- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Searchers, some using tracking dogs, were scouring a northwest Wyoming wilderness area on Wednesday for three Wisconsin sisters who failed to return from an extended backcountry trip.

The sisters left on June 28 and were to return on Tuesday, said Teton County Sheriff’s Lt. Slade Ross.

Family members initially contacted authorities in Grand Teton National Park, where they believed the sisters were, but the search switched to an area of Bridger-Teton National Forest on Wednesday when their car was discovered at a trailhead, said Lori Iverson, spokeswoman for the multiagency task force conducting the search.

The search area is roughly 15 miles south of the resort town of Jackson.

Authorities identified the three as Megan Margaret Andrews-Sharer, 25; Erin Andrews-Sharer, 22; and Kelsi Andrews-Sharer, 16. Their hometowns weren’t immediately known, but Iverson said family members were expected to arrive in the area on Thursday.

Iverson said the three are experienced backcountry trekkers and that they had talked to a U.S. Forest Service employee prior to hiking into the wilderness with their camping gear.

The canyon area that is the focus of the search is a gradual climb without thick vegetation, and weather conditions were good, Iverson said. About 35 people were on the search - some on foot, some on horseback and some using tracking dogs, Iverson said. Two three-person teams were dropped in at higher country upslope from the trail entrance to camp overnight and resume the search Thursday, she said.

“We are being optimistic and hoping that they simply wandered astray from the trail,” Iverson said. “They are experienced hikers.”

The Rev. Susan Patterson-Sumwalt of the United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, said the sisters had worshipped there as children and that Megan had worked there until recently.

“It’s very hard. So many people in the church and this community have known this family for many years,” Patterson-Sumwalt told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Megan resigned recently to work on a farm in Wyoming, Patterson-Sumwalt said.

___

This story has been corrected to show the first name of the youngest sister is Kelsi, not Kelsie.


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