‘When you find my body, please call my husband,’ missing hiker wrote
The haunting note, dated Aug. 6, 2013, was written on a torn-out page from a journal.
“When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me — no matter how many years from now. Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them.”
The bag included a cellphone and the journal.
Geraldine Largay wrote the plaintive message to her family nearly two weeks after she went missing while hiking the Appalachian Trail in Western Maine, according to the official file on her disappearance released Wednesday by the Maine Warden Service.
It appears that Largay, who was 66 and lived in Tennessee, survived for nearly four weeks after she was reported missing and three weeks after authorities had given up the search, which was one of the largest in Maine Warden Service history.
Rescuers at several times came within 100 yards of her, authorities said. But her body was not found until October 2015.
In the wardens’ file, which totals 1,579 pages, authorities said they believed that Largay went off the trail to use the bathroom and couldn’t find her way back. The site is densely wooded and in an area so remote it’s used by the Navy for survival and evasion training.
The file also says wardens found evidence that Largay attempted to text her husband after becoming lost, but the crucial texts were not delivered because of poor cell reception.
In a text sent at 11:01 a.m. on July 22, 2013, Largay said, “In somm trouble. Got off trail to go to br. Now lost. Can u call AMC to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of woods road. XOX.”
At 4:18 p.m. on July 23, 2013, after spending her first night lost in the forest, she texted George, “Lost since yesterday. Off trail 3 or 4 miles. Call police for what to do pls. XOX.”
She attempted additional texts. According to the wardens, the last activity on her phone was dated Aug. 6, 2013, the day she wrote the note to her family.
The last entry in her journal is dated Aug. 18, meaning she apparently survived at least 26 days after she disappeared.
The wardens concluded that Largay made her way to higher ground in an attempt to get better cell coverage. She established a campground on a knoll.
She set up her tent and made use of both her rain gear and an emergency Mylar blanket.
She appeared to have crafted a flag out of a branch and shirt and attempted to start a large fire, according to the newly released file, presumably to reveal her location.
Largay built a latrine area away from her tent and kept wrappers from her dwindling food supply — Clif bars, tuna fish packs, and Gatorade powder — tucked in a large Ziploc bag.
Wardens found a rosary among her possessions. She was just a 10-minute walk from a dirt trail that turns into a road. She died from a lack of food and environmental exposure.
Largay’s family requested privacy Wednesday while they took the time to read the file in depth.
John MacDonald, spokesman for the warden service, said Wednesday that the agency is drafting a statement regarding the release of the file that will be issued at a later date.
He also said no internal review of the warden’s search has been conducted or is planned at this time.
Deb Palman, who established the wardens’ K-9 search unit and currently heads up Maine’s only independent K-9 search firm, says conditions in the area made a successful search all but impossible.
“This is some of the worst country in Maine,” Palman said. “It’s hard to understand how logistically difficult this area was. On any given day, by the time a searcher would get close to where Largay was found, they’d have to turn around to make it back to their vehicles by nightfall.”
The release of the file is the latest chapter in the disappearance that has transfixed the region and the large community of hikers who traverse the Appalachian Trail.
Largay, an experienced hiker whose trail moniker was “Inchworm,” had started hiking the trail in April 2013 with her hiking partner, Jane Lee.
Their plan was to hike from Harpers Ferry, W. Va., to Maine’s Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the trail.
A family emergency forced Lee to leave the trail as the duo crossed into New Hampshire. Largay continued to hike solo. An old back injury prevented her from carrying a full backpack, so her husband would meet her along the way with fresh supplies.
George Largay last saw his wife on the morning of Sunday, July 21.
On that day, Geraldine Largay set out on what was to be a three-day hike beginning near Maine’s Saddleback Mountain and terminating just north of the Sugarloaf Ski Resort.
She was due to meet her husband at a parking lot off Route 27 there.
He arrived at the appointed time but was not able to locate Largay. Thinking that a severe rainstorm the day before might have waylaid her, he spent that night in their vehicle, hoping she would arrive.
The next morning, he hailed a State Police officer driving by and reported her missing.
According to the file, Largay established a campsite atop a knoll located on property owned by the Navy as part of their Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape school located there. She would stay there for the remaining days of her life.
The site, located near a stream, was thoughtful and orderly.
Largay built a platform of logs and pine boughs on which to pitch her tent.
While at the site, she also used a small black composition book as a daily journal. The cover of the journal includes what might have been Largay’s last written words: “George please read. Xoxo.”