This story was updated at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday to report searchers discovered the missing hiker’s body on Tuesday.
The body of a hiker who went missing a week ago in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been found, but the mystery grows as to what exactly happened to the 53-year-old mom from Ohio.
Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements was hiking with her daughter on Sept. 25 when the two lost sight of each other, says the park service.
The park announced Tuesday that searchers found her body two miles west of the Clingmans Dome parking area and less than a mile from the Appalachian Trail.
How she died was not released, or how she came to be in that area.
Clements, who is from the Cincinnati suburb of Cleves, was with her 20-year-old daughter on the Forney Ridge Trail Tuesday when they separated, reported the park service last week on Facebook. It was still daylight (5 p.m.) and the two were “fairly close to the parking lot,” park officials told KnoxvilleNews.com.
“The daughter decided to hike ahead just a little bit,” park spokeswoman Julena Campbell told TV station WATE. “The plan was to turn around and just meet up with her. She did that. They weren’t separated for very long but when she turned around she couldn’t find her mother.”
The two were out “hiking for the day” and not camping, so Clements was not dressed appropriately for staying out of doors over night, Campbell told TV station WLWT. The station said Clements’ family declined to be interviewed, but said “she is a great mother to three children.”
More than 100 trained searchers from dozens of search and rescue agencies helped park staff in a large-scale search of the “steep, rugged terrain” where Clements was last seen. As of Monday, they had hiked 500 miles on trails, said the park service.
“In addition, experienced search personnel, canine teams, helicopters, and drones with specialized search and rescue equipment have been used to conduct more intensive off-trail ‘grid-searches’ of approximately 10 square miles,” said a park service press release.
The search included trying to interview other hikers who were in the same area on Sept. 25, reported the Cincinnati Inquirer.
Weather was also a hindrance at times, Julena Campbell told TV station WBIR. “Up in the higher elevations of the park it remains very foggy and very wet. And so that gives us limited visibility as well as making the conditions slippery for our searchers,” Campbell was quoted telling the station.
Clements has worked since December at the Metropolitan Sewer District of Cincinnati as an accounting tech, reported WKRC. Sewer district officials told the station Clements was on vacation in North Carolina when she disappeared.
The Great Smoky Mountains straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, and Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park ... and the entire state of Tennessee, says the National Park Service. The road to the observation tower remains closed while the search is ongoing, the park service said on Facebook.
Clements’ brother-in-law, a Cincinnati firefighter, was among 40 volunteers from the Cincinnati area who have joined the search for Clements, reported WCPO.