Identified! FL - Big Cypress Natl Preserve, Male hiker, "Denim" & "Mostly Harmless", Jul 2018 - Vance Rodriguez

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Curious_in_NC

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A million times, THANK YOU! You provided an excellent explanation! I saw the PM photos with a very untrained eye, so if you’ve seen them I trust your observations. There has been discussion about both his finger joints in the Georgia photo and the one where he appears to be holding or rubbing his right foot. So, this explains both in my opinion.

I don’t want to go too far off topic, but this reminds me of something that happened to me. So much of Denim actually reminds me of myself, and I’ve often thought about how easily I could have been in his shoes (no pun intended :p)

Anyway, I’m probably not much younger than Denim was and in relatively good shape and health. When I was about 30 years old I became the most physically active I had been all my life; physically demanding career, large landscaping chores at a new home, and lots of time in the gym. I’ll equate it to the year Denim spent on the trail.

Much to my surprise I was actually causing great damage to my body. It wasn’t something I felt a great deal and certainly not something that could be seen on the outside. I was born with bilateral cervical ribs and the type of activities I was doing was causing thoracic outlet syndrome. It basically began to feel like a pinched nerve in my shoulder/arm, if you can imagine that. Not really a pain but more of an uncomfortableness.

Long story short, it took awhile for doctors to properly diagnose me and by that time I required major surgery. That surgery turned into another and within a year I was physically disabled. I had lived 30 years almost completely symptom free and once I aggravated the condition, it rapidly progressed into something very serious. Had I not undergone the course of treatment I did, the symptoms would have remained fairly tolerable and eventually become life threatening. Had I stopped treatment midway, I most likely wouldn’t be here today.

I guess the point of me sharing this is to put into perspective what might have happened to Denim. Maybe he was diagnosed or just starting feeling unlike his normal self and decided to go on this adventure. He may not have known the damage he was doing to his body and if he did, he may not have wanted to accept it. He also may have written the symptoms off as just a result of the hike, not something he needed to seek treatment for.

Being as young as he was, and an otherwise healthy man, it’s easy to imagine him brushing the aches and pains off. Lord knows I tried to.

The pain he would have felt in his foot, as you describe it, seems immense, especially for a thru hiker. I do wonder if it became unbearable in the end and he tried “waiting it out”, possibly thinking taking a load off for awhile would alleviate the pain. Maybe that’s why he stopped there in Florida. I remember times when pushing through my “pain” was more tolerable than coming to a stand still. I felt it more then. Maybe that’s what happened to him in the end.

I know this will not bring us closer to knowing his identity, but I think we’re all just a little bit curious about how such a thing happened.

Interesting story. Glad you recovered from it. I read up on TOS and ran across a related condition commonly known as "Backpack Palsy" and often associated with military recruits carrying heavy loads. I can't say that there is evidence that MH suffered from this but if he did it would be another reason for taking a pause in hiking in Florida.
 

Curious_in_NC

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Apart from DNA, the notebooks seem like the biggest clues to unraveling MH's story because the information in them is so unique. One question I have is, did anyone on the FT or AT actually witness him writing in or reading these? There is one hostel photo of MH with a book but not with the notebooks. It seems like if he was seen writing javascript notes somewhere another hiker would have asked him about it. Note I'm not questioning their authorship - the handwriting looks consistent with where he printed "Ben Bilemy" (disclaimer: I'm not a handwriting expert).

The common assumption is he was writing in these during down time in his tent or elsewhere. But the large notebook is in remarkably good condition to have been regularly used very often in tents or at picnic tables. It also is in exceptional condition if it was in a backpack for more than a year, even sealed in a ziploc bag. I did notice a few "chads" in the spiral binder of the large notebook suggesting one or more pages had been removed (see CCSO photos). I guess there's no way of knowing if there were further notebooks (might explain the heavy load) or at what point in the journey these were created.
 

Gareth_H

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Apart from DNA, the notebooks seem like the biggest clues to unraveling MH's story because the information in them is so unique. One question I have is, did anyone on the FT or AT actually witness him writing in or reading these? There is one hostel photo of MH with a book but not with the notebooks. It seems like if he was seen writing javascript notes somewhere another hiker would have asked him about it. Note I'm not questioning their authorship - the handwriting looks consistent with where he printed "Ben Bilemy" (disclaimer: I'm not a handwriting expert).

The common assumption is he was writing in these during down time in his tent or elsewhere. But the large notebook is in remarkably good condition to have been regularly used very often in tents or at picnic tables. It also is in exceptional condition if it was in a backpack for more than a year, even sealed in a ziploc bag. I did notice a few "chads" in the spiral binder of the large notebook suggesting one or more pages had been removed (see CCSO photos). I guess there's no way of knowing if there were further notebooks (might explain the heavy load) or at what point in the journey these were created.

Completely agreed, I've been pouring over them lately. The large and spiral notebook look incredibly well preserved as you said.

His spelling, grammar and general "flow" are almost perfect. If I didn't know better, I'd say he had written before in possibly a freelance sense or at the very least was educated to a high degree in a subject that required frequent high standard (American) English.

It was initially thought the lettering at the top of the pages was related to dates, but it would appear they correspond to Chapter/Sub Chapters, which of course makes it far harder to gauge when he actually wrote them.

Some sections are noticeably more "laboured" than others, with slight spelling mistakes and underdeveloped letters etc.

As to your Q, AFAIK no one mentioned him writing in them. He apparently told some people he was writing an app to guide hikers to water yet the notes don't relay that.

Did you happen to catch this bit on the very front of the CCPD scanned copies?

upload_2020-9-18_17-20-48.png

I'm not sure who or what agency wrote this, but it appears to state :-

"Java Computer Language but incoherent (?) means that (?) wouldn't meet definitions of a skilled programmer"

This may dispute the narrative that MH was a full-time pro coder, as opposed to something of a very enthusiastic amateur or gamer, or even perhaps someone who hadn't been involved for quite a long time. A whole manner of permutations.

I'm not anywhere near enough proficient enough to gauge this but I thought the observation interesting.
 
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GatorFL

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Going back to the notes briefly, and to the trail bars specifically. When he outlines his "base level" macronutrients, they are pretty much nailed on as an average for an "average" person at sedentary or just above levels.

What's interesting though is, despite listing carbs, protein, fiber, sodium he doesn't mention calories.

View attachment 264085

When he outlines his macros for the standard bar, cals are given a mention, and then in exquisite detail with the other variations:

View attachment 264086

I just find it strange how someone as detail-obsessed as Mostly Harmless left it out of the original Macro outline.

It was reported by Jason Nark as per Obsidian that he was "obsessed with counting calories". I've also seen a reputable source for someone who hiked with him for weeks where his continual weight loss was a topic frequently brought up.

it's almost like he couldn't bear to write down what he considered to be the expected intake of a "normal" person because he knew he didn't get anywhere near that amount for whatever reason. Or this was sensitive to him for whatever reason.
Regarding the bolded, are you searching for the source of this comment? Or something else? I am asking because it is pretty well established the hiker who was with him the longest was Obsidian. I can't remember off the top of my head how long they were together but I think it was only a week.
 

Curious_in_NC

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Completely agreed, I've been pouring over them lately. The large and spiral notebook look incredibly well preserved as you said.

His spelling, grammar and general "flow" are almost perfect. If I didn't know better, I'd say he had written before in possibly a freelance sense or at the very least was educated to a high degree in a subject that required frequent high standard (American) English.

It was initially thought the lettering at the top of the pages was related to dates, but it would appear they correspond to Chapter/Sub Chapters, which of course makes it far harder to gauge when he actually wrote them.

Some sections are noticeably more "laboured" than others, with slight spelling mistakes and underdeveloped letters etc.

As to your Q, AFAIK no one mentioned him writing in them. He apparently told some people he was writing an app to guide hikers to water yet the notes don't relay that.

Did you happen to catch this bit on the very front of the CCPD scanned copies?

View attachment 264169

I'm not sure who or what agency wrote this, but it appears to state :-

"Java Computer Language but incoherent (?) means that (?) wouldn't meet definitions of a skilled programmer"

This may dispute the narrative that MH was a full-time pro coder, as opposed to something of a very enthusiastic amateur or gamer, or even perhaps someone who hadn't been involved for quite a long time. A whole manner of permutations.

I'm not anywhere near enough proficient enough to gauge this but I thought the observation interesting.

I took that note to be an initial, and apparently erroneous, first impression from an early investigator with some software knowledge. The coding portion of the notebooks is said to be in javascript, not Java. The best critique of the notebooks I have seen is message 767 in thread #3 by @canteloupe. Also see the Screeps forum responses to JNark's query. They're anonymous user responses so I don't think it's allowed to link directly to them here.
 
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pucibobo

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It appears to have what looks like ingrained dirt or debris within it, giving it an almost blue/grey hue. Reminds me of the old "blue scars" coalminers in my area had/have when the wound heals up over dirt embedded within.

Honestly, the scar looks nothing like the blue scar - I saw many of them in my life and this one looks like it's just the light giving it a weird look. Most of these scars are much darker - my partner has many and they look a lot like deep bruises. I'm not sure how to explain it, because his complexion is a bit darker than MH's, but I think it would definitely stand out more against his skin.
It looks like a flash from the camera being reflected in a weird way?

Anyway, I'm in awe on your research and insight - please don't treat this message as critical, I just wanted to chime in :)
 

branmuffin

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Why was he in a two person tent?? Was someone with him or did he need more space?

A one person tent means storing your belongings inside would make it extremely cramped. There is a hiking website that shows how much space you'd get. A one person tent would feel claustrophobic, at least to me.
 
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GatorFL

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Why was he in a two person tent?? Was someone with him or did he need more space?
2p hiking tent is really more like a 1.5 person tent. I hike and I use a 2p tent for myself. If I was hiking with my wife I would use a 3p tent. No big deal at all for him to have a 2p tent.
 

MaryFromFla

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Unsure if it was credible. Early on in the very beginning there was talk about how Ben told someone at the beginning of his hike that he had lost a substantial amount of weight. I haven't looked at the p.m. photos. But I have wondered if the scar is from a "body lift or skin removal surgery" I also wonder if the weight loss is why there was such a focus on nutrition from Ben.
 

folieadeuxnola

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Unsure if it was credible. Early on in the very beginning there was talk about how Ben told someone at the beginning of his hike that he had lost a substantial amount of weight. I haven't looked at the p.m. photos. But I have wondered if the scar is from a "body lift or skin removal surgery" I also wonder if the weight loss is why there was such a focus on nutrition from Ben.

When I read your post I thought of gastric bypass. Have friends that had the surgery most positive however a couple of them incurred very negative effects with major weight loss to almost death. I have not read the autopsy if their is one out there I'm sure the coroner would have noted any surgeries in the report.
 

GatorFL

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Unsure if it was credible. Early on in the very beginning there was talk about how Ben told someone at the beginning of his hike that he had lost a substantial amount of weight. I haven't looked at the p.m. photos. But I have wondered if the scar is from a "body lift or skin removal surgery" I also wonder if the weight loss is why there was such a focus on nutrition from Ben.
It was not a scar from weight loss surgery.

He starved to death so people naturally wonder how he went from a reasonable weight to looking like he was in a concentration camp in 3 months time.
 

GatorFL

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When I read your post I thought of gastric bypass. Have friends that had the surgery most positive however a couple of them incurred very negative effects with major weight loss to almost death. I have not read the autopsy if their is one out there I'm sure the coroner would have noted any surgeries in the report.
He did not have a gastric bypass.
 

lonewanderer

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It was not a scar from weight loss surgery.

He starved to death so people naturally wonder how he went from a reasonable weight to looking like he was in a concentration camp in 3 months time.

In a recent Trace Evidence Podcast episode, it discussed the Ft Meyers 8.

According to that episode, a medical examiner claimed “In Florida, the climate can reduce someone to a skeleton in a matter of weeks”.

Just made me wonder if he was that thin because of exposure, or at some point dropped down to that thin before he died.
 

GatorFL

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In a recent Trace Evidence Podcast episode, it discussed the Ft Meyers 8.

According to that episode, a medical examiner claimed “In Florida, the climate can reduce someone to a skeleton in a matter of weeks”.

Just made me wonder if he was that thin because of exposure, or at some point dropped down to that thin before he died.
Well there was no decomp so we know he starved. Question is why.
 

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Eight hours ago, Othram announced on Facebook that there is a “Big announcement coming!”

While all cases that they are working on are very important, I really hope that this announcement is about Mostly Harmless.
 

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I'm completely ignorant about hiking more than an afternoon so for those that hike great distances, once the end of the trail or destination is achieved, what is the usual way to get back home? Get picked up, turn around and hike back, etc? I've just been wondering what his plans may have been in the Keys once he got there.
 
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