BILLINGS - A treasure hunter from Virginia has been rescued for the third time in three years from the same place in Wyoming by the Park County Sheriff's Search and Rescue.
Madilina Taylor, 41, of Lynchburg, Virg., was found safe Monday after prompting a helicopter search of the Jim Mountain trails west of Cody, said the Park County Sheriff’s Office.
At about 12:40 p.m. Monday, Park County Sheriff’s SAR was activated in response to a report of an overdue hiker at Jim Mountain trail head. A nearby resident reported seeing a woman exit a 2001 Dodge SUV and hike up the trail on Friday, the release said.
The witness said the woman appeared to be poorly equipped for the back country. She carried a small bag and was wearing sweat pants and a light jacket. He said the Dodge was still at the trail head and he believed it had not moved for three days. A search of a national database determined Taylor owned the Dodge SUV.
On June 26, 2013, Taylor was rescued with her boyfriend Frank Eugene Rose Jr., after the pair spent four days lost in the forest. They were found in the Big Creek area of the Star Hill Ranch. The couple were suffering from exposure and high waters prevented them from crossing Big Creek.
On June 14, 2015 Taylor fell and broke her ankle in the same area. She had to be airlifted to receive medical attention. After this incident, Rose and Taylor told emergency personnel they were in the area both times looking for treasure hidden by art dealer and author Forrest Fenn. Fenn claimed to hide treasure worth millions of dollars somewhere in the Rocky Mountains and wrote two books with clues to its location, the release said.
The couple was warned after the second rescue not to return to the area without training in wilderness survival and told they faced arrest if found on private property in the future.
After the incident on Monday, SAR crews performed an aerial search of the areas Taylor and Rose were previously found and the Jim Mountain trails. The search was called off after two hour because there was no way to tell which direction Taylor traveled or whether she was still in the back country, the release said.
At about 10 p.m., Taylor emerged uninjured from the wilderness near the Grizzly Ranch. She said she saw the search plane but didn’t think she was lost so she didn’t signal it. She reported seeing grizzly bears on three separate occasions during her time in the wilderness and “had had enough.” Ranchers gave Taylor a ride back to her vehicle. She said she intended to drive back to the East and had no intentions of returning.
The release said Rose is suspected to have accompanied her on the recent trip but was not seen during the incident.
Lance Mathess, public information officer and head of SAR for Park County Sheriff's Office, said the monetary cost of rescue operations isn't very high because SAR members are volunteers who donate time and risk their own safety to help others. The two seat single engine Aviat Husky aircraft is relatively cheap to fly as well with fuel expenses running about $50 per hour. The woman will not be charged for the response and the sheriff's office cannot prevent the treasure hunters from returning to the public land in the area.
"The only thing the sheriff’s office can do is arrest them for trespassing on private property, if they go on private property," Mathess said. "For the most part they’re on national forest land."
He said all three times the couple have entered and exited the back country in the same locations. They exit the forest on private land and the woman would likely have been cited if a deputy was called when she emerged.
Mathess said he hasn't read Fenn's books but knows the author has ties to the Cody area and is familiar with surrounding environment. He thinks the couple saw specific landmarks they believe correspond with clues from the books and are returning to a precise location to search. Their strong conviction will likely draw them back to the area but Mathess hopes they add back country survival guides to their reading list.
He said the treasure hunting mindset makes it unlikely the couple will tell anyone exactly where they're hiking but they should at least leave a note on their vehicle detailing how long they expect to be in the forest.
"People from the big cities and metropolitan areas are so used to help is just a phone call away," Mathess said. "I just think they have financial blinders on or economic blinders on. They can’t see anything but the treasure."