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River Forest Woman Found Dead After Southern California Hike

Chicago-area hiker Caroline Meister, who went missing in California, has tragically been discovered deceased, as announced by the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office during a press conference on Friday evening.

Caroline, a 30-year-old hiker hailing from west suburban River Forest, had been reported missing since Monday, subsequent to not returning from a day hike to the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center on March 18. The sheriff’s office revealed that Caroline’s body was found near a waterfall, exhibiting injuries consistent with a fall from a cliff. No indications of foul play have been identified.

Caroline’s parents, who reside in Illinois, had journeyed to California in pursuit of her, fervently hoping for her safe return.

“She is very strong and resilient, and we have great faith she’s doing whatever she can to stay safe,” expressed Jean Meister, Caroline’s mother. “She brought a lunch, I understand, and light clothes, and so she didn’t expect to be out overnight, and so something happened, and we don’t know what that was.”

Caroline had been residing on the West Coast for the past eighteen months, employed at the Buddhist Zen Monastery and Hot Springs, situated in a remote locale within California’s Ventana Wilderness, part of the Los Padres National Forest.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office conducted extensive air and ground searches.

Authorities noted the plethora of trails Caroline could have traversed, though it’s presumed she may have been en route to the wind caves, approximately a 3-mile hike from the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.

“This area that she is in is known for having no cell service. There is no type of communication available. That even poses a challenge for our search parties. We’re working with specialized equipment. Satellite phones, satellite internet services, so we can be in constant contact,” elucidated Commander Andy Rosas from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.

Concerns escalated on Friday afternoon as forecasters predicted inclement weather to approach the search area by nightfall. Nevertheless, a glimmer of hope persisted.

“I have been holding an image of Caroline, wrapped in a blanket, smiling and carrying her to safety, and we are confident she will be found safe,” Jean expressed.

Authorities disclosed that over 100 individuals were deployed in the search effort, emphasizing that the trails are frequented, raising the possibility that someone may have encountered Caroline.

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