Several trails and recreation sites in the Sierra National Forest are closed after a Northern California couple, their baby and the family dog were found dead there last month.
A regional order, which was issued Monday and went into effect Tuesday, listed more than a dozen picnic sites and trails and one road that would be closed to the public through at least Sept. 26 due to "unknown hazards found in and near the Savage Lundy Trail."
The bodies of John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their 1-year-old daughter, Muji, and their dog were all found Aug. 17 near Savage Lundy Trail, in a remote area known as Devil’s Gulch in the Southfork of the Merced River and Hite Cove Trailhead.
The couple, avid hikers from Mariposa, were reported missing by a family friend a day before authorities found them. The area where they were found, known best for a spectacular springtime display of wildflower blooms, does not have cellphone reception.
Investigators were initially considering whether toxic algae blooms or other hazards may have contributed to the deaths, and the area where the family was found was briefly treated as a hazmat site.
Since then, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the deaths along with the California Department of Justice, has ruled out weapons and chemical hazards along the Savage Lundy Trail as contributing factors in the family's mysterious death, according to the Sacramento Bee. "ALL other potential causes of death remain," authorities said.
On Tuesday, the Forest Service announced that all forests in California would be closed through Sept. 17 due to hazards caused by growing wildfires across the state.