August 4, 2013

Appalachian Trail has plenty of perils

Maine has some of the most difficult sections, but there is no explanation yet for a hiker who went missing.

By Michael Shepherd
Staff Writer

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Potteiger said hikers who haven't hiked the northern part of the trail often struggle to prepare for the steep climbs of Maine. While the southern half has steep elevation gains, climbs are more gradual. On that half, there aren't many climbs like the ridge over the Carrabassett River.

The trail in Maine is "rough in a sustained way," Potteiger said. "Rock climbs are rare on the southern half of the trail and they don't last as long."

The trail is also narrowly cut in western Maine. A two-mile area along a ridge connecting Spaulding and Sugarloaf is so difficult it was the last part of the trail to be blazed, in 1937 by a six-person crew from the Civilian Conservation Corps.

"Soils are so thin that they just don't lend themselves well to the kind of trail-building techniques that can be used in other places," Potteiger said. That means conditions in Maine can be slipperier, rockier and more treacherous for hikers who aren't experienced with that kind of terrain.

"Whatever your skill level is, there's a degree of luck involved," he said, "because you're going to fall."


Like the wardens, those familiar with the trail are surprised by the search's length without results, good or bad.

"People just don't go missing on the trail this way," Potteiger said. "It's well-traveled and generally well-marked in the prime hiking season."

Wardens haven't ruled out foul play in Largay's case, but they have said it is likely that she got off the trail herself and got lost. Before they find her, they can't speculate much. But Adam has said foul play on the trail is rare, and hikers say danger barely crosses their mind. Wardens have swept the trail for Largay, to no avail. All that has made the hiking community rally for the best possible outcome.

Wardens have said many have volunteered to search for Largay. Wednesday, they put out a call for searchers with Maine Association of Search and Rescue certification. The Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel have received emails about the search from as far away as Georgia and Tennessee.

"We're all praying for her," Stetson said. "It's just bizarre."

Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at:


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