The bodies of Scott Tenczar and Yosemite National Park Ranger John Blevins Cogdell III were found in Yosemite National Park over the weekend in what park officials have characterized as tragic, but unrelated, circumstances.
“It's an unfortunate circumstance where two things happened in close proximity, but they are not linked,” park spokesperson Jamie Richards said. “Yosemite is a busy place.”
Hikers on Saturday found the body of Scott Tenczar, a former U.S. Army Ranger who was last seen at the Bridgeport Ranger Station in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest on July 25 before embarking on a multi-day solo excursion in Yosemite National Park.
Ranger John Blevins Cogdell, assigned to the Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley, was reported missing on Aug. 15. His body was found on Friday within the park, Richards said.
He was off duty when he was last seen at campground No. 182 at the Upper Pines Campground, Richards said. A cause of death has not been determined, and the location where Cogdell was found was not available.
Richards said Cogdell spent a lot of his free time in the park.
The Upper Pines campground is the largest of the three reservation campgrounds in the valley and is adjacent to paved roads, hiking trails, flush toilets and a shuttle bus stop, according to the federal recreation website.
The campground is less than a mile east of Yosemite Village and just south of the Merced River.
Richards said she could not identify another time that a park ranger went missing and was found dead within the park.
“It is certainly something that doesn't happen often, but it is not unknown. Rangers are people, and things happen,” she said.
Matt Tenczar, Scott Tenczar’s brother, said his family was still “trying to deal with the tragedy” of his brother’s death.
“He was just my little brother, and now he’s not here. It’s very hard to not have my brother around,” Matt Tenczar said.
The cause of death has not been determined, and the incident is under investigation, Richards said.
Richards also said she did not have the exact area where Scott Tenczar was located by the visiting hikers in the area, saying only that it was in the northeastern section.
“It was not close to a trail,” Richards said.
Matt Tenczar said that, according to information he received from the National Park Service, it was believed that his brother died about a week before he was found. Matt Tenczar added that there are as yet no plans for a memorial for his brother.
Scott Tenczar planned to backpack from Robinson Creek to Crown Lake, then into the Matterhorn Canyon in Yosemite National Park. From there, he planned to go to Smedberg Lake, just north of Volunteer Peak and along the Pacific Crest Trail to Seavey Pass, which is at an elevation of 9,058 feet and located 1.6 miles northeast of Piute Mountain.
Scott Tenczar planned to return from the trip at Peeler Lake in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest on Aug. 8.
The area of Scott Tenczar’s backpacking trip is in a remote, northeastern section of the park where he was reportedly found, north of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
The search began on Aug.11 by National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch, and Scott Tenczar’s car, cell phone, wallet and keys were found where he left them at the Bridgeport Ranger Station. Yosemite National Park spokesperson Scott Gediman said in an email on Thursday that Mono County was leading the search and that the park service was “no longer involved.”
Scott Tenczar, who was from San Jose, was described by his brother as an avid outdoorsman who was “highly experienced” with hiking the area since they were children. Scott Tenczar served as a captain in the U.S. Army and did a tour of duty in Afghanistan about 15 years ago. After his military service, he taught English in South Korea and moved back to his parents’ house in Manteca before beginning the excursion.