June 18, 2010 – Only a group of four women would be able to identify “Sheepherder Lane.” The ladies came up with the name while searching for a particular road looking for clues into the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell.
The four women, Linda Osborne, Kiirsi Hellewell, JoVonna Owings, and Dr. Catherine Clark “Cat” took a trip into the West Desert Monday looking for a road they believed could possibly lead to information about Susan’s disappearance, and for any clues they might find along the way.
Many people have relentlessly been searching for Susan, some from Utah, and others have come from different areas of the country. They have searched under difficult and differing conditions and have not given up.
Searching is often a sad and usually exhausting and difficult process. Searchers want so badly to find Susan.
The point of this article is to share a story that provides a bit of humor in a situation difficult to find much to smile about with Susan still gone.
This is just a small glimpse into a day where search plans went awry but good was still accomplished.
The purpose of this story is to entertain, provide a bit of insight into conditions out in the desert, and inject a little humor into a sad situation.
Adventure in the desert
This story is about the adventures of four ladies who set out to search for Susan in Utah’s West Desert. While they may not have found many clues into Susan’s disappearance that day, they did find a road they’d been searching for which they now call “Sheepherder’s Lane” – they also found camaraderie.
Susan’s friends have repeatedly told cakechow.com that Susan was a friend to all and that she would be happy to see the bonds forming between people who, at one time, were complete strangers. Some have still not met face-to-face but feel a strong connection and bond through Susan.
As the four made their way into the desert they found themselves on a very bumpy dirt road.
“We jounced and rattled over a terrible road,” Susan’s best friend, Kiirsi Hellewell said. “That’s the road we’re now calling “Sheepherder Lane”.
“We survived that skinny, rutted, muddy rock-covered dirt road without mishap or getting stuck,” she said.
Susan’s friend, JoVonna, said, “I was able to engage in some delightful off-roading accompanied with lots of good advice from Doc, quick reflexive steering from Linda, and squeals and laughter from everyone.”
“I got to see some wonderful wildlife like wild horses that we almost could touch, antelope, Eli [a good Samaritan’s dog, more below] chasing Antelope, a hissing snake in the middle of the road which we moved, elegant birds, beautiful blooming cactus, a Toyota Tundra, a tow truck, and old shovel, and the vast wilderness that is around Simpson Springs,” JoVonna said.
“I truthfully did not realize just how vast that area is and the large amount of time and effort it takes to search just a small portion,” she said.
Heading to Simpson Springs for lunch, the four spotted an odd pole sticking up high on top of a hill.
“We saw the pole on top of the hill and decided to investigate which required climbing a steep rocky road where I had to increase speed to get the car up the hill,” Linda Osborne said. “I came up on a big rock in the center of the road hidden in some grass which knocked the underside of my car very hard.”
Kiirsi said, “When we got to the top of the hill we got out and walked around for a bit looking at cactus flowers and at the scenery. I then heard an ominous watery sound. I looked over by the car and saw lots of green liquid gushing out into the road.”
“We had duct tape,” Kiirsi said. “But no gloves and Cat said the liquid was poisonous.”
Linda, growing a bit concerned, said, “We were many miles out of cell range and far enough off the main Simpson Springs road to be seen when we noticed that my radiator fluid was quickly leaking. None of us could get cell reception. “
Cat saw a truck driving on Simpson Springs Road, headed toward the road, and flagged the driver.
“He came up the trail,” Linda said, “We only asked him to call the Sheriff or AAA so we could get a tow out.”
They got a lot more than a tow. “The wonderful guy named Bob,” Linda said, “gets down on the ground and tries to fix what turned out to be just a hose that got ripped in half by this rock. But, he was not able to fix it without his tools.”
Kiirsi said, “He was the nicest guy. He had a darling yellow lab in the back of his pickup, Eli. He was originally from Alabama and spoke with a thick accent. The reason he didn’t have his tools with him was that he’d taken them out of his truck in preparation of a service trip to Mexico.”
Bob, Linda said, drove 20 miles out of his way to a hilltop where they were finally able to get reception and call AAA. They said they would send a tow truck from Vernon.
Kiirsi said, “We headed back to the car and on the way, AAA called back and said ‘apparently you’re on a dirt road and we will NOT send anyone to any unpaved roads.’ The agent explained a tow would be very expensive, and the phone dropped the connection just then.”
“We were wondering what we’d do next,” Kiirsi said. “When our new friend, Bob, learned how expensive it would be to have the car towed, he said he’d tow us to the pavement 40 miles away. It seems a lot farther when you can only go 35 mph on that road, and only 10 or 15 mph when you’re towing a car,” she said.
Kiirsi said they talked about Susan most of the way, with Bob giving his opinion about who he thought might be involved in her disappearance.
“On the way we passed antelope and Bob stopped the truck and motioned to his dog, Eli, to jump over the side. ‘GO GET ‘IM, ELI!’ The dog raced after the antelope, which outdistanced him and was gone in about 2 seconds, and we were all laughing so hard we could barely breathe. Bob was such a character and such a sweet guy,” Kiirsi said.
They were almost at the end of the dirt road when they met up with a Sheriff. “It seems AAA had called them when they couldn’t get us on the cell phone and sent them out to find us. Bob towed us to the nearest gas station, a tiny thing in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town where we waited for a tow truck,” Kiirsi said.
The Sheriff escorted them down the highway to the gas station because the speed limit was 70mph and they were only able to go no faster than 40 mph. They then provided a tow to the next town with a mechanic who could make the repairs.
“The gas station was about to close. Sam, a second good Samaritan, was the mechanic who stayed overtime to repair the broken hose and charged only for the antifreeze,” Cat said.
“What nice guys!” Kiirsi said. “They could have charged for labor and overtime plus the new hose and fitting. But all they asked was for Linda to bring them a plate of cookies sometime soon.”
In the meantime, Cat needed to get back to Linda’s house to pick up her car and the tow truck driver, another good Samaritan, offered to drive her there.
“It was a day full of being the beneficiaries of many kind and caring strangers. They were amazingly nice,“ Cat said, “considerate people all-around. And we did get some good searching in.”
“Although we were faced with many obstacles that day, we all stayed in a good mood and had lots of laughs. And I was finally able to find a road I’ve been trying to find and search for months,” Linda said.
“Kiirsi had gone searching with Linda before so she had an idea of what to expect and that helped to make it a more peaceful experience,” JoVonna said.
“I was intrigued with Doc’s knowledge of maps and topography and Linda’s familiarity with the locations we visited. This was a great comfort to me as I had never been in the west desert before,” she said.
“I am thankful to Linda and Doc for their expertise and generosity in the search effort. I would have gotten lost and stranded if not for the kindness of strangers and love of friends. I am glad to have taken part in this small search and am planning on going again just so I can work with these fine women again,” JoVonna said.
The four ladies
Kiirsi Hellewell is Susan’s best friend. She has been the leader in the online campaign to find Susan.
Linda Osborne never met Susan but took an interest in her case when she disappeared. She has been searching the West Desert for clues into Susan’s disappearance since early December, and is assisting in the June 26 professional and public search for Susan.
Dr. Catherine Clark has been following Susan’s case and offered he help and expertise in Monday’s search.
JoVonna Owings is friends with Susan. They had just become friends about a month before Susan disappeared. Besides Susan’s husband, Josh Powell, JoVonna is the last known person to see Susan the night before she disappeared.
Cat said, “Thanks to some great company and good Samaritans, we made it out alive.”
Click here for more about Susan’s case.
Few details of Susan’s case
Susan Cox Powell, 28, went missing from her West Valley City home Dec. 6. Her husband, Josh Powell, is the last known person to see her when she went to bed at midnight. He told police and media that just after Susan went to bed he took their two young sons, then ages 2 and 4, on an overnight camping trip.
It was snowing that night and temperatures were subfreezing. He claims he forgot what day it was and that he went camping because he and his boys liked to do S’Mores. He said when he returned the following day his wife had disappeared and he didn’t know where she was.
His story has been largely criticized and disbelieved.
Less that a month after Susan went missing Josh moved their two young sons away from the only support system they knew and into Josh’s father’s home in Puyallup, Washington.
Josh Powell is the only person of interest in what police call a missing person’s case with suspicious criminal overtones.
Click here for more about Susan’s case.