ESTES PARK, CO - A hiker found the body Saturday of a 31-year-old ranger who hadn't been seen since setting off on a routine patrol in Rocky Mountain National Park
, ending the hopes of relatives and scores of people who had combed the rugged backcountry for more than eight days.
Jeff Christensen apparently died after a fall, park officials said, adding that his death was still under investigation.
A hiker found Christensen's body near Spectacle Lakes, about 10 miles northwest of town in a remote spot at roughly 13,000 feet, park officials said. It was unclear how long Christensen survived after the apparent fall.
More than 200 searchers were looking for Christensen in the vast and rugged Mummy Range on Saturday. He had been missing since July 29, when he told co-workers he was planning a routine backcountry patrol to the Lawn Lake trailhead, an area he was patrolling for the first time. Visitors told park officials they saw Christensen near the summit of Mount Chiquita that afternoon.
On Saturday, searchers aided by nine dog teams and five helicopters were focusing their efforts on an area where rangers and park visitors on Wednesday heard gunshots and radio clicks that might have come from Christensen.
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Jeff Christensen knew the area like
"the back of his hand," a park employee said.