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Human remains on Mount Rainier believed to missing hiker

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. - Human remains found over the weekend inside Mount Rainier National Park are believed to be those of a missing 64-year-old hiker who vanished without a trace last summer while walking the Wonderland Trail.

The remains were found Sunday by a group that was hiking off-trail at about 6,800 feet above sea level near the Frying Pan Glacier on the east side of the mountain, said park spokesman Kevin Bacher.

He said the remains were found in the right area to match the approximate location where Edwin Birch, 64, of Tacoma went missing last year. Birch is the only person on record missing from that area, he added.

Park rangers retrieved the remains after their discovery and delivered them to the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office for positive identification - a process that could take several days. In the meantime, Birch's family has been notified.

Birch set out from Box Canyon early on July 12, 2014, after he dropped his son off at White River to hike the same trail in the opposite direction.

Both father and son had set a goal to hike the Wonderland Trail in sections, and their plan was to hike the section between Box Canyon and White River, roughly 19 miles in length.

Birch and his son met midway on the trail near Indian Bar at around the 6,600 feet level. The son said his father seemed well, although he was a bit tired.

After arriving at the Box Canyon trailhead around midnight, the son picked up the car and drove to pick up his father at White River. When his father did not appear he notified park rangers at White River early on July 13, 2014.

Searchers combed the area for several days, but Birch was not found.

A park spokesperson said the Wonderland Trail is covered with patchy snow in spots above 6,300 feet.

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