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Body of missing California hiker found near waterfall

Caroline Meister was an avid hiker familiar with the trails around the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center where she lived and worked, about 45 miles southeast of Monterey, California.

She told friends she was heading out for a hike Monday morning, dressed for a day trip and carrying only snacks, not equipped for an overnight stay.

When she didn’t return by evening, they called authorities, who started a search Tuesday, using helicopters and deploying crews on the ground to look in remote areas.

Finally, on Friday, the 30-year-old’s body was found at the base of a waterfall.

“Our hope was to just find her,” said Paul Howler of the Zen center south of San Jose to affiliate KSBW on Friday. “And as the days rolled by this became more of a possibility.”

Caroline Meister went missing while hiking in California. - Monterey County Sheriff's Office
Caroline Meister went missing while hiking in California. - Monterey County Sheriff's Office

At a news conference Friday, Monterey County Sheriff Tina Nieto said no foul play is suspected. She said Meister’s injuries were consistent with a fall down a cliff. Searchers rappelled down to retrieve her body.

The coroner will determine the cause of death, Nieto said.

“She’s very familiar with the area. She’s also an avid hiker,” her father, John Meister, told KSBW on Tuesday.

More than 100 searchers from 13 agencies were involved, Nieto said.

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