one big mother of a desert
I was driving with friends in the Mohave Desert (Joshua Tree Nat Park) the day Steve went missing and just amaized at the sheer space and emptyness of the place. The weather that day was +42C in the shade.
The deserts in Califonia / Nevada / Arizona / Colarado is absolutely massive so loosing your self is not that hard, the Mohave is about half the size of England, so looking for one light aircraft that would have left an impact crater a few meters accross is a hard job at best.
If there had been a fire then it might have been more obvious scorch marks for searchers, so my theory is Steve ran into engine problems because of a lack of fuel, the lack of a mayday (because of a loss of power) and locatable fire. If Steve did run out, he must have tried to land so my bet is that he took a chance at any reasonably flat strip of a few hundred yards long within gliding distance.
I'd love to think that he made it but whats smooth desert terain at 1000ft pretty soon becomes a bolder field at 50, by which time with no power there is no chance to 'go around' so the landing was bound to be rough at best, I think your survival chances out in the desert (in full fitness on that day) are limited at best and if he sustained any kind of injury he would have succomed pretty quickly.