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Hiker missing in Mesa Verde

By Shane Benjamin Herald staff writer

Rescue workers were searching Tuesday for a 51-year-old Texas man who went missing Sunday at Mesa Verde National Park.

The hiker, Mitchell Stehling, told his wife and parents he was going to visit Spruce Tree House, a cliff dwelling on Chapin Mesa, according to a news release from the National Park Service.

Stehling did not return, and the family notified park dispatch.

Crews on Sunday organized a hasty search of Spruce Canyon, Spruce Tree House, Petroglyph Trail and other trails on Chapin Mesa with no success, said Betty Lieurance, spokeswoman for Mesa Verde.

Crews resumed their search early Monday, expanding the search area. They searched by foot, horseback and helicopter. Two dog teams from Dolores Canine Search and Rescue also were assisting. About 30 people were involved Monday. Temperatures reached 102 degrees in the canyons, Lieurance said.

Rescue workers continue to search today, with 60 to 70 searchers, including 20 members from the San Juan National Forest Hot Shots.

Temperatures in the park were in the 90s. The terrain consists of steep canyons and mesa tops at elevations between 6,500 feet and 8,000 feet.

Stehling was last seen wearing a brown shirt and hat, khaki shorts and hiking boots. He was not carrying any water or other gear.

It is rare for hikers to go missing for prolonged periods of time in the park, Lieurance said.

“We have people who go missing, but they take a different route and are back in a couple of hours,” she said.

shane@durangoherald.com


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