A picture of Evan Tanner's camp in today's Union Tribune
Deep in the scorched hills of Imperial County, 10 miles from the nearest paved road, Evan Tanner parked his off-road motorcycle and set up camp. He unfolded a green cot and chair, set up a tarp for shade and took out sunscreen, a highlighter and a notebook.
Police suspect Tanner set off from Oceanside Sept. 3, turned off Highway 78 near Palo Verde (population: 236) headed onto unpaved Milpitas Wash Road, then cut west into the rocky, trail-less desert, barren except for the odd mesquite tree or creosote bush.
The next day, he told friends in text messages that if they didn't hear from him by the next morning, they should call for help. He was near Clapp Spring and running out of gas and water.
They made the call when no further word came. Marine helicopters from Yuma Air Station and local search and rescue volunteers scoured the area.
Rescue crews found his camp, where he still had several pouches filled with water, that Sunday.
On Monday, they found his body two miles from camp and several miles from the spring. He was carrying a GPS device. There was an empty water pouch nearby.
Police suspect Tanner may have been hiking to or from Clapp Spring, which is described on the Bureau of Land Management's Web site as a palm oasis and permanent water source for wildlife. Locals say Clapp Spring is little more than a muddy patch that supports a few palm trees but does not have enough water to drink.
An autopsy ruled the cause of death was heat exhaustion. Police have ruled out suicide and foul play. The results of toxicology tests may take up to three months.