Missing Hiker James Griffin Found Dead In National Park

SEATTLE, Jan 26 (Reuters) - A 60-year-old Washington state hiker reported missing on Christmas Eve has been found dead in steep, densely forested terrain of the Olympic National Park, a park official said on Monday.

Search crews backed by dog teams recovered the body of James Thomas Griffin on Sunday about a third of a mile and nearly 1,000 vertical feet above the Boulder Creek hiking trail in the Olympic peninsula's Elwha Valley.

It appeared Griffin had stepped off the trail to prepare a snack but at some point became disoriented and could not find the trail again, a search complicated by heavy rain, cold, and the onset of darkness, Olympic National Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said.

"There is nothing to suggest anything other than someone who lost his location and couldn't find his backpack again, where he stepped off the trail, and became lost and disoriented," Maynes said.

The Port Angeles man was last seen by other hikers at an area known for its hot springs in the late afternoon on Dec. 22. He was reported missing on Dec. 24 when he failed to show up for a Christmas Eve dinner as planned.

Griffin's daypack was found on Christmas Day about a half-mile from the trailhead. Despite a week-long search involving more than 20 people and dog teams, no other clues were found until Sunday when searchers and dogs found his body.

As to why he climbed the steep hill, where his body was found, Maynes said: "If it's dark and you can't see anything, it's easier to walk uphill. You're more in control." (Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Sandra Maler)