Missing El Salto hiker found dead


Updated May 6 at 10:30 p.m.

Linda Reed Sanford, a 61-year-old hiker who had gone for a day hike in the wilderness above El Salto Monday morning (June 5), was found dead Tuesday evening after taking a fall down an embankment, according to the Taos County Sheriff's Office.

Sanford was described as a "recreational hiker and avid skier" familiar with the El Salto area, and had planned to return from the hike sometime Monday afternoon. When she never made contact, a family member became concerned and notified the sheriff's office.

Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe responded by sending members of the Sheriff's Response Team to the area in the foothills above Arroyo Seco.

The officers first discovered Sanford's vehicle parked near a trailhead and then assembled a ground team, which ascended the steep trail in the dark. A helicopter was also dispatched to assist in what proved to be an unsuccessful initial search.

On Tuesday morning (June 6), Hogrefe notified the New Mexico State Police, Taos office, and entered Sanford as a missing person in a national database. State police then dispatched Taos Search and Rescue, whose members began another search of the area around 9 a.m. with support from state police officers, Taos Ski Valley Fire Personnel and sheriff's deputies.

"We have a team of about six people that have responded," said Delinda VanneBrightyn, president of Taos Search and Rescue. "They are doing ground searches, sweeping the area and calling out."

Sanford was discovered dead near the bottom of an embankment about 2 miles from the El Salto trailhead around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to an update from the Taos County Sheriff's Office.

"Hiking in this area is very treacherous and can be dangerous any time of year," Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.

VanneBrightyn had also seemed to fear the worst earlier in the day when asked about possible outcomes of the incident. "She could have twisted an ankle or broken a bone," she said. "You can become lost or disoriented. Even during warmer months, hypothermia can set in, especially if you get wet."

Hogrefe stated that the exact cause of the hiker's death was still being determined by members of the Office of the Medical Investigator.

For updates on this story, check back on taosnews.com.