CARRABASSETT VALLEY – The search for missing hiker Geraldine Largay, 66, will be “extensively scaled back,” the Maine Warden Service announced Sunday night after a narrowed search of 4.2 square miles of rough, mountainous terrain gave no answers.

“At the conclusion of today’s search efforts there was no new attributing evidence or information found as to Geraldine’s location,” Cpl. John MacDonald said in a news release issued at 8 p.m. Sunday.

MacDonald said Sunday’s search by 115 volunteers — including wardens, dog teams, trained foot searchers and searchers on horseback — was concentrated in an area between Lone Mountain and Mount Abram.

“This search area was established based on several pieces of information gathered from hikers,” he said in the release.

He said wardens will continue to investigate all leads.

At a news conference Sunday morning, warden service Lt. Kevin Adam said, “There is no easy way to do this. … It is very frustrating to leave the family in limbo. We don’t ever like to do that.”

The hiker from Brentwood, Tenn., was last seen July 23. Her husband, George Largay, said that she did not make it to a scheduled supply dropoff July 24 on the Appalachian Trail.

Sunday’s search was in an area called Barjum. It was the first day that searchers used a grid search rather than a hasty search.

In a hasty search, searchers quickly move along features such as trails, roads, streams and other natural paths where a lost person would be likely to be found, Adam said.

A grid search, which requires more time and resources, involves a nearly shoulder-to-shoulder walk of the area along a grid map laid out by GPS. Everything is thoroughly searched, including bush and brush, he said.

Challenges included rocky terrain and cliff-like dropoffs where Adam said Largay could have fallen, especially in the dark. The warden service had put out a call for more experienced searchers — those certified by the Maine Association of Search and Rescue — late last week because of the landscape.

Largay was last seen at the Spaulding Mountain lean-to July 23. Her husband reported her missing around 1:15 p.m. the next day.

Wardens on Sunday were still collecting physical and anecdotal evidence that could offer a clue. Adam said they collected plastic bags, shoes and walking poles from the trail to show Largay’s family — but none of them belong to her.

“The investigative side has gotten us everything that we have so far. It’s shortened up the area where she might be, it’s given us sightings and we’re going to continue with that. There are still people we haven’t talked to on the trail,” Adam said.

On Sunday, Adam said the 7-mile stretch of trail Largay was attempting to hike at the time she disappeared, from Poplar Ridge to Spaulding Mountain, was “well within her range of being able to do.”

He said it is rare for an Appalachian Trail hiker to be lost as long as Largay has been gone, and that 98 percent of those missing from the trail are found within 48 hours. Some of the remaining 2 percent are drowning victims.

Crime reported on the Appalachian Trail in Maine is rare, he said, yet wardens are not ruling out the possibility of foul play.

Largay began her hike of the northern half of the 2,200-mile trail in April in West Virginia. She had gone about 950 miles and was about 200 miles from the trail’s northern end when she disappeared.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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