Good friends Joseph Orbeso and Rachel Nguyen, both former students at California State University, Fullerton, were all set for a day’s hiking on the morning of July 27, 2017. They headed off into the rugged desert splendor of the Joshua Tree National Park. With temperatures nudging 100° F, this could be dangerous terrain, despite its beauty.
Twenty-one-year-old Joseph Orbeso was from LA’s Lakewood suburb, where he went to the local high school, before going on to work at a golf course in Long Beach as a security guard. “He’s in very good shape, always carries knives when hiking and is a survivalist,” Orbeso’s good friend Austin Young, 23, later told the The Orange County Register. “He is also the most respectful, honest and straightforward person you will ever meet.”
Rachel Nguyen, 20, was from another LA suburb, Westminster, which is about a 20-minute drive from Lakewood. Nguyen’s aunt, Mong Ha Le, told the Los Angeles Times that her niece was quite the traveler, visiting a range of countries including Mexico, Hong Kong and Thailand. “[She was] very sweet, yet really a tomboy,” Le added. “As a child, I gave her a doll and she told me she didn’t play with dolls. She much preferred video games, so we got her a Wii.”