Search For Missing Hiker Called Off

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The search for a 68-year-old Mesa man known by bloggers as “GPS Joe” has been called off after a week of intensive searching turned up nothing.

Maricopa and Gila County rescue crews covered roughly 10 square miles around Sheep Mountain last week after Joe Domin was reported missing by several of his hiking friends Nov. 15, said Bill Pitterle, leader of the local Tonto Rim Search and Rescue.

So far, crews have found no sign of Domin’s whereabouts except for his white 4-Runner, parked at the Mt. Peeley trailhead, where he frequently liked to hike.

Domin reportedly left his home on Nov. 8 for a day hike in a remote area west of Mt. Ord and has not been heard from for the last 15 days.

According to blogs on the hiking Web site HikeArizona.com, Domin told no one where he was going. However, when two of his friends, identified as Gabriele and Hank on the site, did not hear from Domin in some time, they went to his home and discovered a three-day-old package on his doorstep.

Gabriele and Hank wrote it was unusual for Domin to leave a package sitting and contacted the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.

Hank told authorities that Domin might be hiking near Sheep Mountain, since he was reportedly trying to find an off trail route to the summit.

Hank wrote it was Domin’s fourth attempt at reaching the summit since the autumn of 2009.

In a blog entry Domin wrote on the site in April of 2010, he said, “I made another unsuccessful attempt to reach Sheep Mountain.

“What does me in on this hike is not the terrain but rather the low vegetation — manzanita, cactus, other stuff.

“You need to be a little crazy to try this one, but I know there are some crazies out there.”

Acting on Hank’s hunch, a sheriff’s deputy drove down Forest Service Road 201 and found Domin’s vehicle parked at the trailhead.

For the past week, some 25 searchers combed the extremely rugged area in and around Sheep Mountain.

Several searchers were airlifted to the top of the mountain while others hiked around the base. Dogs and horses were brought in, but no clues to Domin’s whereabouts were found.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Mountain Rescue/Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association is in charge of the search.

On Sunday, the search was suspended indefinitely.

“We have applied as much resources as we can in that tough country,” Pitterle said.

The terrain has worn out seasoned searchers in a matter of days, Pitterle said.

Although the official search has been called off, Pitterle said smaller crews would continue searching on their own.

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