Appalachian Trail Hiker Geraldine Largay Missing for a Year
July 22, 2013 wasn’t a life-changing day for most of us. Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were in the news. The “worst sectarian violence since 2008” in Iraq brought the month’s death toll to more than 450. Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant was leaking contaminated water. Journalist Helen Thomas died. “Blurred Lines” was the number one song. There was a “super moon.” And Geraldine Largay disappeared while hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Maine.
Geraldine Largay, known to her friends as “Gerry” and to other AT hikers as “Inchworm,” had been on the Trail since Tuesday, April 23, 2013. That’s when she headed northward to Mount Katahdin in Maine, the northern end of the Appalachian Trail, from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Supporting her along the way was George Largay, her husband of 42 years.
Harpers Ferry is home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, caretakers of the Trail, and is popular for “flip-flop” section hikes.
Folks hike from there to Katahdin with plenty of time to summit before Baxter State Park closes annually in mid-October. After a quick trip back to Harpers Ferry, they hike southbound to Georgia’s Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the AT, in better hiking weather than what is found in New England. It’s not exactly the halfway point — that’s near the Appalachian Trail Museum in Pennsylvania. Katahdin is 1,166.4 miles up the Trail and Springer is 1019.6 miles southward.
George and Gerry regularly met at prearranged spots. The hike seemed to be going well. Inchworm smiled for a photograph on Monday, July 22, 2013 at the Poplar Ridge Lean-to, north of the Saddleback Mountains in Maine’s Saddleback Range, northeast of Rangeley.
Inchworm texted George that morning, as they probably had done hundreds of times. To my knowledge the exact wording has not been made public, but she reportedly sent her last known text to George confirming their meeting on Tuesday, July 23rd at the AT’s Route 27 portal, outside of Stratton, Maine.
According to the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion, the distance between the Poplar Ridge Lean-to and the meeting spot on Route 27 is 21.5 miles. We believe Gerry planned to hike to Spaulding Lean-to, approximately eight miles to the north of Poplar Ridge Lean-to and spend Monday night there. That would have left a 13.5 mile hike — over extremely difficult terrain in an extremely difficult section of the Appalachian Trail — to meet up with George.
Rain fell on Monday, July 22nd, quite heavily in some spots. But Gerry had already hiked 950+ miles, so rain was nothing new.
The next thing that happened was …
Nobody knows. Or if they do, nobody is talking about it.
Gerry was reported missing on Wednesday, July 24, 2013, by her husband after she failed to arrive at their meeting point.
After Gerry’s Disappearance
Geraldine “Gerry” Largay — Inchworm — mysteriously vanished from the Appalachian Trail.
Authorities call it “baffling” and they say, “people just don’t disappear.”
Getting lost in the woods is easy. Finding lost people in the woods isn’t easy, but almost all are located within 24 hours and virtually all are found in 48 hours. Only a fraction of 1% of lost hikers remain missing.
Inchworm, a former nurse from Brentwood, Tennessee, was 66 years old when she vanished. She was 5-feet, 5-inches tall, weighed 115 pounds, had brown hair and brown eyes. She commonly wore a black pullover shirt, tan pants, a blue hat and carried a black-and-green backpack. In her last known photograph, she sported a bright red top.
Cpl. MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service (MWS) conducted many searches and investigated many clues since Gerry vanished. Lt. Kevin Adam of the MWS — and many others — finds the disappearance of Inchworm mystifying. Again, virtually all hikers who lose their way on Maine’s trails are found within a day or so.
Literally thousands of skilled and unskilled searchers beat the bushes and looked in virtually every nook and cranny along the section of the Appalachian Trail where she was last seen.
George Largay returned to Tennessee two weeks after reporting his wife of 42-years missing. According to an interview posted at CentralMaine.com, on August 12, 2013, he spoke at the offices of a prominent public relations firm in Nashville. “While Largay is not giving up hope, his family is ready to move on. In October, they plan to have a memorial service for his wife, just outside of Atlanta, where they lived for many years.”
Yes, it is odd to say you haven’t given up hope for your missing wife after three weeks, but it is odd to then plan for a memorial service. However, if being odd were against the law, we’d all be in jail.
In October, Mr. Largay offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to a resolution in this most enigmatic story.
Inchworm’s story was broadcast on the TV program North Woods Law (season three, episode nine). That show, titled “Lost and Found,” was aired on the Animal Planet network on Thursday, December 11, 2013 and can still be seen in reruns.
An unofficial group of hikers — many of whom are members of the Appalachian Trail Long Distance Hikers Association — searched for Gerry for several days beginning on May 28, 2014.
One of the leaders, Mike Wingeart, told me on June 7, 2014, that his team had “great weather, few black flies and almost no snow” to hinder their mission. His conclusion after a prolonged, systematic search of the area where Gerry was last seen? “She’s not there.”
Maine Wardens searched for Gerry Largay again on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, according to John MacDonald of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries.
A search team comprised of Maine Game Wardens, Maine State Police, US Border Patrol, Franklin County Search and Rescue, and searchers from the Maine Association of Search and Rescue (MASAR) returned to Redington TWP to continue the search for Gerry.
That search focused on areas that they had not searched and previously searched areas that included very difficult terrain requiring additional search efforts. As with previous searches, their collective efforts provided no clues that could be attributed to Geraldine or her location.
Cpl. John MacDonald told me on July 21, 2014, that the MWS has no new leads regarding Gerry’s whereabouts. No new searches have been announced.
How Inchworm could disappear from the Appalachian Trail without leaving so much as a scrap of evidence is bewildering.
Something happened to her along the Trail.
A year later we are clueless.
But we have not forgotten Geraldine “Gerry” Largay — Inchworm. Nor will we.
There will be a day when a simple clue will surface that will lead to another clue and to another.
We will solve this mystery. It’s just a matter of time.
If you believe you can help, please contact the Maine Warden Service Public Safety Dispatch Center in Augusta at 207-624-7076. There is a toll-free number when calling within Maine: 800-452-4664.
Don’t give up. Gerry is a member of the Appalachian Trail family.
We don’t leave family behind on the Trail.