The recovery of Susan Schmierer’s body April 28, almost a year after she died of heat exposure near the Amboy Crater, is a stark reminder of the awesome, unforgiving nature of the desert we all call home.
Schmierer and her husband, William, both succumbed to heat exposure while exploring the Amboy Crater in June 2018. William’s body was found a few days after they were reported missing but the search for Susan’s remains consumed thousands of hours by countless members of search and rescue teams, including sheriff’s deputies, BLM rangers, volunteers and members of the Schmierer’s family.
The tragedy of two lives lost is compounded by the fact that theirs is not an isolated case. Every year, there is at least one incident in which someone gets lost, often in the wilds of Joshua Tree National Park or Amboy, and is later found dead from heat exposure.
The bitterest part of these tragedies is how preventable they are. Susan and William’s fates should remind us all to respect the danger that can be found in even the seemingly most peaceful parts of our desert paradise.
Heat is always the enemy, particularly during the summer and particularly at a place like Amboy Crater, where the ground absorbs and reflects the summer sun and can heat up to temperatures in excess of 160 degrees.
Hikers are cautioned to choose their locations and times wisely. Let people know where they are going and when they are due back so there will be no delay in starting a search if they get lost.
It is good that people love the beauty of our desert but it is also important to respect its power.