Barbara Bolick went for a short hike near the Bear Creek Overlook in the Bitterroot Mountains, west of Victor in Montana, on Wednesday, July 18, 2007. She was hiking with Jim Ramaker, who was visiting from California.

At around 11.30 am to noon, Jim stopped to look at a scenic view whilst Barbara was 20 or 30 feet (7-8 metres) away from him. But when he turned around less than a minute later, she was gone, never to be seen again.

Barbara was an experienced hiker and familiar with the area as this was her favourite location. She was carrying a black day pack at the time of her disappearance, and it contained a .357 Magnum pistol.

Neither Barbara nor her belongings were ever found despite an extensive search, and scent dogs could not pick up any signs. Sheriff Chris Hoffman said Barbara Bolick’s disappearance was a mystery, and they were utterly perplexed.

The Bolicks

After retiring from JP Morgan Chase, where he worked for seventeen years, Carl Bolick relocated to Corvallis in Montana in 2001 with his 55-year-old wife, Barbara Assunta. Carl had been the Assistant Director of the firm’s worldwide security operations. He had been raised in Montana, but Barbara had never lived in the state. However, since she was a keen hiker and a natural athlete, she soon loved her new home, frequently went on long hikes in the nearby Bitterroot Valley, and ran nearly daily.

The hike to the Bear Creek Overlook

In mid-July 2007, Carl’s cousin, Donna K Biles and her 58-year-old boyfriend, Jim Ramaker, visited the Bolicks in Corvallis.

Barbara enjoyed taking visitors on hikes to show them the scenery, especially as Carl had stopped coming along with her after suffering a heart attack.

On July 18th, Barbara, Donna, and Jim planned to hike Barbara’s favorite trail, the Bear Creek Overlook, a 15-minute drive from her home.

Bear Creek Overlook Trail is a 4.5 mile (7.2 km) moderately rated and trafficked out-and-back trail near Victor, Montana. It features a stunning view of Bear Creek and the surrounding mountains and passes beautiful wildflowers. The trail is best used from March until October and goes through an open forest with low bushes.

The describes the Trail as follows:

“Bear Creek Overlook features a modest day hike that rewards you with visually striking views of the Bitterroot Mountains. Rather than climbing up from the valley foothills, this trail offers a relatively short yet fulfilling ascent.

At the start of your hike, stay to left and meander your way through a shaded forest of Douglas fir and lodgepole pine. Your steady uphill climb features about two dozen switchbacks with pockets of vibrant wildflowers and a meadow of fallen trees near the rim. At the top, you’ll be greeted with impressive views of the Bitterroot Mountains and to the east, Bitterroot Valley. If you’re lucky, you may get the overlook all to yourself.

For a near spiritual experience, plan your summit arrival around sunset and take a seat far enough away from the edge. After absorbing the sensations, be sure to start your descent immediately after the sun dips behind the Bitterroots. A flashlight is a must as it gets dark fast.

All in all, about 2-3 hours round trip. Parking is limited and be prepared for a windy drive on your way to the Trailhead. There are no facilities. “

But when Donna woke up that morning, she found that she was hungover from the alcoholic drinks they’d had the evening before and decided it wouldn’t be a good idea for her to go hiking.

However, Barbara and Jim still wanted to go, so at around 8.30 or 9 am, Barbara told Carl that she was going with Jim to the Overlook and that they’d be back later for lunch. Whilst the two went hiking, Carl spent the morning working on a carpentry project. That was the last time Carl saw his wife.

Barbara was 5 feet tall, weighed 115 pounds and wore eyeglasses. That day, she wore a pastel-coloured shirt with tan shorts.

Around noon, Donna started to become worried that Barbara and Jim hadn’t returned from their hike, but Carl reassured her that his wife was experienced and knew the area well, that there was nothing to worry about. He was confident that they’d likely be back very soon. Furthermore, he told Donna that Barbara was always cautious and always brought a backpack containing food, water, and a .357 Magnum revolver for protection against bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and moose.

But by early afternoon, Barbara and Jim still hadn’t shown up, and Donna asked Carl to call somebody to check on them. He was about to call when the phone rang at around 2 pm. Carl said, “It was a Forest Service law enforcement officer. She asked me if my wife’s name was Barbara, and I instantly thought something terrible had happened.”

Carl was stunned. Recalling the events he said, “You know what I said, I said B.S.I thought if anyone was lost, it was her hiking companion”.

He learned that Jim had reported Barbara missing, and Carl immediately drove to the area near the Bear Creek Overlook Trail, hoping that his wife would have been located by the time he got there. But she was nowhere to be found.

Jim Ramaker said they had hiked the entire Bear Creek Overlook and then stopped to eat. They had met two young men on the trail and had chatted to them for roughly half an hour.

Jim and Barbara started to head back to the trailhead at around 11.30 am (although it could have been later), and at one point, Jim stopped to look back at the view. He said that he did this for no more than 45 seconds before turning around and finding that Barbara, who had been 20-30 feet ahead of him then, had vanished, “When I turned back to continue heading down, Barb was nowhere to be seen.”

Jim scoured the area looking for Barbara while calling out her name. But there was no sign of either Barbara or her backpack. She had vanished into thin air.

It was strange since there was a lot of loose shale rock around the Bear Creek Overlook trail, and it would have made it difficult to move about quietly. If she had fallen over the overlook, it would be expected that Jim would have heard something such as a scream or a cry for help.

He gave up his search, headed back to the trailhead, and found construction workers there as the road leading to the trailhead was closed for maintenance that day. Jim asked if they’d seen Barbara and briefly described her, but they hadn’t come across her. But they did recall seeing two young men with a black-and-white dog leave the trail earlier. Jim reported Barbara missing shortly after this.

The search for Barbara Bolick

Carl stayed at Bear Creek Overlook until midnight on July 18, but search teams encouraged him to return home and get some rest. The following day, he returned with friends and neighbors.

Several ground search and rescue teams scoured the area, accompanied by search dogs and aircraft using infrared and thermal imaging. But no trace of Barbara or her backpack was found, and the dogs could not pick up her scent.

After two weeks of intensive searching and investigation, Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman said Barbara Bolick’s disappearance was “a mystery”, speaking at the time, “We are perplexed. We have combed the area in the vicinity of the disappearance very well. No trace at all has been found. We would like to verify, if we can, that Bolick was even on the mountain that day.”

Hoffman, a law enforcement veteran with a career spanning over 30 years, said, “It’s something that I Don’t think we go a week thinking about. We don’t like mysteries. We like cold facts. And we want to get to the bottom of it.”

Furthermore, during an interview with Missoula Independent, he said, “I would say that (law enforcement) who worked closest with Carl during that time grieved with Carl and the rest of the family.

Jim reported to the County Sheriff about the two men they’d spoken to on the trail, and law enforcement attempted to locate them and even offered a $10,000 reward.

The men were in their early twenties, accompanied by a black mixed-breed dog with floppy ears and white markings. One was described as dark-skinned with black hair, and the other had a medium complexion and reddish hair. Both men were clean-cut, and they each had an athletic build. They may have driven a light-colored, older Chevrolet S-10 SUV with Missoula County, Montana license plates.

But they could not be found. Publicity about Barbara’s disappearance was sparse, so perhaps they were not aware she had gone missing and did not contact the authorities. Other witnesses, including the construction crew, confirmed the men were on the trail.

What happened to Barbara Bolick?


Lead investigator Peny Johnson said, “It’s hard to creep across loose shale rock. You’d make some noise. Just the fact that someone simply disappears like that is a cause for concern.”

If Barbara had ventured from the trail or fallen over the cliff edge, it seems odd that Jim heard nothing. It has also been suggested that Barbara might have fallen suddenly and not had time to call out. However, her fear of heights made her especially careful around them. This was her favorite trail, and she was very familiar with it, so an accidental stumble seemed unlikely.

Neither her remains, nor pack have ever been found despite scent dogs being deployed and many hours of official and unofficial searches. If she slipped unexpectedly, she may have been trapped in a crevice or cave, but it is odd that if this happened, she has never been located.

Foul play

Was Barbara abducted and murdered in a random attack and then removed from the scene with no trace? Could Jim have murdered her and hidden her body well enough, in an area with which he was unfamiliar, that she’d never be found? It seems unlikely

Jim was a trusted family acquaintance, but perhaps he made sexual advances on Barbara on or before the hike; there was a struggle, and he killed her. Since no scent was found, maybe something happened before they arrived at the Bitterroot Valley. However, it’s unclear what Jim’s motive would have been to murder Barbara, especially as they hardly knew each other and he was in a happy relationship with Donna.

Perhaps the hiking disappearance was a coverup for Barbara’s previous de*ath, and the group colluded together. If so, why would Jim use such a cover story that involved the authorities?

Ramaker cooperated with law enforcement from the beginning and offered to take a polygraph test before returning to his home in Califonia. But this was never done. He was quickly cleared of any involvement in the disappearance.

During an interview with the Missoula Independent, Ramaker said he was frustrated about the lack of closure in the case. He reiterated what he told law enforcement, “I never laid a hand on Barbara. I never harmed her in any way.” and furthermore said, “I’ve had a cloud over my head since 2007”.

The police received many dubious tips over the investigation, including one that said Barbara was abducted by a “ghostly mountain man”.

David Paulides, the author of the Missing 411 books and movies, said, “I know the case extremely well. I actually interviewed the man she was with; it’s probably six or seven years ago. Some people believe it’s pure criminal. I haven’t formed an opinion.”

Intentional disappearance

Did Barbara decide to leave her life behind with Carl and start over somewhere else? As with the other theories, there was nothing to support this possibility, and Barbara’s wallet, and identity documents were left at home and bank accounts untouched. Carl had planned an upcoming fall trip to the Mexican Riviera, for which they were both excited.

Animal at*tack

There was no evidence of a bear or mountain lion at*tack. If a wild animal had att*acked Barbara, there would have been some drag marks, blood or tissue of that in the area. Jim would have heard screaming or sounds of a struggle.


Donna suggested to other family members that Barbara could have committed sui*cide, but on hearing the rumours, Carl refused to speak to either Donna or Jim. It caused a huge family rift.

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