Authorities in Death Valley are asking for the public's help in the puzzling case of a man who vanished a week ago while walking from his campfire to his tent in the middle of a busy campground.
San Francisco resident George Kohler, 67, was last seen about 8 p.m. March 12, when he walked away from the fire after telling members of his bicycle tour group that he was tired.
When Kohler didn't turn up the next morning, his fellow campers checked his tent. His bicycle and all his camping gear were there, and his bed looked as if it hadn't been slept in, said Carma Roper, spokeswoman for the Inyo County (Calif.) sheriff's office, which is heading up the investigation.
"It's been very unsettling. I don't know how this happened in a campground," Roper said.
Kohler was part of a group exploring Death Valley National Park on bicycles. The group had stopped for the night at the Mesquite Spring campground at the northern end of the park, not far from Scotty's Castle, about 180 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Seven local, state and federal agencies joined the search, which has included rescue dogs on the ground and aircraft from Nellis Air Force Base.
"It's been a massive multi-agency search," Roper said. "No stone has been left unturned, and they're continuing on."
The Inyo County sheriff's office is asking anyone who was on the road to Scotty's Castle and may have seen Kohler or given him a ride to call 760-878-0383.
Roper said Kohler is about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a blue jacket, navy blue T-shirt and black pants.
Terry Baldino, spokesman for the National Park Service in Death Valley, said that it is unusual anytime someone goes missing in the park, but that it is not difficult to disappear there, even from a campground full of people.
He said that if a person decides to go for a walk in the dark, doesn't tell anyone where he is going and then becomes incapacitated somewhere out in the desert, searchers might not know where to look and could walk right by a downed man without seeing him.
The weather was mild at the time Kohler went missing, particularly by Death Valley standards: daytime highs in the 70s and overnight lows in the 40s.
Mesquite Spring is a developed campground with restrooms, picnic tables, potable water and a resident camp host.
Roper said about 50 other people were staying there the night Kohler disappeared.
"It's very puzzling," she said.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350.