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There were two fatalities in Joshua Tree National Park throughout all of 2022. In the first week of 2023, the park has already matched that count.
According to the Desert Sun, the park’s first death this year occurred January 2, when an unnamed hiker went into cardiac arrest on the Lost Palms Oasis Trail. After their family initiated CPR on the trail, the hiker was transported to a hospital, where they passed away.
Anna Nuno, 58, of Los Angeles County became the second fatality after falling and hitting her head in Rattlesnake Canyon on Saturday. Several organizations were involved in her recovery: San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Aviation Unit, San Bernardino County Fire Department, and Morongo Basin Ambulance.
“It is a boulder climbing route to get up there, with large crevasses that will drop you down 20 or 30 feet, so it is a hard hike, especially in the dark with wet rocks,” Superintendent David Smith told the Desert Sun. “This was a joint effort.”
Although the contributing factors to her death are unknown, powerful downpours hit California in the new year, including the national park and its surrounding areas, making rocks and trails exceptionally hard to traverse.
Even without the additional challenge that the rains pose, both the Rattlesnake Canyon and Wonderland of Rocks areas are notably hard to navigate because of their remoteness, difficult terrain, and lack of cell service. The park’s spotty reception can also delay emergency responses by several hours. (Planning on tackling these trails? Navigation skills, as well as a map and compass or GPS, are a must.)
“This is a very rough route that goes over a pass, so yes, rocks can be slippery,” said Smith.
These slippery conditions can affect anyone on the trails. Nuno was an avid hiker and adventurer, with particular experience in the desert. On a memorial website for Nuno, Maggie Jackson, a friend, wrote “You are hiking with the angels now.”