Despite long odds, searchers continued looking Wednesday for an elderly woman missing in Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. The body of her companion was found last week, four days after they were reported missing.
Jodean Elliot-Blakeslee, 69, of Boise, Idaho, and Amelia "Amy" Linkert headed into the Tree Molds area of the monument on September 19 for what park officials believe was to be a day hike. The two were reported missing when they didn't return, and on September 25 Ms. Linkert's body was found in the middle of the lava fields, said Craters of the Moon Superintendent Dan Buckley.
“The chance of us finding somebody alive is pretty diminished. We’re just trying to close this one out," the superintendent said Wednesday
Craters of the Moon is a vast, rugged landscape of lava fields and thousands of lava tubes. The section of the park where the two women were hiking is known as the Derelict Lava Flow. The Tree Molds Trail leads into this landscape, where there are "molds" of trees that were created when lava flows overran a forest. Some of the molds clearly show tree bark impressions. According to park brochures, "The cylindrical molds that remained after the wood rotted away range from a few inches to just under three feet in diameter."
Over the years, a number of "social trails" have been established by visitors wandering across the landscape looking for molds.
Superintendent Buckley said it's presumed that Dr. Blakeslee, a physician, became injured and Ms. Linkert went for help.
“The thought is they probably wandered beyond the end of that trail, got disoriented, it started to get darker. We also suspect that Jodean got hurt, and that’s what caused them to separate," he said. "Given where we found Amy’s body, she was halfway between the highway and the Tree Molds Trail, out in the middle of the lava fields. Hardly nobody goes out there.”
The government shutdown has not greatly impacted the search effort, as Superintendent Buckley requested, and was granted permission, to retain most of his staff during the search. All but three of the park's 19 employees were to be furloughed, but Park Service Director Jon Jarvis authorized the superintendent to keep 10 additional staff on hand to help with the search effort.
“The ten people working the search are experienced rangers, in top physical condition," said Ted Stout, the park's chief of interpretation. "The terrain in the park can be brutal; it, along with the adverse weather conditions we have been experiencing, it has already taken a toll on searchers and search dogs who have been working to locate our missing subject.”
With a change in the weather expected Thursday, the search effort will become even more difficult.
"The search will never end until we find her. At what level is the question," said Superintendent Buckley. "We’re looking at snow tomorrow. If that happens, it will be the first day we haven’t looked for her.”
Park staff, along with the Butte County (Idaho) Sheriff’s Office, were working with the family of the missing hiker to organize a volunteer search operation beginning this Friday. The family has set up a web page at for those who would like to learn more about the on-going search effort and how to help.