Skull of lost hiker found |

Skull of lost hiker found

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The skull of a Vermont hiker who disappeared in Desolation Wilderness before a December snowstorm was found by hikers about a mile from Eagle Lake.

Steven Dowden, 53, disappeared Dec. 13 when he walked into Desolation with only a backpack. He hailed a cab from Stateline and directed the driver to drop him off at Eagle Falls trailhead.

A return plane ticket to Vermont was unused and he never checked out of his room at Harveys Resort and Casino.

On Sunday a group of San Jose hikers found Dowden’s skull and notified authorities. On Monday, a California Highway Patrol helicopter dropped off deputies at the coordinates left by the hikers.

Dowden’s dental records provided by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department were given to El Dorado Detective Coroner Pete Van Arnum, who confirmed the identity of the man.

Because of Dowden’s lack of equipment and the severity of the winter storm, Douglas sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Minister said he expected Dowden’s remains to be found by hikers.

Minister couldn’t confirm speculation that Dowden went into the wilderness to die. Van Arnum believes animals took the skull from where he had died.

Van Arnum and the sheriff’s search and rescue team plans to revisit the area Friday to find the remains and backpack.

When Dowden disappeared, a storm dumped several feet of snow.

“I would say if he got caught in that storm, he couldn’t get out and died of either hypothermia or exposure of some sort,” Van Arnum said.

The remains were likely covered by snow since June, Van Arnum said.

In summer 2002, remains belonging to a 60-year-old woman who shot herself in the mouth were found on Spooner Summit by picnickers.

— E-mail William Ferchland at

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