Body found in area where teacher was hiking

A body was found this afternoon in an area in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks where authorities have been searching for Fremont elementary school teacher Gregory Muck, parks officials said.

National Park Service spokeswoman Dana Dierkes said the body was found at about 12,000 feet in elevation northwest of Mount Gardiner in Kings Canyon National Park and parks officials are in the process of recovering the body.

The search for Muck, 46, a Santa Cruz resident with a wife and a 5-year-old daughter, has been temporarily suspended pending identification of the body, Dierkes said.

Muck planned to hike by himself in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, which lie side-by-side in the southern Sierra Nevada, east of the San Joaquin Valley, from Aug. 10 to Aug. 17 but his wife reported him missing at about 8 a.m. on Monday because she hadn’t heard from him, according to Dierkes.

She said Muck departed alone from the Road’s End area of Kings Canyon Park on Aug. 10 and planned to hike to Gardiner Basin via Gardiner Pass. After several days in the basin, he was to go from Gardiner Creek to Woods Creek and return to Road’s End in Cedar Grove by Aug. 17, Dierkes said.

The area where authorities have been searching for Muck since Monday is 4 miles by 5 miles in a remote section of the parks and has “a rocky, rough and steep terrain” ranging in elevation from 6,000 feet to 13,000 feet, Dierkes said.

Muck taught second grade students at Gomes Elementary School in Fremont during the school year that ended last spring and was well-liked by students, parents and administrators, principal Douglas Whipple said today.

Whipple said Muck:

“… was great and we really appreciated him as a teacher.”

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 is “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.

Muck 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.

Speaking before the body was found, Whipple described Muck as “self-assured” and said school officials were hoping he is found safe. Parks officials said Muck is 6 feet tall, weighs between 160 and 170 pounds, has a big beard and was wearing a bright blue shirt, green wool pants, black boots and a blue bandana.

They said he had a red internal frame pack and a blue tarp or possible orange tent as well as fishing gear.