July 29, 2013

Maine search for missing hiker narrowed; wardens say time running out

'We certainly hope for the best, but as each day goes by the worry gets greater' over finding Geraldine Largay, 66, of Tennessee, alive, says Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service.

By Jesse Scardina jscardina@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — The search for a missing Tennessee woman hiking the Appalachian Trail has been narrowed as it enters its seventh day, the Maine Warden Service said today.

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This photo taken Saturday, July 20 in Sandy River Plantation at the intersection of Route 4 shows Geraldine Largay in her black rain jacket which she would likely have been wearing in the rain on Tuesday, July 23.

Contributed photo via the Maine Warden Service.

click image to enlarge

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The search area that is more likely to include Geraldine Largay, 66, includes a nine-mile section between Lone Mountain and north to Caribou Pond Road, also known as Caribou Valley Road, in the Stratton area. The road intersects the Appalachian Trail.

Largay, of Brentwood, Tenn., was last seen on July 22. The search has been centered on a 14-mile section of the trail between Lone Mountain and Mount Abram Township and north of Route 27 in Wyman Township.

Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service said about 30 people and a dog unit will continue the search for Largay. The large area involved and the topography of the land, however, make it extremely difficult to conduct the search.

"The elevation change is dramatic, thousands of feet in some spots that turn into thick woods," he said. "When you go to the land, you quickly realize the magnitude of the area."

The search area south of Route 27 in Rangeley for the past week, before it was narrowed, was more than 81 square miles.

MacDonald said that while Largay is an experienced hiker, time is not on her side.

"We certainly hope for the best, but as each day goes by the worry gets greater," he said.

MacDonald said because of the vast, mountainous area and with no clear information as to where she is, the search is "probably as difficult as it might get."

While MacDonald said search crews continue to work with hikers on the trail, no contact has been made with a hiker who said she saw Largay last Tuesday night.

The Maine Warden Service said the female hiker, whose name they don't know, called the Stratton Motel, where Largay's husband George was staying, and said that she was traveling in the opposite direction as Largay and they both spent last Tuesday night the Spaulding Mountain lean-to.

"We get small bits of information here and there that we need to corroborate, which may or may not help us," MacDonald said.

MacDonald said the main objective today was to continue filling holes in the search area. He described those holes as countless.

He said there are "many opportunities to get off a trail." Aerial search wouldn't be used today because of unclear conditions.

Largay began hiking the Appalachian Trail in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., in April and had traveled about 950 miles before she disappeared.

Her husband had been following her progress to the end of the trail — the summit of Mount Katahdin about 200 miles away from where she was last seen — and they'd been communicating via text message.

On Sunday, July 21, Largay departed Sandy River Plantation near Rangeley and later texted her husband that she was on top of Saddleback Mountain. Largay sent a text to her husband Monday, July 22, at 7:15 a.m., and planned to meet him in Wyman Township the next day, about seven miles away, but never arrived.

Largay is 5-feet, 5-inches tall, weighs 115 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a black pullover shirt, tan pants, a blue hat and carrying a green-and-black backpack. Wardens speculate she may have been wearing a black raincoat Tuesday, when it was raining heavily out.

Late last week, George Largay told Portland television station WCSH, that if lost, his wife would "use a lot of common sense to give herself the best chance of getting rescued," and he would "call in the cavalry and throw in everything, including the kitchen sink, to find her in one piece."

Police ask anyone with information about Largay to call the Public Safety Dispatch Center in Augusta at 800-452-4664.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

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Additional Photos

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Geraldine Largay

Contributed photo via Maine Warden Service

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Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service goes over the route of the agency's search today for Geraldine Largay, 66, of Tennessee, who went missing on the Appalachian Trail between Rangeley and Wyman Township last week.

Staff photo by Michael Shepherd


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