MADERA COUNTY — The search has stretched into a second week for a camper who went missing over the July 4th holiday weekend in the Sierra National Forest above Bass Lake.
Hughes, 53, had been camping solo in the Johnson Meadows area when she disappeared. Her personal possessions were found scattered haphazardly around her abandoned campsite and her silver Saab was later discovered off an area dirt road.
Madera County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) investigators believe the woman’s car crashed into a tree at no more than 20 miles an hour (the air bags did not deploy) and then rolled down into the ravine and became stuck.
MCSO Corporal Chris Williams is leading the search and rescue effort for Hughes, who was last seen on July 4. In recent days, the search has centered around the Chiquito Lake area.
Deputy Sarah Jackson, MCSO public information officer, said Hughes reportedly declined medical assistance when she came in contact over the July 4 weekend with other hikers. “She was barefoot and had a bruise on her face,” Jackson said.
Deputies and volunteers from more than a half dozen other sheriff’s departments from counties around the state are assisting in the search. California Highways Patrol, CAL OES and MCSO’s Search and Rescue Team are part of the effort too.
Dogs have been brought in to help locate the woman — and the California Air National Guard is also assisting with aerial searches.
Hughes’ niece Ashley Macus, who lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said last week 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 has heard from the missing camper since June 26. Macus said 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 in it 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.
“If anyone sees her, we are asking that they please contact the Madera County Sheriff’s Office immediately,” Jackson said.