Geraldine Largay, 66, of Brentwood, Tennessee, was last seen one year ago on July 22, hiking the Appalachian Trail in Wyman Township in Franklin County.

Ever since then, her husband of 42 years, George Largay, and other family members have waited for news as the search for her – at first urgent, then methodical, then intermittent – continues.

Two weeks after she disappeared into the Maine woods without a trace, as the chances of finding her alive diminished, Maine Warden Service Lt. Kevin Adam said it was frustrating to “leave the family in limbo.”

The uncertainty has now lasted a year.

Two million to 3 million people enter the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine, every year, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. That includes about 1,800 to 2,000 people who try to “thru-hike,” or hike the entire trail in less than 12 months.

Hikers get lost regularly in Maine, especially on the more remote stretches of the Appalachian Trail. Maine sees an average of 28 such cases every year, Adam said.


But 95 percent of those are found within 12 hours; most of the rest are located within the first two days. Just 2 percent remain missing after two days of searching, and most of those are drowning victims, their bodies to be eventually recovered by divers.

Adam said it is extremely rare for a person to be missing on the land for an extended period of time, in part because searchers are very thorough in covering the ground of the search area. While the region’s rugged terrain, which includes steep ascents, thick brush and treacherous networks of rocks, slowed initial search efforts, it doesn’t fully explain why Largay hasn’t been found.

Police have also considered the possibility that Largay is not in the search area at all – that she was abducted and removed from the trail, or left of her own free will to start up a new life for herself, perhaps far away.

“There’s just nothing there right now to say there was any criminal activity involved with her disappearance,” Adam said. “Is there a chance? Yes, but it’s just as much a chance that she planned this and she’s living in Florida right now, that she was squirreling away money and just planned to disappear.”

But Adam said investigators have concluded that the chances of such a scenario are very small.

“If I didn’t think she was in the search area, I wouldn’t be out there,” he said.


David Fox, a friend of and spokesman for the family, said George Largay, who is moving to a new home in Brentwood, and the rest of the family continue to grapple with the emotional weight of what happened.

“This is a rough stretch for him, on the anniversary,” Fox said. “They are really kind of holding each other close, and really relying on their faith right now.”

Fox said he attended the memorial service held for Largay in October. “That service was such a celebration of her life and their family’s relationship,” he said.

But even during the service, he said, the questions about what happened were ever-present.

“I think there’s always going to be a sense that we don’t know what happened, so closure, as close as we can get to it, is good,” he said. “But you know it’s still not final, and that is always there.”

It’s been 16 months since April 2013, when a smiling and bespectacled Largay set off on a grand adventure, aiming to hike the northern 1,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail.


She was last seen by a southbound hiker a year ago, just 200 miles from her goal, between the trail’s Spaulding Mountain and Poplar Ridge lean-tos.

It’s been 11 months since the initial searches organized by the Maine Warden Service began to tail off, and 10 months since the family put up a $15,000 reward in the hope someone would come forward with information. Three months ago, aircraft once again began flying over the area, hoping the leafless trees would reveal some previously unnoticed sign.

Two months ago, the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association assembled a team of experienced hikers to scour a section of the search area on Crocker Mountain. One month ago, the Maine Warden Service resumed an active ground search, though it didn’t specify why.

Throughout the process, Fox said, a strong bond has formed between the Largay family and the members of the warden service who have not given up their efforts to find an answer.

Adam said he continues to work the search in the hopes that he will one day deploy the right resource – plane, dog, or ground searcher – into the right place.

Fox said searchers and family members are bound by a shared desire for answers.


“I think about it at odd times in the morning,” Adam said. “My kids ask me about it. My nieces and nephews ask me about it.”

Adam said the intimacy of the relationship is natural, given that he had many hours of conversations with George Largay and other family members during the first week of the search.

“When you have those crucial conversations with people, you come to grow close to them,” he said. “There is motivation there, to want to end this for them and to return their loved one. She’s still in our minds and our thoughts.”

Largay’s friends, too, have kept her memory alive.

Jane Lee said in an email on Friday that she had just finished walking a portion of the trail to its northernmost point at Mount Katahdin, to “finish Gerry’s hike.”

“She so wanted to reach and see Mount Katahdin,” Lee wrote. “I hope she knows that I brought her memories to the top.”

Rachael Ohm contributed to this story.


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