A couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine, and she casually mentioned that the body of Guillermo Pino was found "in some caves somewhere in the desert". At the time, I didn't know what she was talking about - I hadn't heard of Guillermo Pino, and her description of the area -"some caves" was incredibly vague. I had some theories, however, and after a few questions I realized we were talking about the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, an area I am fairly familar with, and an area I talked about earlier this year (http://lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/2012/1/3/the-arroyo-tapiado-mud-caves.html), and an area I was most recently in a year ago. When I got back home, I searched the internet and found out that Guillermo Pino did indeed go missing in the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, and that his body was indeed found there recently. (http://cavingnews.com/20120507-body-of-missing-hiker-found-in-crevice-arroyo-tapiado-mud-caves, http://ramona.patch.com/articles/guillermo-pino-body-in-anza-borrego-cave-successfully-removed-identification-pending, http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2012/05/guillermo_pino_missing_anza-bo.php).
Obviously, at a time like this, one first feels enormous sympathy for the deceased's family, and for the deceased himself - this is a tragedy for all of them, and a very sad day for the hiking community in general. The lesson to take from all of this, however, is to always recognize the risks attendent in outdoor activities, and to always be properly prepared for whatever adventure you are attempting. In this respect, its always a good idea to have someone with you, and if you don't have someone with you, have left a detailed plan of where you are going, when you will be back, and possibly to have some sort of portable beacon (GPS or otherwise, such as SPOT: http://www.findmespot.com/en/). The thing that stands out about Guillermo's death is my recollection of the Arroyo Tapiado last year. I remember my friend Jaime and I explored a number of caves; and that the caves closest to the "parking area" were somewhat busy with people (somewhat busy meaning that there was minimal foot traffic going in both directions). But as we delved deeper into the caves, into chambers and other areas off the beaten path, there were no other visitors. At that point, it could have been easy to get lost - and this was in conditions that were pretty much optimal (warm day, other cave visitors).
The end result of this is that sadly, as mentioned above, a young man is dead. The other end result is that traffic to this area - the Arroyo Tapiado - will increase. While thats a macabre thing to say, it is also true. This is an area that has become more popular over the last five years as more people have become interested in outdoors activities, and now that it is in the news, the sensational aspect will no doubt attract more visitors ("hey, this is the cave that someone DIED in"). Disrespectful as it may be, this is how the world works. With this in mind, hopefully future visitors remember to take the necessary precautions needed for visits, and remember to be careful. Because, while the world is beautiful, as Guillermo noted, it is also dangerous, and the lesson we can take from his death - and honor his life - is to always be prepared when adventuring.