FOR Ryan Moos, what began as a day hike turned into the mystery of the missing camera.

When the real estate agent from Topanga stepped near the edge of a 200-foot cliff in Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park last month, the camera case clipped to the waistband of his backpack came loose, fell and bounced over the edge before he could catch it.

Inside the case: Moos’ prized Canon G2 digital camera. He instantly abandoned his plan to hike to Crypt Lake and instead spent the next two-plus hours picking through scree at the base of the cliff.

To his astonishment, Moos found four cameras and a pair of binoculars -- all broken -- but no sign of his own. One camera was empty; another contained exposed film. The film inside a third was reversed back into its cartridge, and the fourth, a digital Fuji, contained a memory card.


When Moos downloaded the card, a bunch of photos popped up. One showed what appeared to be a graduation ceremony with a sign that said “the Baumrucker family.” Another showed a girl in a shirt with “The Sparklers” scrawled across it. A third photo showed a man in what appeared to be a dentist’s office.

“I’m looking at all those pictures and I’m trying to piece together who this is,” Moos says.

By going online and searching the Internet on the name and other keywords, he figured out that the girl was a cheerleader at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, La., and that she had two sisters. He next found their names and ages as well as the names of their parents.

Through careful sleuthing, Moos ID’d the camera’s likely owner as Jeffrey H. Baumrucker, a dentist in Port Richey, Fla. He picked up the phone and called the dentist’s office.


“I was so shocked I couldn’t believe my ears,” recalls Baumrucker, who dropped the camera a year ago. “All of my daughters’ graduation, confirmation pictures, our birthday pictures, were on there.”

The whereabouts of Moos’ camera remains a cold case. “I’d like to think that my chances [of getting it back] are better than 50%,” he says.

But given its position -- most likely on a cliff face -- he’s not holding his breath.

-- Scott Doggett