Arnold, California – December 5, 2023
In a heartbreaking conclusion to a week-long search operation, authorities announced on Thursday the discovery of the lifeless body of Ann Herford, a 66-year-old Michigan nurse who had gone missing while hiking alone in the central Sierra Nevada Mountains. The extensive search, involving hundreds of rescuers and high-tech resources, came to a somber end when Herford was found dead on a steep hillside covered by heavy tree canopy and dense foliage.
Herford’s disappearance had triggered a massive effort, with unmanned drones surveying from above and ground teams equipped with canines and all-terrain vehicles combing the vast wilderness. The search spanned a challenging 12-square-mile area, with search teams covering over 2,475 linear miles of tracks.
The tragic discovery was made around 9 a.m. local time on Thursday by the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office, leading the multi-agency rescue operation. The location was north of where Herford had parked her vehicle on November 12 before embarking on a solo hike along the Arnold Rim Trail, approximately 100 miles southeast of Sacramento.
Herford, a traveling nurse, was first reported missing on November 14 when she failed to show up for work in Sonora, California. Her interest in hiking had been expressed to a friend during breakfast three days before her disappearance.
Despite the exhaustive search efforts, family members revealed to law enforcement that Herford, while enjoying hiking, lacked wilderness survival skills and never ventured more than a few miles at a time. Her car was found on November 15 near a trailhead of the Arnold Rim Trail, where witnesses had spotted her a day after the breakfast.
The search involved a collaborative effort from more than a dozen agencies, including the Air National Guard and the United States Army, contributing air support to the operation. Specialized teams, including high-angle rope teams, off-road vehicles, dive teams with remote-operated vehicles, and canine search teams, were deployed to navigate the perilous terrain.
The extensive search, lasting seven days and engaging 478 searchers from 18 agencies, covered a mountainous area, creating over 2,475 linear miles of search tracks. Despite these efforts, the search was reined in by the sheriff’s office on November 22.
The search’s grim conclusion occurred in an “extremely steep and dense section” of the wilderness, not part of the Arnold Rim Trail, north of San Antonio Creek and south of Forest Road. Although the cause of Herford’s death remains unclear, authorities do not suspect foul play.
The California Highway Patrol was called in to airlift Herford’s body from the challenging terrain. The tight-knit community of Arnold mourns the loss of the Michigan nurse, emphasizing the importance of safety measures and preparedness for those venturing into the region’s picturesque yet unpredictable wilderness.