GRAND LAKE, Colorado — Human remains found in the Indian Peaks Wilderness earlier this month are believed to be that of a 72-year-old woman who disappeared during a hike two years ago.
Searchers found remains, clothing and identification belonging to Patricia Wallace of Lafayette on Friday near Thunderbolt Creek after a backpacking family found bones there on Aug. 9, Grand County Undersheriff John Stein said Tuesday.
A DNA analysis will be done to confirm the remains belong to Wallace, but her family already has been notified that the remains are believed to be hers.
Wallace was hiking with friends in the Camp Dick area on July 3, 2012, when she decided to take another route she thought would be easier. Searchers from Grand and Boulder counties spent 13 days searching for her.
The scattered remains were found at the upper part of a canyon. Investigators believe they likely were pushed down the drainage from a pass or peak above by avalanches and spring runoff over the last two years, Stein said.
The sheriff's office identified the backpackers who found the remains as the Sippel family of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and released a statement from them calling the discovery a miracle. They were looking for a flat spot to set up camp when they found the remains in tall vegetation along the creek.
"This was a ways off the beaten path. If we had done any one thing differently that afternoon, even little things, we would not have made the discovery," the family said.
Because there was no cellphone service, the family wrote a detailed note of the bones and location to alert authorities and gave it to the first hikers who passed by the following day.
Stein said they didn't want their individual names to be released to avoid detracting attention from Wallace.