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Missing Japanese Hiker Found Dead

The search for a missing Japanese hiker ended with the discovery of her body on Sunday in Sequoia Kings National Park.

Rika Morita

The Fresno County Coroner’s Office positively identified the body as that of Rika Morita, 32, of Osaka.

A group of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail called park officials after spotting a body in the South Fork of the Kings River, just north of Bench and Marjorie lakes. Park personnel recovered the remains the following day.

Originally from Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture, Morita was an outdoors enthusiast who had recently participated in the Hieizan International Trail Run in Kyoto Prefecture.

In a message posted on July 21, fellow hiker Ingo Janas said that Morita, also known as Strawberry, was going north on the Pacific Crest Trail and “was last heard from family and last seen on the trail by other hikers on July 8. Yosemite SAR (Search and Rescue) have been alerted and currently searching for her.”

Janas, Gehn Shibayama and Christopher Lynch formed a “Search for Rika” team. A friend came all the way from Germany to help in the search.

“Rika’s father doesn’t speak English,” Janas wrote. “So Gehn joined in our team and got in direct contact with him … We learned from her father that Rika’s plan was to go the following route: Bishop – Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) – Red’s Meadows Resort (RMR) – Toulumne Meadows (TM) – Half Dome – Yosemite Valley – Toulumne Meadows – South Lake Tahoe. She had planned to do this in 11 days, but according to her plan she was overdue already five days in Bishop …

“Rika was last seen by Aidan Dahler, Rachel Hopke, Greg Strachey and Justin Myers on July 8 four miles behind Glen Pass. After fording a creek, Rika went on solo while Greg and Justin were reorganizing their backpacks. On leaving, Rika had announced to ask for their support (as she’s only 5 feet tall) at the next critical fording situation. The situations came, but Rika wasn’t there.”

The team contacted resorts in the area to see if Morita has made a reservation or picked up supplies, and checked to see if she had obtained a permit to hike down to Yosemite Valley. No leads turned up.

In a news release, park officials said that hikers should be extra careful when going over water crossings because “rapid snow melt continues at high elevations, resulting in dangerous water crossings and persistent snow and ice.”

They added, “Wilderness travelers are encouraged to have flexible plans and scout for the safest locations and times to cross, which may not be the same as in previous years, or at regular trail crossing locations.”

Earlier this month on the Pacific Crest Trail, the body of Robert Woodie, 74, of Manhattan Beach — who had been missing for nearly nine months — was found approximately 300 feet off the Bishop Pass Trail.

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