Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds doesn't want to believe two out-of-state women disappeared in the High Uintas without a trace.
But it has happened before.
"I did some research. There have been (three) people lost there in the past 30 to 40 years who flat out have never been found. It's unfortunate," Edmunds said.
Sunday was the last day of an "operational," large-scale search for Carole Wetherton, 58, and Kim Beverly, 39, who were vacationing in eastern Utah but never returned to Atlanta on their scheduled flight Sept. 13.
Their rented sports-utility vehicle, with hiking supplies and maps inside, was found near Crystal Lake Sept. 14. That prompted a massive, eight-day search involving dozens of volunteer search and rescue teams, K-9s, cadaver dogs, mounted horses, a jeep posse, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
"There's nothing we didn't throw at this," Edmunds said. "We saturated the area."
But searchers have not found any evidence of the mother and daughter, who are believed to have gotten lost on a day hike. Foul play is not believed to have been involved and starting today, the large-scale searches are off.
"We told the family we did everything we could. Certainly, we're sorry we didn't find anything. They understand the nature, the terrain is so rugged and dense," Edmunds said.
The sheriff's office plans to occasionally send small teams to search for the women in the High Uintas, a high-elevation mountainous area with thick forests. Missing posters will be tacked at trailheads for hikers. People participating in the upcoming elk and deer rifle hunts will be told to keep their eyes open for signs of the women, Edmunds said.
Edmunds said his deputies got to know family members who travelled to Utah to assist in the search and "cared deeply" about them.
"You can see it in their eyes, my people are very distraught, hurt we couldn't find anything," he said.
Wetherton's driver's license was issued in Florida, although she was most recently living in the Atlanta area. She was retired and close with her daughter, Edmunds said.
"They were good friends, mother and daughter," said Edmunds. "They liked to spend time together."
Beverly lived in Tucker, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, and was a nurse. "We were hoping her knowledge in medical procedures would help them stay alive for a while," Edmunds said.
Then the temperatures dropped. Snow fell. Edmunds believes the women, if alive last week, would have died from exposure.
Edmunds still holds on to hope the women's bodies will be found.
"I think we will find something. I don't think it will be next week or the next. It may not even be next year."
contributing: Joe Bauman