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A major Maine — and national — mystery

 Appalachian Trail disappearance
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  August 9, 2013

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JUST SOUTHWEST OF SUGARLOAF The area in which Geraldine Largay was last seen is near Lone Mountain. The AT is in red.  

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MISSING Geraldine Largay

Geraldine Largay, 66, an experienced hiker on the Appalachian Trail, left the Poplar Ridge Lean-to shelter near Rangeley on Monday, July 22, a beautiful, sunny day. She checked in with her husband via text message as she headed toward the Spaulding Mountain Lean-to, eight miles north. She had already hiked from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, almost 1000 miles, with her final destination the AT terminus at Katahdin.

Three young men hiking south on the trail remembered seeing her that afternoon near Lone Mountain, about three miles from the Spaulding shelter. To them, Largay — a longtime Georgia resident who recently moved to Tennessee and whose trail name was Inchworm — seemed fine.

Then she vanished. Hikers who went through that section of the trail later that day did not see her, the Maine Warden Service said. Hikers who stayed at the Spaulding lean-to told wardens she didn’t stay there Monday or Tuesday night.

On Tuesday night, Gerry’s husband, George Largay, waited to meet her at the parking lot at the Wyman Township trailhead, on Route 27 near the Sugarloaf ski resort. Staying in motels, he was paralleling her route by car and resupplying her. In an interview, he said he enjoyed hiking but didn’t like camping out.

When Gerry didn’t turn up, George said, he assumed that because it was “pouring buckets”— and the distance from the Spaulding lean-to was 13.5 miles — she had decided to camp out. He spent Tuesday night waiting for her in his car. He had last heard from her in that Monday-morning text message.

On Wednesday, July 24, when Gerry didn’t show up by late morning, George reported her missing to the Carrabassett Valley police. The warden service, the state agency that oversees law enforcement and search and rescue in Maine’s vast wild lands, was soon notified.

Thereupon began one of Maine’s largest missing-person searches in memory. Over 11 days it involved hundreds of people on foot and on ATVs and horseback, a helicopter, and airplanes. It ended with a fine-tooth-comb “grid” search in the Lone Mountain area on Sunday, August 4, by 115 trained search-and-rescue personnel and nine search dogs.

Gerry Largay was not found. The night of the 4th, the warden service announced that, for now, it had done what it could in terms of large-scale searching. Henceforth, it would only follow new leads.

The “mystery woman”
One lead the warden service had already investigated appeared not long after Gerry was reported missing on July 24:  a person her husband George referred to in the interview as “the mystery woman.”

That evening, Sue Critchlow, who runs the Stratton Motel — about five miles from the AT in the village of Stratton — received a phone call, she said, from a woman who told her that she wanted to get word to George Largay that his wife would be late in meeting him. Critchlow’s motel includes an inexpensive hikers’ bunkhouse.

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