Joel Thomazin

Joel Thomazin, 31, a U.S. Army reservist with experience in the outdoors from Denair in Stanislaus County, has been reported missing in the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park, and Yosemite Search and Rescue personnel are seeking information.

A 31-year-old man from Denair in Stanislaus County has been reported missing in the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park, and Yosemite Search and Rescue personnel are seeking information.

Joel Thomazin is a U.S. Army reservist with experience in the outdoors. He is described as 5 feet 10 inches tall, with short brown hair and facial hair in photos. He went backpacking with an inflatable kayak last week.

According to Yosemite National Park staff, Thomazin planned to backpack alone from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to Lake Eleanor and return to Hetch Hetchy, from Sept. 6 to 9 last week. He had a yellow-and-gray Kelty brand backpack; a green sleeping bag; a bright red inflatable kayak; a blue-green hammock; and tan or blue zip-off pants.

Yosemite Search and Rescue personnel are seeking tips from anyone in the area of Miguel Meadow, which is between Hetch Hetchy and Lake Eleanor, or anyone who has been on trails around Hetch Hetchy since last Monday, Sept. 6. Anyone with information about Thomazin was urged to call YOSAR at (209) 238-7046.

Thomazin was reported missing on social media at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and remained missing as of Monday morning, said Scott Gediman, a spokesman for the National Park Service based in Yosemite.

Thomazin has been an Army reservist since June 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile. He specializes in civil affairs and holds bachelor’s degrees in history with a minor in political science, from Cal State University Stanislaus, and in entrepreneurial business from American Public University.

Denair is about 50 miles southwest of Sonora, outside Turlock in Stanislaus County.

Thomazin is one of several individuals reported missing in Yosemite in recent months.

Authorities are still seeking information about Richard Judd, 69, who got separated from his hiking partner and was last seen July 25 in Yosemite backcountry about 15 miles from the trailhead junction at Happy Isles on the Merced River.

Judd and his hiking partner were camped near Lower Merced Pass Lake when they went on a day hike toward Lower Ottoway Lake and Red Peak Pass, according to the National Park Service and the Madera County Sheriff’s Office. They got separated from each other somewhere between Lower Merced Pass Lake and Lower Ottoway Lake.

A vehicle belonging to Judd or his hiking partner was found parked at the Quartz Mountain trailhead, in the Sierra National Forest and outside Yosemite National Park, about 23 miles south of Lower Merced Pass Lake. Judd’s hiking partner was not identified by local law enforcement or federal park investigators, and Judd’s hometown was not disclosed.

Authorities described Judd as 5 feet 11 inches tall, 150 pounds, with brown eyes, short gray hair and a beard. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt and gray or blue pants. Anyone with information about Judd was urged to call or text the NPS Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at (888) 653-0009.

Earlier this summer, two missing persons cases in Yosemite were closed when human remains were located. The body of endurance athlete and mountain runner Fred Zalokar, 61, of Reno, was recovered July 20 near the summit of 11,527-foot Mount Clark. The body of James Youngblom, 64, a popular Stanislaus State professor and experienced High Sierra backpacker, was found in LeConte Falls on the Tuolumne River on June 25.

Zalokar and Youngblom were on solo trips, like Thomazin, each traveling alone in the backcountry, when they went missing. Zalokar was on a one-day attempt to climb Mount Clark. Youngblom was on a multi-day journey that included passing through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River.

Other fatalities in Yosemite National Park this year include “Alice” Yu Xie, who went walking to the Upper Yosemite Fall overlook in mid-January and was found deceased at the base of the 1,430 vertical-foot cataract on Jan. 16, one day after she was reported overdue.

Xie was identified by the park service as a 41-year-old Chinese national living in the United States who came to Yosemite on a Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System bus from Mariposa on Jan. 14.

The park averaged between 16 and 17 fatalities per year from 2014 to 2019, according to park service statistics. Over that same span of time, Yosemite Search and Rescue personnel conducted an average of 240 missions annually.

There were 133 deaths in the park from 2007 to 2018, the second-highest total among national parks after Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Colorado River in Arizona and Nevada, which had 201 deaths, according to a 2020 analysis by Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm with offices in Nevada and California.

Yosemite was the 14th most deadly national park when factoring in the number of visitors, with 28.01 deaths per 10 million visits.

For more information about missing persons cases in Yosemite, go to https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/news/missing.htm online.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.net or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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