Remains discovered this week in western Maine are likely the bones of a Tennessee hiker missing for more than two years, the Maine Wardens Service said Friday.
Geraldine Largay, 66, of Brentwood, Tenn., last was seen on the morning of July 22, 2013, at the Poplar Ridge lean-to along the Appalachian Trail about 100 miles north of Portland, Maine. Largay's family had said she planned to hike to meet her husband at the spot where the trail crossed Maine 27 about 8 miles to the north in Mount Abram Township, but she never arrived.
The skeletal remains found Wednesday have been sent to the state Medical Examiner's Office in Augusta for identification, but because of the location of the bones and clothing and other belongings gathered at the scene, officials are confident that Largay died there, Cpl. John MacDonald said.
A forester doing contract work found the remains on U.S. Navy land in a wooded area in this remote township about 3,000 yards from the Appalachian Trail. The remains are being examined to determine a cause of death, but investigators do not believe that foul play was involved.
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"It appears she got off the trail somewhere and went into that area and that's where she was located," said Lt. Kevin Adams, who headed the search team.
Largay had been hiking along the Appalachian Trail since spring, starting her more than 900-mile journey April 23, 2013, at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., with a final destination of Baxter State Park in Millinocket, Maine. On the morning of July 22, she had texted her husband to confirm that they would meet the next day so she could get more supplies.
Geraldine Largay, 66, of Brentwood, Tenn., had been
Geraldine Largay, 66, of Brentwood, Tenn., had been missing since July 22, 2013. (Photo: Courtesy of family)
George Largay had said she was well prepared for the arduous hike and it had been on her bucket list; he and his family asked for time Friday to come to terms with the new information before making any public statements. Geraldine Largay had read books about hiking the Appalachian Trail and planned meticulously.
“She loved camping. She loved outdoors,” George Largay said in an August 2013 interview. “The ultimate hike for someone who really loves hiking as she does is the Appalachian Trail.”
When she did not show up at their agreed-upon place, he notified authorities. About 130 people — some with dogs, horses and ATVs — searched the mountains for 10 days. Authorities focused on a rugged 14-mile section of the trail in the Carrabassett Valley region with thick brush, side paths and steep drops.
Torrential rains fell the last day she was seen, and rescuers at the time were concerned that she might have had difficulty at the Carrabassett River crossing beyond the lean-to, according to the Kennebec (Maine) Journal.
Despite the tragic circumstances, George Largay said two years ago that he wanted his wife's life to serve as an inspiration to others.
"She would want this to help inspire somebody who's maybe on the sidelines and never thought about doing something like this at age 66, almost 67, to not hold back, just to really go for it," he said. "She embraced life, and she would want anyone who reads about this to — that this would serve as a reason to do it, or to do something else that they were thinking about, versus to sit on the sidelines and play (it) safe."
Volunteers searched again for Geraldine Largay in May 2014 with no results.
George Largay also said he continued to find inspiration in his wife's memory and wanted to find ways to keep her always in his thoughts.
"She was where she wanted to be," he said. "That's easier said than done when you've been happily married for 42 years and had visions of it being a lot longer than that. But she was following the dream, and I have to go with that."