MADERA COUNTY — More details are emerging about a woman who went missing over the weekend while camping in the Sierra National Forest.
Sandra Johnsen Hughes, 53, was last seen at least three days ago on a trail above Bass Lake.
Hughes’ campsite in the Johnson Meadows area between Beasore and Minarets roads was discovered Sunday by hikers, who found her belongings scattered around the area in a manner described in initial reports as “disheveled and emptied carelessly.”
Hughes’ silver Saab was found over the weekend in a ravine off a road near her campsite. Deputy Sarah Jackson, Madera County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, confirmed the vehicle “had been involved in a collision with a tree. We have not towed it from the area in case she returns to it.”
Deputy Jackson said Hughes has been sighted on foot since her car was located. “We are still actively investigating and will be sending our OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) teams up there to continue to search.”
Search teams on the ground and using a helicopter have been trying to locate the missing woman since Sunday.
Hughes’ niece Ashley Macus, who lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said Tuesday that Hughes had just come to Madera County from Maui, Hawaii. “She said she was quarantining in the National Forest,” Macus added.
Macus said no one in the family had heard from the missing camper since June 26. Hughes’ mother and brother also live in Pennsylvania.
Hughes had been working in Maui for the past few months, according to her niece, and had lived recently in Idaho too. Twice married with no children, her niece said Hughes was someone who “liked to move around a lot.”
But Macus said Hughes was also very organized. “That’s how the sheriff’s office there got my name,” she said. “Sandra had a binder [with her] with all of her important contacts and investigators found my name there and called me this weekend.”
Macus said when her aunt was in college, she had trained to be a park ranger — and “it’s not like her to disappear like this. She will always call or text when she comes into (cell phone) range.”
Hughes is 5′ 3″ and weighs 150 pounds, with shoulder-length brown hair that is tinted blue.
Macus said the family has filed a missing person’s report and now she and other family members in Pennsylvania are asking for the public’s help in locating their missing family member. “If it weren’t for COVID-19 we’d come out there,” Macus said Tuesday. “We’re all just hoping and praying someone runs in to her.”
*This story will be updated as more information becomes available.