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Modesto restaurant owner, girlfriend missing in Sierra

Mark Smallwood and Donna Hallberg, both of Modesto, were reported missing on June 15, 2016, a few days after they went camping in the area of Pinecrest, Calif.
Mark Smallwood and Donna Hallberg, both of Modesto, were reported missing on June 15, 2016, a few days after they went camping in the area of Pinecrest, Calif.

The owner of Modesto’s Harvest Moon restaurant and his girlfriend are missing after not returning from a three-day backpacking trip east of Pinecrest Lake, about 80 miles east of Modesto in the Sierra Nevada.

The Tuolumne County search-and-rescue team has been searching for Mark Smallwood, 59, and Donna Hallberg, 55, since Wednesday afternoon after a friend reported them missing after they did not return as scheduled Tuesday.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Andrea Benson said a CHP helicopter took part in Thursday’s search. She said the plan is for additional aircraft to join the search Friday if the two are not found. The searches have been conducted during daylight hours.

Smallwood’s nephew, Connor Harmon, said his uncle was backpacking with his girlfriend, Hallberg. Harmon declined to comment further.

The two are experienced hikers who have been to this area several times and left Sunday from the Crabtree Trail Head to hike to Gem, Long and Deer lakes, according to a post on the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page. Their Chevrolet Tahoe is parked at the trailhead in the Emigrant Wilderness.

The friend who reported them missing said the two had enough supplies and equipment to be outdoors for at least three days, according to the Facebook post. The post said they had cellphones, but authorities could not track them because of the lack of service in the area.

Benson said the area where the two hiked has lots of snow in some spots in the higher elevations. The terrain includes meadows, granite and woods.

Authorities ask anyone who spots the two to call the Sheriff’s Department at 209-533-5815 with an approximate location.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316

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