Body of missing camper found in Death Valley

Searchers have found the body of a 68-year-old San Francisco fitness instructor who went missing from a busy Death Valley campground on March 12.

George Kohler was discovered dead early Tuesday evening in the desert between the Mesquite Spring campground and the main park road to Scotty's Castle.

Carma Roper, spokeswoman for the Inyo County, Calif., sheriff's office, said foul play is not suspected. An autopsy has been scheduled, and cause of death will be determined by the Inyo County coroner.

Kohler's disappearance puzzled authorities and prompted a massive, multiagency search that included rescue dogs from California and aircraft from Nellis Air Force Base.

Kohler was last seen about 8 p.m. , when he walked away from the fire after telling members of his bicycle tour group that he was tired.

When he didn't turn up the next morning, his fellow campers checked his tent and found his bicycle, all his camping gear and a bed that looked as if it hadn't been slept in, Roper said.

There were about 50 other people camped that night at Mesquite Spring, a campground at the northern end of Death Valley National Park .

Kohler, who authorities initially said was 67, worked as a personal trainer for seniors .

On his business website and Facebook page, he said he rode his bicycle from San Diego to Florida in 2000 to celebrate the millennium.

Training for that ride stoked his passion for physical fitness and convinced him to become a personal trainer two years later, he said.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Kohler was part of a group riding 318 miles through Death Valley during a five-day period.

Roper said his body was found about a mile and a quarter from the campground.

"It appears that Mr. Kohler left the campfire and took off cross-country on foot," Inyo County sheriff's search and rescue coordinator, Cpl. Terry Watterbury said in a statement. "This is a very tragic situation."

Contact reporter Henry Brean at or 702-383-0350.