Body Found in Kings Canyon National Park Identified as Missing Hiker

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A body found Wednesday afternoon by searchers at Kings Canyon National Park has been identified as missing hiker Gregory Muck. (Published Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014)

    A body found Wednesday afternoon by searchers at Kings Canyon National Park has been identified as missing hiker Gregory Muck.

    National Park teams were searching for the missing Santa Cruz hiker, who teaches during the year at a Fremont elementary school.

    Officials said Muck, 46, appears to have fallen in rocky and steep terrain when he died. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

    According to the National Parks Service, searchers discovered the body at approximately 12,000 feet in elevation northwest of Mount Gardiner in Kings Canyon National Park.

    Missing Santa Cruz Hiker Never Returned

    [BAY] Missing Santa Cruz Hiker Never Returned
    National Park teams are searching for a missing Santa Cruz hiker who teaches during the year at a Fremont elementary school. Marianne Favro reports. (Published Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014)

    On Tuesday, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks issued a bulletin to find Muck. Shortly after, his friends and family set up a Facebook page to keep everyone updated on the search, called "Finding Great Muck-The Great Adventurer." Many were sending prayers to his wife, Shannon, for his safe return.

    Muck, who went missing while hiking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, was well-liked by students, parents and administrators.

    Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks lie side-by-side in the southern Sierra Nevada, east of the San Joaquin Valley. Muck, who was backpacking alone, taught second grade students at
    Gomes Elementary School in Fremont during the school year that ended last spring, according to principal Douglas Whipple.

    Muck "was great and we really appreciated him as a teacher," Whipple said.

    The past school year was the first year that Muck taught school in a classroom setting anywhere, although he had previously taught outdoor gardening classes, according to Whipple.

    Muck was "an outdoors person" and "a nature lover" who is an experienced hiker, Whipple said.

    Muck often used creative techniques with his students, such as having them bake bread every week so that they could learn mathematics by doing measurements, Whipple said.

    Because Muck was low on the seniority list, he was assigned to teach third graders at another school in Fremont, Leitsch Elementary School, this fall, Whipple said.

    He said there was an opening for Muck to stay at Gomes Elementary and "we wanted him back" but he opted for Leitsch because it would reduce his commuting time from Santa Cruz.

    Whipple described Muck as "self-assured" and said school officials are hoping he is found safe.

    "The kids love him," said co-worker Rudy Castillo. "He was really friendly and willing to help. He was all about protecting the environment. I hope them find him."

    Muck was supposed to have returned on Aug. 17 from a backpacking trip. 

    According to rangers, Muck departed alone from the Roads End area of Kings Canyon National Park on Aug. 10. He planned to hike to Gardiner Basin via Gardiner Pass. After several days in the basin, he planned to hike out Gardiner Creek to Woods Creek and return to Roads End in Cedar Grove by August 17.

    But he never exited the woods. The next day, his wife called for help.

     

    NBC Bay Area's Riya Bhattacharjee and Bay City News contributed to this report.