YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — According to the National Park Service, rangers recovered the body of Kenneth Stensby near the base of Vernal Fall; searchers had spotted it Monday evening. Stensby apparently fell from a cliff near the waterfall.
The 73-year-old had been in Yosemite National Park several days, staying at the Ahwahnee Hotel. Each day, as he set out on a hike, he left a note with staff outlining his plan.
Sunday, Stensby had planned to hike to the top of Vernal Fall via the Mist Trail and return to the hotel about noon, the park service said in a news release. At 5 p.m., staff tried to contact Stensby, then contacted rangers when they could not reach him.
Rangers discovered Stensby's backpack near the guardrail at the top of Vernal Fall that evening and put out an appeal for anyone who might have seen him or taken photographs with Stensby in them.
Monday, the park conducted a full-scale search-and-rescue operation, including several ground teams, a dog team and a California Highway Patrol helicopter. Intermittent rain made the search difficult, but searchers on the CHP helicopter spotted Stensby's body about 6 p.m.
The Mist Trail, closed during the search-and-rescue operation, reopened Tuesday afternoon.
The three-mile round-trip hike to Vernal Fall is among the park's most popular. Although this was a drier winter than usual, the falls are running strong this week, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said.
The waterfall was the site of tragedy in July 2011, when three hikers from the Northern San Joaquin Valley lost their lives. Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca, Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock and Hormiz "Nenos" David, 22, of Modesto were visiting the park on a day trip when they fell into the Merced River above Vernal Fall. All three went over the 317-foot waterfall.