Sierra County Sheriff’s deputies and search-and-rescue teams from Marin and Nevada counties searched for Joel Lusk after he was reported overdue from a biking and camping trip. Credit: Sierra County Sheriff’s Office

Update, Oct. 14: The family of Joel Lusk, who died while mountain biking in Sierra County on Oct. 6, have requested that this message, written by his friend Andy Love, be shared with the Berkeley community:

Joel Lusk was a long-time resident of Berkeley, and grew up in Concord. He was a licensed contractor, then a project manager for solar installers, and most recently, a vice president for a startup involved in building charging stations for electric trucks.  He cared deeply about the environment and about social justice.

In addition to being an avid mountain biker, he practiced Aikido for many years, and played softball on a co-ed Berkeley city team.  And he was a lifetime A’s fan, for better or worse.

Most fundamentally, Joel was one of the kindest and most decent men I have ever known. He loved to laugh, and had that rare quality of being able to laugh at himself.  

He was completely devoted to his life partner, Marcia, and to their two boys (ages 22 and 20), who were the pride of his life and who have become wonderful men in their own right.  

Family was very important to Joel, but his concept of family was broad. It included mine. He loved us deeply, especially our two girls, and we all loved him. As my wife put it, “a world without Joel in it doesn’t make any sense.”  This is a devastating loss.

Original story, Oct. 12: A Berkeley man has died while mountain biking in Sierra County over the weekend, according to authorities there.

Joel M. Lusk, 61, was riding the Downieville Downhill Trail, a roughly 14-mile ride that descends nearly 5,000 feet from Packer Saddle to Downieville. He had left his car in Downieville Friday and taken a shuttle to the top of the trail, according to the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office. Lusk had planned to go camping near the Gold Lake Basin after his ride.

When Lusk’s wife did not hear from him on Monday, she contacted the sheriff’s office. Lusk’s wife had already contacted the shuttle company that had taken Lusk to Packer Saddle, which confirmed that Lusk’s car, with his camping gear inside, was still parked in Downieville, according to the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff’s deputies and search-and-rescue teams from Marin and Nevada counties began looking for Lusk, and searchers found his bike around 11:40 a.m. Tuesday “down a steep and remote area along the trail … approximately 100 feet below the trail, near the top of a large cliff and a box canyon,” according to a prepared statement from the sheriff’s office.

Search and rescue teams went looking for Joel Lusk, 61, of Berkeley after he was reported missing in Sierra County. Credit: Sierra County Sheriff’s Office

Rescuers rappelled down the cliff into the Pauly Creek drainage at the bottom and, using a drone, were able to find Lusk roughly 900 feet downstream.

Sheriff Michael Fisher said there have been three deaths on the same trail in the last four years. He said an autopsy is still pending but that it’s likely Lusk’s death will be determined as accidental and the result of blunt force trauma.

Fisher encouraged mountain bikers to consider riding in groups or carrying a satellite-linked tracking device or GPS transponder.

"*" indicates required fields

See an error that needs correcting? Have a tip, question or suggestion? Drop us a line.

Alex N. Gecan joined Berkeleyside in 2023 as a senior reporter covering public safety. He has covered criminal justice, courts and breaking and local news for The Middletown Press, Stamford Advocate and...