With one look at the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana, Barbara Bolick had instantly been smitten. The 55-year-old liked to spend time alone or with the company on the hiking route that goes to the Bear Creek Overlook in the Victor, Montana area.
Barbara offered to lead a trip to the Bear Creek Overlook for a family friend, Jim Ramaker, on the morning of Wednesday, July 18, 2007. But Barbara disappeared shortly after she and Jim reached the lookout point, marking the end of her last trip.
An Adventurous Trek, Strange Disappearance
Barbara was going to take Jim and his girlfriend, Donna Biles, hiking on Wednesday morning, but they had to cancel. Donna was Carl’s cousin; she and Jim were visiting from California but were staying with Carl and Barbara in Montana.
During their vacation, they had planned to go to the Bear Creek Overlook, and Barbara was more than pleased to come along. Carl, who had to quit hiking after having a heart attack, promised his wife that he would make supper while they went on their trip.
They were supposed to depart bright and early on Wednesday, but when Donna awoke, she wasn’t feeling well. She bowed out of the trekking excursion, leaving Barbara and Jim to go on their own. However, when they got there, the road that led to the Bear Creek trailhead was blocked for maintenance, so they had to park a little way away and walk through a construction zone to get to the trail.
When they finally found the trailhead, they hiked the 2.7 miles to the viewpoint at the end.
After reaching the peak of the path, Jim and Barbara stopped for a bite. They met two other hikers and their dog at the lookout, with whom they spoke for a while and then spent the next 30 minutes admiring the scenery.
The group started returning to the mountain at about 11:30 a.m. Jim paused for a second to take in the scenery before continuing; at this point, Barbara was probably twenty to thirty feet in front of him. After 45 seconds of Jim continuing down the path, he looked around and saw that Barbara was no longer there.
Jim continued down the path, expecting to run across Barbara any minute now, but he never did. He was perplexed by her unexpected absence since she was a very seasoned hiker who never deviated from the track. He yelled her name again and over, but she never came back.
What Happened to Barbara Bolick?
Some of the routes that Jim and Barbara had walked on were made of loose shale rock, which caused a distinctive crunching sound when walked upon. To get Barbara’s attention, he pulled out a whistle but was met with silence. The confusion didn’t stop him from continuing his descent; he was still hoping to run across Barbara.
Jim made it to the trailhead, but he couldn’t discover any trace of Barbara there. Confused, he walked up to the construction site and asked the employees whether they had seen Barbara leave the route. The staff saw a black and white dog, but no one recognized Barbara. Jim had one of the construction workers walk him through the hazardous area to his vehicle so he could see whether Barbara had snuck up on him and gotten in without being seen.
Jim had trouble believing Barbara could get lost on a path she was familiar with. He returned to the trailhead and followed the same route they had traveled to the viewpoint, confident that he had missed her just by a few steps.
But when Jim returned to the construction site, he informed the workers that he needed assistance since he had been unable to find his trekking partner. The construction crew member kindly allowed him to use his phone to report Barbara missing.
The Bear Creek Overlook route is inside the Bitterroot National Forest. Therefore, U.S. Forest Service rangers were originally in charge of the investigation. They started looking for Barbara right once, combing the rough area around the route for any trace of the lady.
The ranger who contacted Carl at home to notify him that his wife had gone missing was optimistic that they would locate her soon.
The Story Becomes Bizarre
Since Barbara had climbed that route hundreds of times before, Carl found it hard to believe that she was disoriented. He drove the twenty miles to the trailhead immediately, expecting to see Barbara and have a good laugh together over everything that had just happened.
He was devastated to discover his wife had not been located when he arrived.
All night long, people kept looking for Barbara. Several ground search and rescue teams, aided by canine search specialists, were sent to assist in the operation. Aircraft using infrared and thermal imaging technology flew over the region, gathering data. Nothing suggested Barbara was still in the neighborhood.
Carl stayed until midnight at the trailhead gate before the cops encouraged him to go home and get some sleep. It broke his heart to leave while Barbara was still out there, but he knew he had to go home for a bit. In the morning, he returned with several friends and neighbors who had volunteered to assist with the search.
When asked about the disappearance, authorities stated they had no answers. According to the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office, foul play was not indicated. There were no signs of a struggle on the route that may have included Barbara, such as drag marks, bloodstains, or pieces of clothes.
Some speculated that Barbara was mauled by a bear or mountain lion, but authorities were unconvinced. Jim hadn’t heard Barbara scream, and the track showed no signs of being used by animals.
For protection, the seasoned Barbara had a.357 Magnum concealed in her daypack if she encountered a dangerous animal.
Jim was the first suspect and subject to extensive questioning since he was the last known person to have seen Barbara alive. He gave the police full cooperation and even offered to undergo a polygraph test to back up his story.
The authorities were sure he was innocent of any involvement in Barbara’s disappearance.
After two weeks, the hunt for Barbara had narrowed down to sporadic areas. Grid searches had been conducted throughout the whole region by amateur and professional search and rescue teams, but the lady was still missing. Authorities said they would no longer actively look for Barbara but that the inquiry into her disappearance would continue.
The Sheriff’s Office in Ravalli County, Montana, offered a $5,000 reward three weeks after Barbara disappeared if anybody had any information on her whereabouts. Even though many tips were phoned in, none of them led detectives any closer to locating Barbara, including some from those who claimed a ghostly mountain man had taken her.
The Theories Regarding the Disappearance
The two young males observed on the route the day Barbara went missing were of particular interest to investigators. The males were emphasized as possible witnesses rather than suspects in her abduction, and police were eager to speak with them about what they could have observed on the day in question.
Other than Jim, they were the only ones who knew for sure that Barbara had been out hiking when she vanished.
Several construction workers, including Jim, gave police detailed descriptions of the two males, which were afterward made public. One man had dark hair and complexion, while the other had fair skin and reddish hair; both were in their early twenties. Both guys were in the excellent physical condition and walking a black-and-white mixed-breed dog.
Their getaway vehicle was a light-colored SUV (perhaps a Chevrolet Blazer) with a Montana license plate and a Missoula County sticker, leading investigators to conclude that they were likely from the region.
No one came forward to identify the two individuals, even after their full descriptions were published in local media. In September, Barbara’s family said they would pay $10,000 to anybody who could help them identify these two possible witnesses.
Without any news about Barbara for months, others started to speculate that maybe she had faked her disappearance to start over in a new place. Neither of Barbara’s loved ones believed she could do such a thing, nor did Barbara. She left her wallet, ID, passport, and other valuables at home when she left the house that day.
Barbara’s life was fulfilling before she vanished; she had just begun flying lessons and was looking forward to fulfilling her dream of becoming a solo pilot. In the autumn, she and Carl were planning a trip down the Mexican Riviera, and she was looking forward to it very much. Barbara’s pals said she would never have left the house without her pet dog.
There have been other cases of people disappearing without a trace from national parks besides Barbara. Many such incidents exist in which persons have vanished without a trace while near others.
It wasn’t long until Jim and Donna flew back to the Golden State, leaving Carl to mourn alone. Jim has kept in touch with law enforcement, who insists that he has been cooperative throughout their investigation and is not a suspect in Barbara’s abduction.
Nobody has come forward with any information that might help detectives identify the two guys who were observed hiking with their dog, but the search continues.
Barbara Bolick disappeared in 2007 at the age of 55. She was 5 feet tall, weighed 115 pounds, and had brown eyes and red hair when she vanished. When she was last seen, she had a.357 Magnum concealed in a black daypack, which matched her tan shorts and pink blouse. Help the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office search for Barbara by calling (406) 375-4005 if you have any leads.
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