California Hiking Trail Shut Down Due To ‘Unknown Hazards’ after Family Found Dead

by Shelby Scott

The United States’ National Parks are famed for their beauty and unique landmarks, qualities, and creatures. However, the mysterious death of a family of three and their dog in Sierra National Forest, California caused authorities to shut down the trail on which they were found. Authorities also closed the surrounding area.

The shutdown came about two weeks after their bodies were discovered. Authorities cited “unknown hazards found in and near the Savage Lundy Trail” as base reasoning behind the decision.

Reportedly, the family consisted of John Gerrish and Ellen Chunt, their one-year-old daughter Miju, and their dog, Oski. The family took a hike on the Savage Lundy trail the morning of Sunday, August 15th. According to FOX News, the hike met with intense heat, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office recording temperatures as high as 109 degrees.

The outlet further stated that the trail and surrounding area’s closure will persist through September 26th unless conditions change and authorities identify the cause for the family’s death. While so far, there is no clear cause of death, authorities ruled out weapons and chemical hazards along the trail. Additionally, authorities also ruled out homicide.

Mariposa County Sheriff’s spokeswoman, Kristie Mitchell said, “Initially…when we come across a family with no apparent cause of death, there’s no smoking gun, there’s no suicide note…we have to consider all options.”

Following the investigation’s fifth day, she said, “we’re no longer considering homicide as a cause of death.”

However, as the investigation continues, the SNF identified potentially harmful algal blooms in the South Fork of the Merced River. Authorities warned visitors, “not to swim, wade or allow their pets to enjoy the water” due to the findings.

California’s National Forests Close Due to Wildfire Threats

Amidst the situation surrounding the mysterious death of the family, California’s National Forests face other difficult situations. The National Forest Service further announced that all CA National Forests will remain closed through September 17th. The agency cited their decision as a preventative measure “to better provide public and firefighter safety due to the ongoing California wildfire crisis.”

Currently, CA residents, structures, and national forests alike face threats from growing wildfires. Two major fires include the Dixie Fire and the rapidly growing Caldor Fire. Further, the closure of the National Forests comes at an inconvenient time of the year. This upcoming weekend hosts the long Labor Day weekend celebrations nationally. Folks across the United States flock to the country’s numerous national and state parks over the weekend. Families look for areas to camp, hike, fish, kayak, and more to close out the summer season.

California’s Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said in regard to the decision, “We do not take this…lightly.”

She added, “It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests.”

However, the situation is dire and the public needs to adhere to these decisions. As of now, more than 6,800 fires have ignited across CA, burning 1.7 million acres so far.

Most recently, the Caldor Fire jumped multiple highways as of Tuesday. It then headed in the direction of the Tahoe Basin which authorities expressed concerns about previously. Monday saw the loss of 165,000 acres to this particular fire, taking 650 structures in its path. Today saw the Caldor Fire merely 20% contained.