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Appalachian Trail Hiker Found Dead Two Years Later...

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  • Appalachian Trail Hiker Found Dead Two Years Later...

    A 66-year-old hiker who was found dead two years after she went missing on the Appalachian Trail kept a journal of her ordeal after getting lost in the wilderness.

    Another reminder that simple simple light weight tools, knowledge of how to use them and an abundance of calm can (generally) save us.

  • #2
    Not that it will help her, but if you have no idea where you are the best way to get back to civilization is to follow water downstream and switch to roads when you find them. This strategy would likely have saved her.


    • #3
      And also, if you leave the trail looking for a place to poop, remember how to get back.
      46er #9404


      • #4

        Her remains were found inside her sleeping bag which, from appearances, was dragged out of her tent (by scavengers). Stains on the tent floor indicate she died and decomposed while in her tent. Medical examiner concluded death was due to "inanition" (wasted away).

        She allegedly had a poor sense of direction. She strayed off-trail and followed an old (grown-in) logging road. She pitched her tent near the road and eventually died there.

        One can invent any number of plausible explanations for her predicament. Here's a simple one:
        Realizing she was off-trail, she setup camp, to wake up fresh the next morning in order to backtrack along the road she had followed. Except she had a stroke during the night and was rendered unable to care for herself. She wasted away in her sleeping bag.
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        • #5
          Trail Boss I believe she was in the woods for *weeks* before she finally succumbed to starvation. And apparently at no point was she more than 10 miles away from civilization.

          Whatever happened, it's just sad.


          • #6
            I imagine the medical examiner could make an educated guess as to how long an elderly but reasonably fit woman could live without eating. Whether one week or five, she died of malnutrition in her sleeping bag. As for my hypothetical scenario, if neurological trauma renders you paralyzed then 10 miles becomes 10 light-years. You're unable to move to get yourself "unlost', unable to feed yourself to stay alive, unable to respond to rescuers' calls.

            I agree with you; whatever actually happened, the end-result is very sad.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by All Downhill From Here View Post
              And also, if you leave the trail looking for a place to poop, remember how to get back.
              My little trick is to hang my trekking poles from a branch next to the trail and always keep them in my line of sight. I'll turn around 3, or 4, or 5 times as I walk off-trail to make sure I can still see them. It's a good way to keep an exact eye on the direction you came from. Probably a bit paranoid but better than wandering around lost as a result of a few seconds of inattention.


              • #8
                More details that are just incredible...

                * Owned a hearing aid but didn't have it with her. Maybe she would have heard the searchers when they were within a 100 yards of her.

                * Also had a SPOT device but left it in her last hotel room.

                * Did NOT know how to use her compass.



                • Yury
                  Yury commented
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                • JeffreyH
                  JeffreyH commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Wow, that's really unfortunate!

              • #9
                When they found her remains last fall (October 2015) their was a rumor that they also found her journal. The authorities did not confirm it. Now they have. Based on what has been revealed, it would appear her predicament was rooted in that other plausible scenario, becoming lost, staying put, and waiting for rescue. And waiting. And waiting.

                Text messages sent to her husband confirm she walked off-trail for a bio-break and then couldn't find her way back. She walked uphill, ostensibly in search of better cell reception. She pitched camp and stayed there until she expired. Very sad.

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                • #10
                  Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
                  Based on what has been revealed, it would appear her predicament was rooted in that other plausible scenario, becoming lost, staying put, and waiting for rescue. And waiting. And waiting.
                  Wasn't there a story in "At the Mercy of the Mountains" about the guy hiking the NPT who got lost and after trying to self-rescue ended up sitting in one place for weeks on end? Can't remember the exact details but perhaps a similar situation to this one.


                  • #11
                    Chapter 11. David Boomhower. Based on his journal, he stayed put for more than a month before he died. Chapter closes with a comment that he was six miles from a ranger station.

                    These two cases underline the importance of acquiring basic navigational skills. Both Boomhower and Largay were no strangers to hiking. Yet neither could do more than sit in place and wait, forever.

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                    • #12
                      I found this link while skimming the Gerry Largay thread on It's an excerpt of the Largay report created by the Maine Warden's department.
                      • Reported coordinates of her location (converted into decimal degrees): 44.983517 -70.40165
                      • Satellite imagery:
                      • Caltopo's MapBuilder layer depicting trails:
                        (Switch the Base Layer to "USGS 7.5' Topos" to see old roads and the original route of the Appalachian Trail.)

                      Her location was less than a half-mile north of Railroad Road. According to the report, she had a paper map and a keychain compass. Full inventory is listed at the end of the report.

                      The Maine Warden Service led the family back to the spot where Geraldine Largay was found. After paying their final respects, they left the site and were led south to the road. For me, this was the saddest part of this tragedy and here's why:

                      After clearing the campsite, we headed south. It was thick for the first 60-70 yards and then became open hardwoods with good visibility in all directions. It was steep but walking down hill was easy. After walking about 20-25 minutes we came to a clear logging road and followed that and came to the Old RR Bed. in total we had walked about 30 minutes.

                      Once on the Old RR Bed we walked back towards the Appalachian Trail and then continued to our vehicle location.
                      She had:
                      • a map
                      • a tiny compass (that could minimally indicate the cardinal points)
                      • knowledge she was on a slope (she had walked uphill)
                      • knowledge she was north of the trail (based on a text message she sent her husband)

                      The only thing she lacked was the skill to put the puzzle pieces together. Walk southwest and in under an hour you will intersect a road (or follow the drainage). Turn left and follow the road to the AT.

                      RIP Inchworm. Perhaps your story will motivate others to learn how to navigate in the woods.

                      Caltopo Mapbuilder

                      Caltopo Mapbuilder+USGS

                      Last edited by Trail Boss; 05-29-2016, 12:28 PM.
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                      • Makwa
                        Makwa commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Wow. Sad indeed. I think it may have been you Trail Boss that once posted on the forum something to the effect that you should be able to roughly locate yourself on a map of the area you're hiking in within a quarter or half mile or so at most just by remaining aware of your surroundings and paying attention to things like trail junctions, water crossings, landmarks, terrain features, etc. Forgive me if it was somebody else or I have somehow warped the meaning of what was originally posted but doing something as simple as being able to place yourself on the map every so often, especially when hiking solo, could save you if you got lost. Or maybe it isn't so simple. But it's certainly a skill every hiker should possess.

                    • #13
                      She didn't need a compass. Even a child knows the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Combined with a look at the map, she should have been able to head in a productive direction. In the first several days she should have been able to find her way out.

                      With a source of potable water, I am surprised she could not have survived longer without food.

                      Many people in her situation and with weeks to think about it, would have been able to find the way out. She didn't. Sad.


                      • #14
                        Sounds alarming similar to the Hua Davis tragedy this past winter.

                        ADK 46r #8003; 6W
                        2nd round: 16
                        SL6r #596
                        Catskill 3500 21/39; 11W


                        • #15
                          This article was posted last October when her remains were discovered. It contains an image I can't post here due to copyright. The image shows the SAR's cumulative tracklogs. One can imagine their frustration because one track passes within a reported 100 yards of her final resting place.


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