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Editor's note • Every Saturday, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby digs into the state's past to enlighten or, at least, entertain Utahns in the present. Have a story to share? Visit or email

In October 1942, deer hunters at the head of Water Canyon, 15 miles east of Fillmore, discovered a human skeleton and a ruined 50-year-old muzzle-loading rifle barrel.

Close examination revealed the possibility that the unfortunate hunter may have attempted a long-range shot by increasing the powder load with disastrous results.

The barrel exploded upon discharge, which could account for why the skeleton was missing a hand and its lower jaw. The case was turned over to the Millard County Sheriff's Office. But the hunter's identity remains a mystery. According to news reports of the time, the only clue was the "ELG" on the barrel.

Hunters and hikers are prime discoverers of the grim secrets held in the silence of Utah's remote mountains and vast deserts. They often bring answers to families who have waited years for news of their missing loved ones.

In October 1952, remains located on a mountain peak 35 miles southwest of Vernon in Tooele County proved to be those of prominent Salt Lake City businessman I.J. Ketchum, 80, who disappeared on a business trip in 1948.

In October 1977, deer hunters found the decomposed body of Bert Heath, 65, in the Oquirrh Mountains. Heath had disappeared from a nursing home two years before.

On Cedar Mountain, 15 miles east of Cedar City, a deer hunter in 1964 came upon the wreckage of an aircraft missing for more than three years. Inside were the remains of Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Patch and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Jadrieu, who had vanished on a flight from Cedar City to California.

In March 1963, Harry C. Ross and Wallace T. Halsey left Logan in a light airplane bound for the Golden State. Their fate went unknown for 13 years until deer hunters discovered their bodies in wreckage on Pine Mountain, 25 miles north of St. George.

As with the Water Canyon case, hunters themselves sometimes provide the mysteries.

On Oct. 18, 1943, Ogden deer hunter Rudolph M. Bertagnole disappeared near Gildersleeve Canyon. On Oct. 26, 1956, Murray resident Donald Pack, 19, went missing during a snowstorm while hunting deer in Mill Creek Canyon.

Bertagnole's remains were not found until 1986 — by a deer hunter in a cove near Causey Reservoir. Although hunters were asked to be on the lookout for Pack's body for several years, he seems to never have been located.

Hiking alone is often a bad idea. In November 1969, while hiking at Strawberry Valley near Navajo Lake in southwestern Utah, Catherine Yvonne Shapiro, 42, of Santa Clara, Calif., disappeared. A month earlier, Brigham Young University student Steven D. Woodman vanished in the mountains above Provo.

Woodman's remains turned up in Rock Canyon two years later. Shapiro's were not found until 1974 near Navajo Lake campground. Both deaths were believed to be the result of accidental falls.

The remains of 48-year-old Lon George Hamilton, missing since 1935, were found near Hite at the north end of Lake Powell, but not until two decades later, in 1956, by a uranium prospector. Hamilton apparently died of an accidental gunshot wound while hiking alone.

Even in populated areas, the mountains hold their secrets long. In 1956, the body of Alexander G. Marshal, from British Columbia, were found in a box canyon on the south side of Mount Olympus overlooking the Salt Lake Valley, where it had been for five years.

In September 1969, nearly two years after she accepted a new job and then disappeared, the body of Judith A. Smith, 22, was recovered from a jagged cliff east of Ogden. Authorities determined she fell while hiking alone.

As spring turns summer, the lonesome places in Utah will start getting visitors again. Be careful where you step.