Jiméndez eventually tracked de Lóya’s party to a river that had been charted by Hernando de Soto a decade before the vanished expedition. The area was depopulated following a massive demographic collapse of the Mississippian culture caused by disease and the accompanying war and famine. Jiméndez located a group of survivors from de Lóya’s group in a small village along the river; they claimed that they had abandoned de Lóya, and spun a tale that Jiméndez chronicles faithfully in his diary, with his disbelieving and occasionally sarcastic comments confined to marginalia.

The survivors said that they had been warned against crossing the river by the natives, who claimed that when the moon and the sun were in the sky just so the land on the opposite bank became unfamiliar, a labyrinthine wilderness, and that to cross was to risk death. The villagers Jiméndez spoke with confirmed the legend but were unable to give particulars; the Mississippian collapse had led to the deaths of all their most learned elders, and they were on the verge of abandoning subsistence agriculture for a return to hunting and gathering. De Lóya had ridiculed the warnings and his party had crossed even though the elders insisted that to do so when the moon and stars were wrong was to invite death. He had reasoned that de Soto had encountered no such trouble, and a small scouting party sent out in advance had not either.

Trouble soon began. The scouting party could not recognize the lands they marched through, and deSoto’s maps and notes proved useless. They were unable to encounter the next river on the map despite marching for days in what must have been the right direction. Men who wandered away from the group failed to return. De Lóya insisted that the march continue, but one of his lieutenants had led a group in the opposite direction under cover of darkness. It had taken them five weeks–and their boots had been worn down to tatters, to say nothing of the seven men that starved–but they were able to emerge on the west bank of the river, they said, just as the last surviving elder proclaimed that the sun and moon were right again.

De Lóya has never been seen since.