The cause of death for a man missing in Eagle Meadow last week was hypothermia and exposure, the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office reported Sunday.
Sgt. Andrea Benson said in a news release that foul play was ruled out.
"Please continue to keep his family and friends in your thoughts during this tragic time," she said.
Charles Duston, the former Summit Ranger Station employee, was reported missing in Eagle Meadow on Monday and found dead Wednesday afternoon four miles from his abandoned snowmobile.
Duston was found in a “snowy, rugged area” early Wednesday evening, a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office news release stated.
Charles’ mother, Gloria Duston, 95, of Cold Springs, said that Charles’ wife, Pamela, his daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren had all visited her today to provide condolences and check on her welfare.
“When you lose one of the family — I have five kids — and to lose one of them, you can't imagine how I feel,” she said. “Everybody loved him and everybody knew him up here. He was a great guy, and we are all going to miss him so much.”
She added she knew Charles, or “Chuck” as his friends and family called him, would be remembered in the community as an avid outdoorsman and a friend to all.
“He was always coming over to help me out since my husband died in ’05,” Gloria said. “He would fix things all the time and work with some of the heavy stuff around here.”
Later on Thursday, Gloria Duston said, the family was holding a gathering at her home “so we can talk about Chuck and what he used to do.”
Stanislaus National Park Public Affairs Officer Diana Fredlund confirmed Wednesday that Charles Duston was a former seasonal employee of the Summit Ranger Station in the Stanislaus National Forest.
Fredlund estimated that Charles had retired about seven to 10 years ago.
Gloria Duston also added that his wife, Pamela, had received maps from the Search and Rescue operation so that they “could look where exactly he was found and talk about what he had done and where he went.”
“The people who found him said he had walked for miles on snowshoes and he was just exhausted. They said he just laid down and he looked very comfortable in the end.”
The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office news release, which notified the public of the positive identification, was released Wednesday evening about 10:45 p.m.
Charles Duston was reported missing by his wife at about 3:30 p.m. Monday, Moss said, when he did not return home from a weeklong trip to the Eagle Meadow area.
When the search was initiated on Monday, Charles Duston’s snowmobile was found two miles from his cabin near the Juniper Uranium Mine with snowshoe tracks leading away from it.
Duston’s truck was also located on Monday on Highway 108 at the entrance to Eagle Meadow, six to seven miles from a cabin he had built.
SAR operators discovered during their investigation that Duston had been at the cabin on April 16 and 17, but had not returned since then.
The area where Charles was found is characterized by high elevations, temperatures in the low 40s, low clouds, rain, and snow depths ranging from 6 feet to bare ground.
The search was conducted by Tuolumne County Search and Rescue with assistance from representatives of the Forest Service, Marin County, Contra Costa County, Santa Clara County, El Dorado County, Pinecrest Fire Department, the Air National Guard and Bay Area Mountain Search and Rescue.
The rescue teams employed resources including a CH42 helicopter, snowshoe teams and snowmobiles to scour the area during the search.