Report From Friday by Cynthia…

January 31st, 2016

 BY cynthia

West Rim Photo Shoot for Randy

I was hoping Sacha and her group of a dozen plus searchers would find Randy in the canyon yesterday…the “figure” sprawled on top the large boulder looked promising from the drone footage taken a week or so ago. Alas, they identified that spot, and it was not a body…
So here I am once again…passing along the only information I can contribute to our search for our fellow Fenn treasure-hunter Randy Bilyeu…
The only idea I had left was to hike out to the West Rim of White Rock Canyon through Bandelier to the spot across from the raft…I’d set my camera with 300 mm zoom lens on a tripod and photograph a grid of pictures which I could then send the link to Dal for anyone to download onto their own computers, and zoom in even more. Maybe someone will see something…
Forrest made me promise that I wouldn’t make the hike alone so I called Roger who lives in Santa Fe to see if he’d escort me…he said he would.

Early the next day, we headed to Bandelier. The day before I had told the rangers there at the visitors’ center what my plan was…to hike out through the back-country to the rim. They said no problem and asked me to remain on the trail…I debated if I should explain my plan to them again…no trail usage intended…we would follow the south rim of Frijoles Canyon to the river and turn south. They hesitated and said okay…they wrote down my name and phone number and party of 2. They warned me that if my car was still in the parking lot there at dusk, we would be considered lost, and a search party would be sent out. Heaven forbid anything goes awry, I thought…

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The drive across NM502 that Friday morning was beautiful…we couldn’t have asked for better weather for January. We rode in silence much of the way…both of us contemplating our day ahead…neither Roger nor I had ever hiked across the back-country here so did not know what to expect. The lady ranger told me we were looking at a 10-mile roundtrip hike. That didn’t sound too extreme at our ages if you are on level terrain with good footing…but this was bush- whacking across the undulating mesa tops covered in vegetation and a lot of pre-cut dead branches. And that thought of absolutely having to be back to the car by dusk weighed heavy on my mind.
We parked, gathered our gear, and headed to the Frijoles Falls trailhead where we would make our 400-ft ascent up the switchbacks on the south side of the canyon to reach the mesa top. Much of the trail was still snow-covered…I followed the fresh rabbit tracks ahead of me.

ImageExtract-002 I wanted to sprint to the top…but Roger wanted to take in the scenery. It was the right thing to do since who knew when we’d return here. At the top of the switchbacks, we left the trail and headed east along Frijoles Canyon rim…it was mostly a pleasant hike.

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It took us 2 hours to get to the top of the rim across from the raft…we weren’t directly across from it but close enough. As I set up my tripod and attached the zoom lens to the camera, Roger was already busy using the binoculars, searching…

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We were quiet much of the time…the only sound was the shutter release repeating over and over…90 times to be exact because that’s how many photos I took during the grid shoot. Even when I finished, we both sat there…I took a few pictures on my phone which I sent to Forrest to let him know we made it safely to the rim. I was surprised there was enough of a signal, but when I received a reply from him, I knew they sent.
I joined Roger right out on the edge…it was almost spiritual…it’s hard to explain the feeling I felt… looking for Randy, trying to think like Randy…I’m sure most of the other folks who have done their own boots-on-the-ground searches as well as Forrest and his teams in the chopper, all understand what I mean.

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After an hour and a half, I asked Roger if he was ready to pack up and head back…no response. Ok…I knew we had plenty of time to get back before dusk. We talked about what a spectacular day it was…the setting up on the mesa top looking north or south along the Rio Grande was absolutely gorgeous if you like the desert…we both do. We talked about how we wished we’d brought camping gear so we could stay longer…it was that spectacular to us, and the solitude and quiet was so peaceful…
Eventually, we packed up and headed home…
Here is the link to the pictures: I’d like to thank my BFF Tom back in Pennsylvania who allowed me to post these on his SmugMug site.

https://tomcor99.smugmug.com/01312016-Search-for-Randy

Cynthia