We Found a Camera and a Love Story in Death Valley

Wed Jan 9, 20130National Parks
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June 15, 2011 Do you know these people ??

On June 26, 2011 my son Bradley found a Nikon Coolpix S220 point and shoot camera laying in a gravel road near Panamint Springs in Death Valley. You can read about that day here.

We always intended to try to find the owners but the photos gave us no hints except for the photo above of Mahogany Flat Campground on June 15, 2011. I tried a couple of lost camera websites and used Google to look for any information about a lost camera in Death Valley but had no luck. I tossed the camera in my desk and then forgot about it.

I have written a few blog posts lately and I thought about the camera. Thinking that would be a neat topic I decided to blog about it, post a few of the photos and see if anyone found them. We had previously only viewed the photos using the camera so I removed the card and plugged it into my desktop.

There were three folders of photos. That was interesting as I think we only viewed the latest folder with the card in the camera the day we found it. I also decided to run a program on the card to recover any deleted photos that had not been over written. That recovered about 100 more photos. After viewing all the photos I found a clue. There is a photo of a woman holding a dog. I want to protect these people's privacy so the photo I put in this blog is not detailed enough for you to make out the details. But I was able to zoom in on the dog tag and it says "CITY OF PENTALUMA CA DOG LICENSE 707-778-4396 xxxxxx".

So I called them up, told them this was going to be a strange phone call and told them my story. The man who answered the phone agreed it was a weird call. I gave him the tag number and my contact info and he said he would look into it and call me back.

So I am hopeful I can get these photos back to their owner. There are about 400 photos and most of them were taken June 12-16, 2011 and April 9-14, 2011. I am going to include a few of them here because some of them are really neat... and this whole thing makes a great story. These people found some interesting wildlife in the desert.

Also if the city of Pentaluma can not help me, maybe the owner of the camera will eventually find me.

EDIT Tue 7/2/2013 8:00AM

The folks at the Petaluma Animal Shelter were not able to help me. They suggested I post something to their Facebook page. I did so in January with no luck. In June this thing started bugging me again. I made another posting on the Petaluma Animal Shelter Facebook page with no luck. I looked at all 400 photos again looking for more clues. There is a pickup truck, but no view of the license tag. The man wore a printed tee shirt in a few of the photos but the image and writing on the shirt made no sense to me. I looked at the straps of cameras and backpacks for a name maybe written in marker.

The man appears to know how to handle reptiles so I thought he might be a professor. I looked at some university websites for faculty photos, but no luck. He is wearing a hat from a restaurant in a few of the photos so I thought about contacting the restaurant, but it seems to be a chain. My last attempt was going to be contacting the National Park Service to find out who stayed in the Mahogany Flat Campground on the date that photo was taken.

Then I thought about local newspapers in Petaluma. They might know the people or be interested in doing a human interest story. I Googled and found Petaluma360 and emailed one of the reporters with the details. The reporter circulated the email in her office but with no luck. She suggested I post on their Facebook page and I did so.

I followed up with another email to her containing a photo of another young girl from the memory card and a photo of a waterfall, asking if anyone knew where the waterfall was located. I got no answers.

Then yesterday, this website got 3 times the number of visitors it has ever gotten in one day! Someone got the word out and several people have commented. Hannah, in her comments, may have solved this riddle. I will edit this post again if I am able to return the camera and photos. Thanks for all the help.

EDIT Wed 7/3/2013 7:00AM

Happy Ending

If you have read the comments below, you know the owner of the camera has been found. The camera and photos will soon be in the mail to her.

Yesterday this website had a larger audience than the day before with over 5 times the usual traffic. I may never know the details but someone posted a link to this blog on their Facebook page which eventually got to the daughter of the owner, Grace, who then contacted her mother, Arden, last night who contacted me.

As you can imagine, Arden was very happy to hear from me. She had reported the camera lost to the National Park Service in Death Valley so if we had contacted the Park Service, which we thought about doing, we might have gotten the camera to her soon after she lost it. But that would have made a boring story.

Arden told me that trying to find them by registration records for the Mahogany Flat Campground would not have worked because no registration was required. She is involved with the Petaluma Animal Shelter where I left a couple of posts. I posted photos and text on their Facebook page, but on those types of pages Facebook condenses the post to a single line. The reader has to click the line to expand and read the post and view the photos. If the photos had remained visible in the post, she would have seen them in January when I made the first post.

So this story must end but it ends on a happy note. And Laurie and I have new friends in California who have offered a driveway for camping with our 5th wheel RV if we are ever in the area.

This reminds me of the time in 2006 when I broke into a locked chest forgotten in the corner of an upstairs bedroom in my grandfathers old country home. He had recently gone into a nursing home and my Aunt was going through some stuff in the house and wanted to know what was inside. We knew it had been locked since 1954 when the owner died and left it to my grandfather. We found clothes, shaving articles and a hand made quilt with many names embroidered on it. The quilt fascinated me and 52 years after it had been locked away in the chest I found .... That is a story for another day.

EDIT Sun 9/15/2013

When I started this post and decided to publish photos of the couple, I was thinking, what if these two people are not married to each other and are on a weekend getaway. These photos could cause some trouble for someone. When I talked with Arden the night we finally made contact, I mentioned my concern to her. She laughed and said she and the man were dating at the time but had since ended their relationship.

Arden stated in one of her emails that she and David had remained friends after their breakup. When she finally received her camera from me after two years, they got together for dinner to look over the photos and talk about the trip.

I recently received a very nice thank you note from Arden. Included was:

"As I relayed to you in our phone call, at the time you finally located me, David and I were no longer together. However, since then we have reunited and rekindled our relationship. When talking about it we both were moved by those pictures. Seeing them again after such a long time made us realize how much we wanted to be together! So you're a matchmaker as well."

Arden posted many more of her photos to a Picasa web album and gave me permission to share the photos.

Such a great ending an interesting story. I guess I will have to add "matchmaker" to my skills on LinkedIn.

You may be interested in the next article, Special Mexican Treatment.

The previous article is My Son Wants to Go On A One Way Trip to Mars.

© Bobby Daniel