Search-and-rescues in parks


With the sheer number of visitors who come to hike, backpack, run trails, and bag peaks in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the search-and-rescue (SAR) teams that locate lost adventurers are among the parks’ busiest and most indispensable units.

This week, as one hiker was being located in Kings Canyon National Park, another was reported missing in the Mount Whitney zone of Sequoia National Park.


Young teen lost overnight in Bench Lake backcountry

The first of the two incidents began Monday, July 28, when Austin Shedd, 13, was reported missing. The call came into the parks’ dispatcher at 2 a.m.

Shedd, from  Carlsbad and Mammoth Lakes, became separated from his party earlier the previous day while they were off-trail hiking from Arrow Peak to Bench Lake. The group’s plan was to exit the high country in Inyo National Forest via Taboose Pass on July 28.

Details are sketchy as to how Shedd became separated but it is easy to do, especially when members of a hiking party travel at different paces. Arrow Peak, at an elevation of 12,959 feet, is among several popular but strenuous hikes in the area.

Throughout the day on Monday at least 25 personnel from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks searched for the teen in the area where he was last seen. The ground search was aided by the park helicopter.

At 9:30 p.m. Shedd was located by members of a Kings Canyon National Park trail crew. He spent Monday night with the trail crew. At 10:33 a.m. on Tuesday, the rescue helicopter arrived at Ash Mountain where Shedd was reunited with a family member.


Whitney hiker goes missing

Park rangers barely had time to stow their SAR gear when dispatch received another call. On Wednesday, July 30, it was reported that Dawson Johnson, 75, was missing in the Mount Whitney zone. According to information from other hikers in the area, Johnson of Redwater, Texas, had intended to summit Whitney, elevation 14,500 feet, on Tuesday, July 29, and hike back that day to his camp at Lower Crabtree Meadow, a round-trip of 16.8 miles.

Johnson was last seen by other hikers between Trail Crest and the summit of Mount Whitney at 3 p.m. Reportedly, he never made it back to his camp at Lower Crabtree Meadow. 

Johnson is a Caucasian male with gray hair, a full gray beard, and blue eyes. He is 5 feet, 11 inches, in height and weighs 148 pounds. He was last seen wearing a blue windshell jacket, beige pants, and a white floppy hat.

The hikers who saw Johnson said he was not carrying a backpack. Anyone with information as to Johnson’s whereabouts is asked to call Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks toll-free at 888-677-2746.            

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