The remains of what is believed to be a 20-year-old hiker missing since early September were found Wednesday morning in the Mount Herman area.
The El Paso County Coroner’s Office hasn’t identified the remains, which were found near Balanced Road and Forest Service Road 322, but the family of missing hiker Kevin Rudnicki believes it’s him.
“We’re waiting on confirmation from the Coroner’s Office, but we’re confident it’s him,” said Bill Bass, Rudnicki’s stepfather.
A Thursday post on Facebook page Help Find Kevin Rudnicki said the family had “finally found Kevin’s remains in the mountains” and thanked those who have helped search.
His mother, Melissa Reynolds Bass, left a comment on the post: “We are so grateful to have him back.”
Rudnicki, a junior at the University of Wyoming who grew up in Palmer Lake, left for a Sunday morning hike Sept. 2 and never returned. He was last seen hiking along Trail 715 in the Limbaugh Canyon area, where he ran into one of his former middle school teachers.
In the days and weeks after Rudnicki’s disappearance, dozens of volunteers helped El Paso County Search and Rescue crews search the area on foot and by air using helicopters and drones. Rudnicki’s family led an informal search party Saturday.
A person found the remains while in the area searching for Kevin, said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby.
El Paso County Search and Rescue combed through more than 25 square miles of the Mount Herman area in search of Rudnicki, Kirby said.
The family is feeling “a combination of relief and sadness,” Bill Bass said Thursday. “We were really ready for some kind of closure. We were very worried that we’d never find it, so we felt very, very fortunate that he was found.”
Despite the remote possibility after more than three months, Bass said the family continued to hope that Rudnicki would be found alive.
“You never know until you find him,” he said. “You know, you hang onto things, like the possibility that he just took of and maybe he’ll return, although we didn’t feel really strongly about that. … I guess we’re still in a little bit of a transition where it’s just hitting us and we’re just kind of moving on to the next phase.”
Rudnicki is very familiar with the area, his mother said shortly after he disappeared, having spent the past six or seven years hiking in Pike National Forest near Palmer Lake and making his own trail maps.
He is studying watershed management and wants to work for the U.S. Forest Service after graduation.
“He wants the forest to be his office,” Reynolds Bass said. “He doesn’t want to be in a building, in front of a computer. He wants to be out getting his hands dirty.”
Rudnicki was 4 when the family left Ann Arbor, Mich. He graduated from Palmer Ridge High School, where he ran track and cross-country.
What We Believe
We are driven by our deep respect for our environment, and our passionate commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation. We believe in the right for everyone - from all backgrounds and cultures - to enjoy our natural world, and we believe that we must all do so responsibly. Learn More