A Fremont elementary school teacher who has gone missing while hiking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was well-liked by students, parents and administrators, the principal at the school where he worked said Wednesday.
Parks officials have issued a missing hiker alert for Gregory Muck, 46, of Santa Cruz, who was scheduled to backpack in the parks from Aug. 10 to Aug. 17 and hasn't returned.
Muck's wife called parks officials at 8 a.m. on Monday to report that he was missing, authorities said. Muck and his wife have a 5-year-old daughter.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks lie side-by-side in the southern Sierra Nevada, east of the San Joaquin Valley.
Muck, who was backpacking alone, taught second grade students at Gomes Elementary School in Fremont during the school year that ended last spring, principal Douglas Whipple said today.
Muck "was great and we really appreciated him as a teacher," Whipple said.
The past school year was the first year that Muck taught school in a classroom setting anywhere, although he had previously taught outdoor gardening classes, according to Whipple.
Muck is "an outdoors person" and "a nature lover" who is an experienced hiker, Whipple said.
Muck often used creative techniques with his students, such as having them bake bread every week so that they could learn mathematics by doing measurements, Whipple said.
Because Muck was low on the seniority list, he was assigned to teach third graders at another school in Fremont, Leitsch Elementary School, this fall, Whipple said.
He said there was an opening for Muck to stay at Gomes Elementary and "we wanted him back" but he opted for Leitsch because it would reduce his commuting time from Santa Cruz.
Whipple described Muck as "self-assured" and said school officials are hoping he is found safe.
Parks officials said Muck is 6 feet tall, weighs between 160 and 170 pounds, has a big beard and was wearing a bright blue shirt, green wool pants, black boots and a blue bandana. They said he had a red internal frame pack and a blue tarp or possible orange tent as well as fishing gear.
They said Muck departed alone from the Road's End area of Kings Canyon Park on Aug. 10 and planned to hike to Gardiner Basin via Gardiner Pass.
After several days in the basin, he was to go from Gardiner Creek to Woods Creek and return to Road's End in Cedar Grove by Aug. 17, parks officials said.
National Park Service spokeswoman Dana Dirks said 21 parks staff members searched for Muck on Monday and 55 staff members and partners searched for him by ground and helicopter on Tuesday.
The search for Muck is continuing today with the use of a K-9 unit, Dirks said.
The search area is 4 miles by 5 miles in a remote section of the parks and has "a rocky, rough and steep terrain" ranging in elevation from 6,000 feet to 13,000 feet, Dirks said.
Authorities said people who may have seen Muck in the parks between Aug. 10 and Aug. 17 should call Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks at (510) 565-3118 or (888) 677-2746.
Fremont teacher reported missing on hiking trip