatively level. However, they would definitely have to utilize river water too cool off or possibly drink to avoid death. Same with waiting at SL....they would have to use the river water for both cooling and drinking. Of course, they would probably avoid that option due to algae warnings and, as someone pointed out, >>>that's the irony of this tragedy. The warning may have actually contributed to their deaths if it prevented them from utilizing this resource.
There was also the option of turning back at the bottom of HC Road at the river. It would be steep, but *only 2 miles* to the car. This option would be much shorter than a hike to the 140 and may have been survivable even without river water, which the other two options discussed would require. MOO
 

lotus777

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I enjoy going for walks but I don't consider myself a hiker (even though I've been on plenty of hikes and even some backpacking trips).

What I want to ask about in this post is the mindset of hikers, which I don't seem to have.

When I go for walks, my criteria is that it be relatively safe (including for my dog if I'm walking with a dog) and pleasant in terms of view and weather.

When I have no dog with me, my walks generally start directly at my home and in effect I'm just walking around my neighborhood or out a quiet road and back. When with a dog I would normally drive a few miles to the empty roads outside of town and start the walk from there so the dog doesn't need to be on leash.

My goal, other than giving the dog exercise, is my own exercise. I'm not hiking toward a destination. I may care about the distance I cover, but only in an exercise/accomplishment sense. I am "enjoying the view" but it's roughly the same view I would see from home every day. I have no desire for variety and actually prefer the sense of familiarity and "habit" so I would be inclined to walk the same route each time, or choose between a few familiar routes.

I imagine that all of these criteria, other than perhaps making sure the dog got exercise, are quite different for hikers. I wonder if some of you who clearly enjoy hiking might comment on the goals and motivations that would cause someone to choose this HC/SLT hike even in more comfortable temperatures.

Personally I don't see the route itself as all that appealing -- even though hiking in a forest -- even a burned forest if you're interested in seeing the recovery process -- is beautiful, they were surrounded by beautiful forest -- why choose a steep path (and one where others might theoretically be passing you in a dust-stirring OHV?). I don't see the river at that location as any special destination. I can understand people hiking to the actual cove/mine/townsite itself as a lesson in local history, but it doesn't appear that was their thought as it would have made a considerably longer hike and they in fact turned the other direction once at the river trail.

I know I'm not seeing it through the eyes of hikers -- can anyone correct my thinking more toward how they must have been perceiving the appeals of that hike?

I hike pretty regularly and can see the appeal of the area, though I wouldn't hike it in the summer. First, simply exploring a new area is fun. Second, more isolated trails are often appealing because they let you "get away from it all" and feel peace in the solitude. I also find that extreme changes in elevation, though often difficult, result in a satisfying sense of accomplishment (and endorphins that can last into the next day). So I can see the appeal. Too bad the appeal for them outweighed practical considerations. :(
 

rahod1

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It’s not possible to fully understand what happened here unless you actually know the people involved. I think you make some very good observations about them based on the information available. What baffles me is the fact that many people cannot understand why they would take Miju and Oski on this hike in this weather (your point number 4) but do not consider either Jon nor Ellen capable of equal aforethought and compassion for the most important person and beloved pet in their lives.
I will never believe they did this and I don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to prove they did. MOO

BBM
Unfortunately there was NO EVIDENCE that they were somehow coerced (or took evasive action) into taking the hike they actually took...NONE.
We know they intended to take a hike on the trail. How far or for how long they initially planned to hike will remain unknown. I would think if they had been approached by a criminal element at some point, their car keys and cell phone (on JG) would have been taken if the criminals intended to set them free to flee further DOWN the trail. MOO
 

Lex Parsimoniae

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It’s true we don’t know what access to water Oski had. But there’s no evidence he had any access, either.

It’s possible to give a dog water via means other than the drinking bowl, we occasionally do it ourselves to our dog, from cupped hands, but it’s not an efficient use of water, you can lose a lot of water doing so. I know Lex has mentioned they have a method that works for them, correct me if I’m wrong.

The lack of dog drinking dish is one element of the family’s water situation, which also includes that the family carried a very small amount of water considering the weather and loop JG had mapped on his app and which LE said they almost completed.

If the family intended to give Oski access to water without a drinking dish, then I see three options.

1) from their own supply which has already been assessed as insufficient even for the humans (to Oski via cupped hands or direct pouring which wastes a lot of water in the process)

2) from the river, which apart from the algae factor, how would he drink prior to the river or after the river on the ascent? All in the heat. “He’ll just drink and cool off in the river”?

3) some combination of the above

Other ideas?

It is also possible they didn’t think about the fact that dogs need water to cool off because they don’t cool by sweating as humans do.

All MOO.
Yeah, I wouldn't get hung up on the lack of a water bowl, it doesn't mean the dog got no water. I drink wine without a wine glass. You may be wondering how that is possible. Well, I have a coffee mug that says "This is probably wine", a gift from my daughter. Easier to clean, less likely to get broken or knocked over. But back to the dog... here's the logic: the sheriff says they did the loop, and he would know. The dog could not possibly have made it that far without water. Therefore, the dog got water. As we have discussed many times, dogs are more susceptible to heat than people because they mostly cool thru panting, so even with water to drink, I wouldn't expect Oski to make it as far as his people did. Was he carried? Possibly. But if I did that hike with my dog, as soon as we got to the river she would have gone swimming and gotten a drink, and at every opportunity thereafter. (In summer we do keep her leashed and I check the water quality before we let her go) So my dog would have been wet and hydrated starting up the Savage Lundy Trail, which would have allowed her to make it a lot farther than would otherwise be possible. The photos of G-C hiking with Oski show him off leash, so I think it's a reasonable hypothesis that he cooled off in and drank river water during the several miles they hiked beside the river. MOO. Now the gratuitous photographic proof:
 

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neesaki

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Unfortunately there was NO EVIDENCE that they were somehow coerced (or took evasive action) into taking the hike they actually took...NONE.
We know they intended to take a hike on the trail. How far or for how long they initially planned to hike will remain unknown. I would think if they had been approached by a criminal element at some point, their car keys and cell phone (on JG) would have been taken if the criminals intended to set them free to flee further DOWN the trail. MOO
You’re probably right. The reason they took that trail at all, with a baby and an 8 y/ o long haired dog, and very little water… is so far beyond my comprehension, my thoughts have been all over the board.
 

neesaki

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Yeah, I wouldn't get hung up on the lack of a water bowl, it doesn't mean the dog got no water. I drink wine without a wine glass. You may be wondering how that is possible. Well, I have a coffee mug that says "This is probably wine", a gift from my daughter. Easier to clean, less likely to get broken or knocked over. But back to the dog... here's the logic: the sheriff says they did the loop, and he would know. The dog could not possibly have made it that far without water. Therefore, the dog got water. As we have discussed many times, dogs are more susceptible to heat than people because they mostly cool thru panting, so even with water to drink, I wouldn't expect Oski to make it as far as his people did. Was he carried? Possibly. But if I did that hike with my dog, as soon as we got to the river she would have gone swimming and gotten a drink, and at every opportunity thereafter. (In summer we do keep her leashed and I check the water quality before we let her go) So my dog would have been wet and hydrated starting up the Savage Lundy Trail, which would have allowed her to make it a lot farther than would otherwise be possible. The photos of G-C hiking with Oski show him off leash, so I think it's a reasonable hypothesis that he cooled off in and drank river water during the several miles they hiked beside the river. MOO. Now the gratuitous photographic proof:
With all due respect, that’s not a good reason for them to not take water for the dog. Not even close. jmo. Even in my car, if I just have to take my dog to the vet or groomers, I always keep water and his portable bowl in the car, at all times. If I take him on a one mile hike, or even half mile, I take water.
This case literally drives me crazy.
 

rahod1

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OK, I am going to put my "Mariposa is a Crime-Ridden County" hat back on because I keep finding evidence that that is true. And while the SO has closed this case, I will always be left wondering how to explain what appears to be two adults who set out for a very brief stroll that Sunday with their dependents, NOT a 8 mile death march.

So previously I've posted about (and I am sure this is just a very small sampling) - happy to go back and find links to all these stories if need be:
  • Huge drug bust in Mariposa County, 5 days before the G-C's perished... 32,000 illegal marijuana plants, many guns, meth / cocaine, child and animal abuse.
  • Shoot out between grow operators in Mariposa County, July 2021, that resulted in one murder
  • Another big illegal grow bust in 2016 (IIRC) with many arrested illegally from Mexico
  • In 2007 a man with a PhD in physics, taught at a college and owned a dry-cleaning business, was found naked and dead on a Hite Cove trail - his car 25 miles away.
And from poking around comments about this case on the Mariposa SO FB page yesterday, I have found numerous references to crime activity. And I found these:
  • A book written by Stephen M. Sanzeri, Ultimate Prey: The True Story Behind The Yosemite Sightseer Murders. Per Amazon listing*: "What he found includes: drug trafficking, child *advertiser censored*, white supremacy, sexual molestation, rape, and bloody violence in the Central Valley of California and stretching to the Foothills."
  • An ABC 20/20 investigative report from 1991 about crime and corruption in Mariposa County: (2o minutes)
Anyhow, how all this relates to this case is likely a stretch. But as I said, I will continue to wonder WHY this family all perished from heat stroke that day.

* https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Prey-Yosemite-Sightseer-Murders/dp/0985914408
Question:
Are you aware of any criminal activity within the last 10 years ON THE TRAIL THEY TOOK, ie
HC Road, HC TRAIL and SL Trail. That is a more relevant question for me. Activity far from the trail or an isolated case from 20 years ago doesn't convince me that encountering nefarious elements is a reasonable possibility, since there is no evidence to support it...none. MOO
 

Lex Parsimoniae

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May I ask - were you married at the same ages more or less as J and E? I only ask because they were 30 and 45, and 40 years ago people tended to be much younger as newlyweds. People tended to marry in their twenties.

45 and 30 on the other hand seem to me ages where people should be informed and have a certain level of responsibility. (I am a hopeless dreamer in this regard, I know).

Was your wife referring to age or perhaps her/your level of hiking experience at the point you were first married? Or maybe both age and hiking experience?

just some thoughts.
We married at 27 and became parents at 30, same age. I think she said that because I had a lot more outdoor adventure experience when we met, but she really enjoyed doing what I was doing so she was gaining experience. Now 40+ years later we're comparable in experience, and she's the family matriarch. She is more assertive, I guess, but she has always had veto power in our relationship. She was a great mother, and she was the boss when it came to rearing our daughter ("A man's got to know his limitations"-Dirty Harry), so *I* think she would have told me we needed to turn back if I had taken her on that hike. She would have turned back with our daughter even if I didn't, though I would have respected her veto power and turned back too. She has a beloved sister that is married to a conservative pastor, so I thought she might want him to marry us, but she said "No! He would make me promise to obey you!" That's a hilarious thought. But I do wonder about JG-EC. I hope Mathias Gafni writes an in-depth article on this incident (I asked him to). The answer to "why" lies in their personalities and relationship. Gafni is a Pulitzer Prize winner, with the skills to get the answers.
 

Lex Parsimoniae

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With all due respect, that’s not a good reason for them to not take water for the dog. Not even close. jmo. Even in my car, if I just have to take my dog to the vet or groomers, I always keep water and his portable bowl in the car, at all times. If I take him on a one mile hike, or even half mile, I take water.
This case literally drives me crazy.
Also with all due respect, what part of "it doesn't mean the dog got no water" is it that you don't understand? I don't carry a water bowl for my dog when hiking, my dog doesn't need a water bowl. She needs WATER. I can give it to her without a bowl, directly from a bottle, or she can drink it from local sources, which she prefers. This case is driving me crazy too. How hard is it to understand that it's WATER that your dog (and mine) needs, not a bowl. When I get a chance I'll take a photo of my dog drinking water without a bowl to prove that yes, it is possible. There is no way of knowing HOW their dog was getting water, but he was. He couldn't have made it that far without water.
 

rahod1

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*I* think she would have told me we needed to turn back if I had taken her on that hike. She would have turned back with our daughter even if I didn't, though I would have respected her veto power and turned back too. But I do wonder about JG-EC. I hope Mathias Gafni writes an in-depth article on this incident (I asked him to). The answer to "why" lies in their personalities and relationship. Gafni is a Pulitzer Prize winner, with the skills to get the answers.
Sniped BBM
Look's like we're in agreement. MINDSET and nature of relationship are key to really understanding what happened that fateful day. Lack of preparation and harmful exposure for the dependents ( no evidence nefarious criminals interceding) would be a consequence of these two crucial elements. MOO
 

Lex Parsimoniae

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I’m not certain the river was even accessible in that area. And even if the dog had a drink in the river, one drink wouldn’t be enough to sustain it for a hike like that. Not even close.
Take a look with Google Earth. You can see the trail along the river, there are multiple points where there is access from the trail to the river. I see no reason a hot, thirsty, loose dog wouldn't be able to cool off and drink water until they started up the Savage Lundy Trail.
 

rahod1

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Also with all due respect, what part of "it doesn't mean the dog got no water" is it that you don't understand? I don't carry a water bowl for my dog when hiking, my dog doesn't need a water bowl. She needs WATER. I can give it to her without a bowl, directly from a bottle, or she can drink it from local sources, which she prefers. This case is driving me crazy too. How hard is it to understand that it's WATER that your dog (and mine) needs, not a bowl. When I get a chance I'll take a photo of my dog drinking water without a bowl to prove that yes, it is possible. There is no way of knowing HOW their dog was getting water, but he was. He couldn't have made it that far without water.

What you say is valid..no question. I think the *fly in the ointment* is this>>>
They really didn't carry enough water to accommodate ALL members. In addition, the water they carried necessitated utilizing a bladder which fed via a tube which was stored in the back back of JC. We have no evidence of additional water bottles. So, it looks like dispensing water was cumbersome.
Your explanation assumes they PLANNED TO USE THE RIVER FOR DOG'S DRINKING, warnings (don't let pets drink water) on algae not withstanding. IF they did, then what you say justifies them NOT bringing enough water for dog (or a bowl). However, if they didn't plan to use the river for the dog based on algae warning and the dog went ahead anyway (supporting your view that's the only way the dog could have survived as far a SL), then they were woefully negligent with the dog from the get go. MOO

 

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Also with all due respect, what part of "it doesn't mean the dog got no water" is it that you don't understand? I don't carry a water bowl for my dog when hiking, my dog doesn't need a water bowl. She needs WATER. I can give it to her without a bowl, directly from a bottle, or she can drink it from local sources, which she prefers. This case is driving me crazy too. How hard is it to understand that it's WATER that your dog (and mine) needs, not a bowl. When I get a chance I'll take a photo of my dog drinking water without a bowl to prove that yes, it is possible. There is no way of knowing HOW their dog was getting water, but he was. He couldn't have made it that far without water.
They didn’t even have enough water for the humans. Unless they were planning to drink from the river but they weren’t carrying a purifier.

Wasn’t there a warning about algae in the river?
 

LifeIsAMystery

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They didn’t even have enough water for the humans. Unless they were planning to drink from the river but they weren’t carrying a purifier.

Wasn’t there a warning about algae in the river?
Yes, there was a caution.
I am not nearly as experienced a hiker as many of you and I was surprised that they did not have a portable filtration system with them. It has limits, it would not get out the algae toxins, but those have never killed an adult human tmk. They are small and light and so common to carry where I am. But, if EC was not wearing a daypack, guess they really were travelling light. I find her not packing water odd, along with no hats in that brutal sun. It had been 105 the day before, they had to expect heat. How people evaluate risk is imperfect, and there needs to be more of a public education campaign re: heat IMO. I was so struck by her "all the gear and no idear" post and on this day they had extremely minimal gear. All hard to understand and very sad.
 

RickshawFan

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Also with all due respect, what part of "it doesn't mean the dog got no water" is it that you don't understand? I don't carry a water bowl for my dog when hiking, my dog doesn't need a water bowl. She needs WATER. I can give it to her without a bowl, directly from a bottle, or she can drink it from local sources, which she prefers. This case is driving me crazy too. How hard is it to understand that it's WATER that your dog (and mine) needs, not a bowl. When I get a chance I'll take a photo of my dog drinking water without a bowl to prove that yes, it is possible. There is no way of knowing HOW their dog was getting water, but he was. He couldn't have made it that far without water.
But is your dog drinking from a Camelbak? The only source on this whole hot day for the dog other than a Camelbak seems to have been the river. Going downhill, the river came too late in the hike for the dog; going uphill, too early. The dog would have had to drink water regularly during the whole hike. No one, no person, no dog, evidently had enough water to sustain them. One cause of death for the adults was dehydration. I think you could fairly assume the dog was sorely lacking water. IMO the dog would have needed all 2.5 liters. At least.
 
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Lex Parsimoniae

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I enjoy going for walks but I don't consider myself a hiker (even though I've been on plenty of hikes and even some backpacking trips).

What I want to ask about in this post is the mindset of hikers, which I don't seem to have.

When I go for walks, my criteria is that it be relatively safe (including for my dog if I'm walking with a dog) and pleasant in terms of view and weather.

When I have no dog with me, my walks generally start directly at my home and in effect I'm just walking around my neighborhood or out a quiet road and back. When with a dog I would normally drive a few miles to the empty roads outside of town and start the walk from there so the dog doesn't need to be on leash.

My goal, other than giving the dog exercise, is my own exercise. I'm not hiking toward a destination. I may care about the distance I cover, but only in an exercise/accomplishment sense. I am "enjoying the view" but it's roughly the same view I would see from home every day. I have no desire for variety and actually prefer the sense of familiarity and "habit" so I would be inclined to walk the same route each time, or choose between a few familiar routes.

I imagine that all of these criteria, other than perhaps making sure the dog got exercise, are quite different for hikers. I wonder if some of you who clearly enjoy hiking might comment on the goals and motivations that would cause someone to choose this HC/SLT hike even in more comfortable temperatures.

Personally I don't see the route itself as all that appealing -- even though hiking in a forest -- even a burned forest if you're interested in seeing the recovery process -- is beautiful, they were surrounded by beautiful forest -- why choose a steep path (and one where others might theoretically be passing you in a dust-stirring OHV?). I don't see the river at that location as any special destination. I can understand people hiking to the actual cove/mine/townsite itself as a lesson in local history, but it doesn't appear that was their thought as it would have made a considerably longer hike and they in fact turned the other direction once at the river trail.

I know I'm not seeing it through the eyes of hikers -- can anyone correct my thinking more toward how they must have been perceiving the appeals of that hike?
People hike for different reasons, there is no right reason, it's whatever motivates you. For some it's all about the exercise, going as far and as fast as they can. The other extreme is birders, they like to hike to a good area and stand quietly with their binoculars, observing birds and recording what they see. My wife and I like to get exercise, but we also like to see something beautiful or interesting like wildflowers, waterfalls, or tidepools, and we like to have fun. Fellowship is important to us too, we made a lot of really good friends thru hiking. The loop hike is one of the toughest in that area, that may have been the attraction for JG-EC. It would only be interesting to us in wildflower season, when there's something to see besides burned trees and the temperatures are tolerable. Here's a Scarlet Fritillary, we do some hikes just to see them.
 

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RickshawFan

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Look's like we're in agreement. MINDSET and nature of relationship are key to really understanding what happened that fateful day. Lack of preparation and harmful exposure for the dependents ( no evidence nefarious criminals interceding) would be a consequence of these two crucial elements. MOO
IMO the preparation already meant catastrophe. A relationship dynamic might have added to the catastrophe en route, but I doubt a relationship dynamic persuaded EC to hike in shorts and a singlet with no hat and not carry a pack. All of these were critical to surviving that trip.
Math. If EC wasn't carrying a pack, JG would have had to carry the entire supply of water, which would have been in the neighborhood of 6 liters per adult plus the dog's needs. Each liter weighs approx 2 lbs without the container. That's 12 lbs per adult, 24 lbs total. Plus the baby, plus the baby carrier, plus diapers and formula, and you still haven't provided for the dog. There's no way a long hike works without EC carrying a pack.
And the sun beating down on bare skin will accelerate the dehydration.

Was anything mentioned about electrolyte replacement? This would have been crucial as well because of how much they'd be sweating.
 

Lex Parsimoniae

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But is your dog drinking from a Camelbak? The only source on this whole hot day for the dog other than a Camelbak seems to have been the river. Going downhill, the river came too late in the hike for the dog; going uphill, too early. The dog would have had to drink water regularly during the whole hike. No one, no person, no dog, evidently had enough water to sustain them. One cause of death for the adults was dehydration. I think you could fairly assume the dog was sorely lacking water. IMO the dog would have needed all 2.5 liters.
No, my dog is not drinking from a Camelbak, I don't like them and don't have one. But my dog COULD drink from a Camelbak. I'd just need to lower the hose so it gravity feeds and pinch the bite valve with my fingers, my dog would catch the water just as she does with a bottle. The dog got as far as the humans did, and couldn't have done so without water, so your comments contradict the facts. I can't say for sure how the dog got water, or from where, but he must have to have gotten that far in that heat. My best guess: the river.
 

Lex Parsimoniae

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What you say is valid..no question. I think the *fly in the ointment* is this>>>
They really didn't carry enough water to accommodate ALL members. In addition, the water they carried necessitated utilizing a bladder which fed via a tube which was stored in the back back of JC. We have no evidence of additional water bottles. So, it looks like dispensing water was cumbersome.
Your explanation assumes they PLANNED TO USE THE RIVER FOR DOG'S DRINKING, warnings (don't let pets drink water) on algae not withstanding. IF they did, then what you say justifies them NOT bringing enough water for dog (or a bowl). However, if they didn't plan to use the river for the dog based on algae warning and the dog went ahead anyway (supporting your view that's the only way the dog could have survived as far a SL), then they were woefully negligent with the dog from the get go. MOO
I can't say if they planned to use the river water for the dog, or that the dog did use the river water. I do say he got water from somewhere, he couldn't have gone that far without it. Of the two possibilities that I can think of, the river or the camelbak, my best guess is the river. A hot, thirsty dog, most likely loose beside a river... it's obvious. If not the river, then the camelbak, unless someone can think of more sources of water. They WERE woefully negligent, I'm sad to say, not just with their dog.
 

Lex Parsimoniae

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IMO the preparation already meant catastrophe. A relationship dynamic might have added to the catastrophe en route, but I doubt a relationship dynamic persuaded EC to hike in shorts and a singlet with no hat and not carry a pack. All of these were critical to surviving that trip.
Math. If EC wasn't carrying a pack, JG would have had to carry the entire supply of water, which would have been in the neighborhood of 6 liters per adult plus the dog's needs. Each liter weighs approx 2 lbs without the container. That's 12 lbs per adult, 24 lbs total. Plus the baby, plus the baby carrier, plus diapers and formula, and you still haven't provided for the dog. There's no way a long hike works without EC carrying a pack.
And the sun beating down on bare skin will accelerate the dehydration.

Was anything mentioned about electrolyte replacement? This would have been crucial as well because of how much they'd be sweating.
Math. JG wasn't carrying 6 liters plus the dog's needs, he was carrying 2.5 liters for all their needs. That's 5.5 lbs of water. Really, they shouldn't have done the hike with their dog and baby with any amount of water, if we're getting into hypotheticals. MOO
 
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