(CBS4) – Authorities say personal items accompanying human remains found Thursday in Mesa Verde National Park allow them to tentatively identify the bones as those of a man who went missing there in 2013. Park officials, in a Friday press release, said they are tentatively identifying the remains as Mitchell Dale Stehling.

Stehling was visiting the park with his, father and mother on June 9, 2013.

According to the National Park Service’s Cold Case web page, Stehling told his family he wanted to see the Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling at the end of a quarter-mile long trail. He started hiking at 4:30 p.m. and never returned.

He was 51 years old when he disappeared.

Mesa Verde officials stated that the remains were found 4.2 miles from the point where Stehling was last seen. There is no indication of foul play, they added.

No details about the terrain of the remains’ location or possible circumstances in Stehling’s passing were made available, although it was noted in the press release that the Spruce Tree House trail connects with the Petroglyph Point Trail. Mesa Verde’s online description of the Petroglyph Point Trail includes, “the trail is narrow, rugged, and rocky, with several steep drop-offs along the canyon wall on the way to the petroglyph panel.”

A tip from an anonymous caller led searchers to the area.

A view of the Square Tower House, one of the cliff dwellings built by Ancestral Puebloans at Mesa Verde National Park. (credit: Mladen AntonovAFP/Getty Images)

Mesa Verde National Park is still operating under phased re-opening conditions after closing earlier this year due to coronavirus concerns. The visitor’s center remains closed and all ranger-led tours of the cliff dwellings have been suspended until further notice.

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Logan Smith


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