Thursday, August 08, 2013

Thoughts on a Hiker Who has Vanished

Like so many fellow hikers, I am sick to hear of what happened to “Inchworm” Geraldine Largay along the Appalachian Trail in Maine. She has been missing since July 24. What is so disturbing is the fact that there is no trace of her anywhere. At least on or near the Appalachian Trail or the boundary of it in Maine between Popular Ridge Shelter and Spaulding Mountain Shelter. She, like so many, began her trek many months in a quest to reach Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. I’m sure she was tested beyond her capabilities. To be where she was when she vanished, she had already conquered the terrible terrain of the Whites, the Mahoosucs and the toughest mile of the AT in Mahoosuc Notch (I’ve done them twice -  once as a solo hiker and in bad weather). She was on her way north but still had some tough terrain ahead of her. 
Maine's Tough Mountains

And rain made it all the more difficult.

But what is more difficult is having a fellow hiker simply vanish without a trace. No evidence. Nothing. Like she didn’t exist.

This makes it tough for the would-be hiker ready to meet the quest of a hike on a trail. And family who worry for their loved ones.

But I have to say it is not the trail’s fault. It is not hiking the Appalachian Trail that caused this. Through circumstances we simply don’t understand yet, Inchworm decided to get off the trail between those two shelters or perhaps beyond Spaulding Shelter. Whether perhaps to find another way to meet her husband. Maybe getting off trail and lost in a patch of thick fog. Ending up on the side trail to Sugarloaf after Spaulding Mountain Shelter. Thinking she couldn’t cross the Carrabassett River, went downstream to look and ended up elsewhere. But wherever she ended up, it met with a sad conclusion, from the looks of things.

Does this mean then that we must view the AT as dangerous and deadly? Yes, there are elements of danger in all we do. But there are also ways to combat that danger through common sense and knowledge. Having good maps. Using intuition. Having the means of communication. Having first aid training and even some survival skills. Keeping safety paramount when alone and with the people we meet.

How I wish this could be brought to a good conclusion, but it’s looking more and more like it won’t.

But please, don’t give up your dreams to hike a trail because of this unfortunate incident. I believe Inchworm would never want us to stop pursuing our goals because of her. She would want us all to use what is deep within us and the God-given gifts we have to see us to the other side. And live life to the fullest. Just as she did.

Related blog: Hiking and Safety

1 comment:

marble said...

One article mentioned when hiking alone you should have a beacon that sends signals so if you slip and fall, are lost or unconscious, you can be found. Also, always sign in to the lean tos and trail heads to help the searcher you hope will never have a need to look for you.

I live in Maine and have hiked small sections of the AT. I hope to take a month to hike a good portion. Some of that alone. Gerry's story has been buried in my heart as we hoped to find her safe and back with her family.

I am happy for her that she had the strength to hike on her own and for such a great distance through tough terrain. She is a strong woman. I wish we had met and know she will walk the trail with me as I will be thinking of her.