By Sam Friedman
Photo: Melanie Gould, courtesy of the “Have You Seen Melanie Gould” Facebook page.
FAIRBANKS — Two dog teams and about 17 people are searching an area off the Denali Highway for a Talkeetna musher who has been missing for a week.
Multiple Iditarod finisher Melanie Gould, 34, has been unaccounted for since May 30, when she left work at the Talkeetna Roadhouse.
On Saturday afternoon, an Alaska State Troopers helicopter spotted her unoccupied pickup down a mining road around 18 Mile Denali Highway.
Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said it’s possible Gould decided to go camping without telling anyone. There was no evidence of foul play either in the truck or at Gould’s house, she said.
But friends have said it’s not like Gould to leave her job and her dogs. A friend of Gould’s in Talkeetna has been caring for the dogs in her absence.
The search effort now includes three troopers, the Fairbanks-based PAWS search and rescue group, Southcentral-based Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs and Fairbanks-based Wilderness Search and Rescue, Ipsen said.
Today, three planes are expected to join the search, she said.
The operation is asking people not to search for Gould independently, she said.
“That could hamper the dogs’ effort to find (Gould’s) scent,” she said.
Gould’s friend and fellow Talkeetna dog musher Amanda Olson is keeping friends of Gould updated on the search with the Facebook page “Have You Seen Melanie Gould?” More than 1,400 people were following the page Sunday night.
Melanie Gould raced seven Iditarods between 2000 and 2007, including an 18th-place finish in 2006, according to the Iditarod website. Originally from Alaska, she spent 6 years in Colorado as a massage therapist before returning to Alaska in 1998.
Anyone with information on Gould’s whereabouts should contact Alaska State Troopers at 733-2256.