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A Mysterious Vanishing at the Grand Canyon

Sprawled out across a swath of northwestern Arizona, in the United States, is the majestic and world-renowned Grand Canyon National Park. Although it covers a large area of pristine and rugged wilderness spread out over 1,217,262 acres (1,901.972 sq mi) the central feature is of course the Grand Canyon itself, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979 and carved out through the rock over millions of years by the Colorado river. The sweeping, awe-inspiring canyon is host to around 6 million visitors a year, who come for the scenic vistas and abundant hiking trails. One of these visitors would arrive in 2016, only to go off along a hiking trail and keep on going off the face of the earth.

In June of 2016, a 52-year old former NASA employee school teacher of computer programming from Treasure Island, Florida, named Floyd Roberts, was visiting the Grand Canyon with his best friend since childhood Ned Bryant, along with Ned’s daughter Madeleine. Ned and Madeleine were seasoned hikers and were very familiar with the area, even being board members of the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association, so he was in good hands. Roberts had also been making regular hiking trips there with the pair since 1992, so he wasn’t exactly a stranger to the area himself. On June 17, 2016, they were hiking at the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, at a place called the Shivwits Plateau. Their plan was to spend 9 days making their way over the plateau and camping on the riverside, and although it was considered to be a pretty remote area of the park they were well stocked with supplies and it was a completely routine hike for the experienced hikers, on a clear day with nothing at all to foretell the strange events that were about to transpire.

Along the way, at around 4:45 PM on the very first day of their planned excursion, the trio came to a hill that they could either hike up over or around, and they decided to have a bit of a race just for fun. To this effect, the Bryants decided that they would hike over, while Roberts would go around, and they would see who could get to the other side first. The Bryants got to the other side and waited for Roberts, who should not have been too far behind. Then they waited longer and waited some more, but there was no sign of their friend. The retraced their steps and decided to contour all the way around the hill but there was no sign of their friend, and hiking around the vicinity and all the way out to the road similarly turned up nothing. He had just vanished without a trace.

The Bryants decided to stay there for the night, looking for their friend, calling out to him only to be answered by their own echoes and even hanging up brightly colored sleeping bags as a beacon, all while checking their cell phones, because although the signal was sketchy, all of them had phones on them just in case. By the following morning there was still no sign at all of Roberts, so they contacted the National Park Service to report a missing person. That day a search effort was launched, using helicopters and sniffer dogs, but they were unable to locate the missing man or indeed any sign of him. Even the dogs were supposedly confused, unable to pick up a scent. Ned Bryant would say at the time, “I am very worried. Everything was going perfectly until the split. Helicopters all afternoon couldn’t find him.”

Indeed, it was all rather a conundrum. Roberts had been in very good spirits, looking forward to the hike, and he was in good physical condition and on the first day of their hike, so he was still fresh. No one could figure out why he would intentionally leave behind his friends or how he could possibly get lost considering that all he had to do was follow the contour of the hill and he also happened to have had a detailed map with him. The hill was a clear landmark that rose up above the landscape, with a trail clearly going around it, and Roberts was a very experienced hiker familiar with the terrain, so it did not make any sense at all that he should so thoroughly disappear in such a short amount of time.

Floyd Roberts

Searchers were a bit worried about a wave of very hot weather moving in, but Roberts had 2 gallons of water and a week’s worth of food on him. Even if he had gone off to explore, he had a map so why wouldn’t he just squat down close to the hill and wait for someone to find him? Was he drawn out into the wilderness by something that caught his attention and then perhaps got injured? If so, why didn’t he call out for help? What could have happened to him so suddenly? Was there some sort of foul play involved? Did he want to run away? This doesn’t seem to fit in with his established character at all, so what is going on here? How did Floyd Roberts just thoroughly manage to evaporate? Whatever the answer may be, he has never been found, and the case remains unsolved.