Missing Hiker Geraldine Largay’s Official Medical Examiner Report

Written by Robert Sutherland on 2nd February 2016

May we always remember Geraldine "Inchworm Largay" smiling and happy on the final trail of her life.

May we always remember “Inchworm” — Geraldine Largay — smiling and happy on the final trail of her life.

“They say” nothing is more psychologically devastating than the death of a spouse or child.  It’s weird how we can mourn the death of people we’ve never met … or even heard of before something happened to them.  Such is the case of Appalachian Trail hiker, Geraldine Largay, who went missing from the Trail in Maine on a rainy day in July, 2013.

As news spread, searchers gathered and scoured all along the Trail.  Some worriers worried she slipped down a slippery ledge or was washed away in a swollen stream or was kidnapped by strangers or murdered by some marauder.

A big part of the mystery of Geraldine “Inchworm” Largay’s disappearance was better understood on October 15, 2015, when a surveyor stumbled upon her remains.

Click Here for Discovery of Geraldine Largay’s Remains

As one of many writers who cover the Appalachian Trail for websites or news organizations, I have personally followed the tale from its inception.  On many occasions, I have had personal contact with the officials who led the organized efforts to locate Inchworm.  In addition, I have had direct contact with unofficial but concerned hikers who organized searches before Geraldine was located.  Recently, I have read insinuations from pseudo-investigative writers who believe that I, among others, have been deceived or that I/we are part of a plot to cover up some twisted perversion of the facts that have become known over the years.  That is libelous nonsense.

Should you desire to read the State of Maine’s Medical Examiner’s report on the death of Geraldine Largay, please click on the link below.  Here, however, are a few facts:

  • No foul play was suspected regarding her death.
  • The cause of death was “inanition” — exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment.
  • Evidence showed she died in her sleeping bag, inside the tent.  However, her remains were subsequently strewn around the immediate area by animals.
  • Each bone found at the scene was examined and showed no signs of “perimortem” trauma [at or near the time of death].  Trauma to the bones was the result of scavenging animals.

Geraldine went off trail in a storm.  We don’t know why.  She pitched her tent in a small clearing on a knoll.  She passed away in her sleeping bag, inside the tent.

No matter how we surmise her demise, one thing is certain.  We miss Inchworm.  We grew to love her.  We shared her plight.  For many of us, she will be remembered each time we walk in the woods.

We will not forget Inchworm nor the hundreds of kind individuals who tried to rescue her before it was too late.

Medical Examiner Report for Geraldine Largay — Lost and Found on the Appalachian Trail


What do you think about "Missing Hiker Geraldine Largay’s Official Medical Examiner Report"? Let us know ...

  • john_c47

    I wonder how far off trail she was. It might be good to consider what can be learned from this because in therory it could happen to anyone, right? How she was provisioned? Should one carry extra food/water? Have an electronic signal device/phone/spare batteries? Have a tent that’s bright enough to be seen from a distance? Carry a map and compass? I’d like to hear from experienced thru-hikers.

  • Charlton Vaughan

    Thank you so much for keeping us informed. Knowing how she passed on is better than imagining all that we humans can imagine otherwise I think. We can always continue asking any numerous amount of questions but I feel it’s better to leave it be since we will never know every intimate detail of her moments on the trail. It’s also great that her husband and family can now have closure. As far as being even more prepared by knowing more, sometimes attempting to second guess what may happen on the trail, as with any of our journeys in life, can be counter productive to simply enjoying the hike. Humans are frail creatures, as fit as we may be, sometimes our bodies just fail. Anyone who has hiked any amount of hikes or done adventures out in nature can attest that at the end of the day, your body is exhausted. I sometimes, for a brief second, know that at any given moment I could have a heart attack, suffer an aneurysm, etc. I’ve worked in the medical field while in the military, flown as a medical staff on medivac missions etc, things happen. One prepares for certain things, it’s not being morbid, it’s just being prepared. Being prepared for a possible plane crash, emergency landing, how to take care of patients health emergencies inflight etc. Like wise on the trail. You will never be able to prepare for everything. But you can be prepared for the normal issues on the trail. We are not in control of everything. So try not to worry about what you can’t control within reason and enjoy the trail. I didn’t know Geraldine Largay but I feel, through reading about her, that she enjoyed doing what she was doing. To honor her, we should be following her example, and do the same through living life with joy in our step to the very end.

  • ocarol500

    I will comment, since I was on the Trail hiking a couple days behind her … at least for five days until my knees went out.

    We can only speculate, so that’s all we’re doing, trying to comfort our minds.
    Gerry had enough food to last until she got to the road crossing to meet her husband. Maybe she had a day or two beyond the expected meeting date. When she got lost in the rain, got turned around, maybe ran out of water (?) and ended up downhill from the Appalachian Trail, any number of things could have clouded her judgment, including a Medical Incident.

    She didn’t know exactly where she was. She had no cell service (I know, I know, but in the modern age, I think all these wonderful wilderness areas need to reconsider their policies. You all probably disagree, and that’s fine, but eventually the entire globe will have cell service.) She and her husband opted not to carry a Spot or a Sat-Phone. She probably expected someone to come looking for her in a day or two and could have rationed her food. She did have water nearby. Weather, iirc, was wet, probably cold. She sets up in her tent to warm up and wait for help to arrive. She has no knowledge that she’s in a “restricted” area. Possibly she is unaware that she’ll be harder to find if she’s inside a sleeping bag and inside a tent, under the canopy of the trees, but where else does one warm up and keep dry? Nearly all of us might do exactly the same.

    Although she is stated to be an experienced hiker, she was not a survivalist. Assuming no Medical Incident, there are things a survivalist would consider doing to make her rescue easier.
    > She could have torn up or cut up articles of clothing into strips and because she didn’t know where she was, walk out from her camp in all directions (staying in sight of camp or blazing a trail to get back to camp) and she could have tied the strips of cloth to trees or tree branches so they could be seen (even if search dogs could not catch a scent).
    > She could have gathered low (dry) branches and kept them in her tent to create a fire after the rain stopped in order to signal her position.
    > She could have cooked a tea from pine needles for minimal nutrition and warmth/hydration.
    There are of course other things, had she known, she might have done.

    Which is why the speculation about a Medical Incident may well be more accurate than others. There are as many scenarios and what ifs and maybes as there are hikers trying to find comfort from this very unfortunate and sad situation. Personally, I did some research on Survival Techniques after she was reported as Lost. I was hoping that somehow she’d walk out of the woods and get back on the Trail. I’m sorry she did not. But I am thankful that her remains were found and that now the family can have the real closure, though it brings all the sorrow back into their lives.

    I pray that her family is able to find comfort in the knowledge that she is no longer lost somewhere in Maine.

    And may I suggest that we all learn a few survival skills to add to our backpacking skills.
    Backpacking is more than just putting one foot in front of the other and following the blazes.

    Peace to everyone.