Death Valley in California’s Mojave is aptly named. It is the lowest spot in the continental United States and the hottest by far. Temperatures can average 120 ° F (50 C) in the shade and since no trees grow there there is precious little shade and less water. The country is a true wilderness. Miles and miles of dry open desert with just scrub, sand and rocks. Lizards, jackrabbits, snakes and Gila monsters along with an occasional sickly coyote down on his luck are the only permanent inhabitants since the Manson family left in 1969. That is until 2002.
In that year strange things started happening. Isolated cabins were being broken into and ransacked for the oddest things. Spices, magazines, cassette tapes and a stuffed teddy bear. Camps were raided for food and water and the occasional sleeping bag or backpack. Nobody was harmed in fact nobody even saw a thing. It was if a ghost of the old pioneers buried in the old cemetery had decided to walk the earth in search of gold.
The rangers pretty much ignored it until a small store was broken into and a rifle, ammo and a quadrunner were stolen. Now the ghost was armed and mobile. Still he harmed no one. He threatened no one. He frightened no one. He was as elusive as the dust devils which spiraled up only to vanish again. Still the gun worried the rangers. They started looking for him. Some off duty LA police on a hiking trip spotted him and believing him to be suspicious took a photo of him. He was seen only in shadow with the ATV covered with camping equipment and gas cans camouflage with military netting used to camouflage tanks and artillery in Iraq.
Now the worry was heightened. It was just post 9/11 and there were lots of military bases, secret bases, in and around the area. So the rangers called in State police and they began a search. They searched for six weeks with men, dogs and helicopters but saw nothing. They saw old camps which had what looked like prepared firing positions and stone markers designating escape routes. Commando they thought. Has to be military.
Then they caught a break. They spotted his camp. He saw them and, to their surprise, SPRINTED in the 114 degree heat straight up the side of a mountain carrying a full pack and his rifle. There was no way those police could catch him.This became his plan every time he was spotted he would run uphill and elude capture. He was given the name the Ballarat Bandit and took on folk hero status. He was seen as nearly superhuman by the cops and rangers pursuing him.