Missing Hiker Geraldine Largay Had Survived 26 Days
On the morning of October 14, 2015, the remains of missing hiker Geraldine Largay, was found.
A contractor for the U.S. Navy ‘SERE’ program (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) was conducting a forestry survey on property owned by the U.S. Navy in Redington Township, Maine, and found the remains of the hiker who went missing on the Appalachian Trail in 2013.
According to her journal entries, Geraldine Largay, who was 66 years old on a journey through the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, got lost after leaving the trail on July 22, 2013, to relieve herself. She tried texting to her husband but the texts were never delivered.
After missing a rendezvous with her husband, George Largay, multiple massive search operations by the Maine Warden Service and other agencies eventually turned up nothing over the course of two years.
2 years later she was found 3,000 feet from the trail. The last entry in Largay’s journal was on Aug. 18, 2013.
In tribute to this tragedy, what can we learn from it to help others?
Here’s a bit more…
Some of the reported facts:
1. She was traveling with a companion hiker, but at some point the hiker had left the trail because of a family emergency.
2. Wardens concluded that Largay had made her way to higher ground to get better cellphone coverage, and established a camp on a knoll.
3. She set up a tent and made use of her rain gear and a Mylar blanket, which reflects a body’s heat and keeps a person warm.
4. When found, Largay’s tent was collapsed, and her body was inside.
5. The medical examiner determined she died of starvation and exposure.
6. She apparently had survived 26 days (journal entries).
7. The items found with her included trail staples such as toothpaste, baby powder, a first aid kit, cord twine, a pencil and pen and a paper trail map.
8. She had a cell phone, the battery was dead.
Some observations regarding the facts:
It is always highly advisable to hike with a companion. She evidently was. When the companion left the trail, could she have done anything differently to acquire another hiking partner? The thing is, the comfortable hiking speed, strengths, and interests along the way, are often different for people. So hiking in solitude along a popular well-traveled trail may seem reasonably safe and sound…
Obviously the issue began when she left the trail to relieve herself.
I can tell you that the forest up here (northern New England) can be VERY THICK with spruce trees and such, and one can become disoriented quickly. It is apparent that this is what happened (lost sense of direction back to the trail). One wonders how far in she went before stopping for ‘relief’ (maybe too far?). Maybe this is one important lesson learned – to NOT venture too far off the trail to do one’s ‘duty’.
It is unclear whether she had a compass (not all details were listed in the various news reports). One would assume she certainly would have a compass while hiking the Appalachian Trail… however if she did not have a compass (she had a map…), then this was a grave mistake. A simple map and compass (and knowing how to use them – which is not that difficult) would enable establishing a reasonable orientation to get back to the trail. So the next lesson learned – ALWAYS bring a compass (and map) of the terrain you’re hiking.
She had a cell phone (a good thing!), however in a mountainous area the cell phone coverage is often spotty or non-existent. Still, she did reach higher ground while searching for a cell phone signal. Her cell phone battery was obviously drained after being found several years later, however if she had brought a solar-powered charger, this may have increased the odds over time (beyond just several days of cell phone charge). Next lesson – if hiking a long trek (e.g. the Appalachian Trail), acquire a portable solar charger for your phone.
The Wardens concluded that her camp on higher ground was for hopeful cell phone coverage. This may likely be the case. Additionally maybe she was hoping to be spotted by search and rescue. One thing that she apparently did not do was to construct an SOS of sorts which may be visible from above. Could she have dragged and assembled some logs, branches, rocks, etc… to form an SOS – something that looks ‘out of the natural’ as seen from above? Lesson learned – if lost – think of how you may be seen from above during the aerial search.
Note: She must not have had a way to start a fire?? If she did, the smoke from a fire would have been visible from above… and the thermal signature of a fire would be seen at night.
It was determined that the cause of death was starvation and exposure. With variations, the human body will starve to death in about 4 weeks (with proper hydration). It seems that this was the primary issue. It is unclear how much food she had packed at any one time, but certainly not enough to survive a long period. Unless able (and equipped) to hunt or trap (still a difficult proposition), perhaps foraging for food may have provided some additional calories. A key factor would be foraging enough calories to stay alive (leafy greens generally do not contain too many calories). This would involve knowledge and identification of edible wilds, and there’s no guarantee of getting enough, depending on one’s geographical location.
How much food can one carry in a backpack, and to what extent would one go to carry ‘extra’ food beyond the planned trek from ‘Camp A’ to ‘Camp B’? Backpack weight is a priority concern on the trail… and in any event I certainly cannot criticize her not having 4 weeks of food in her pack! Instead I would carry ‘some’ extra beyond my expectations. It is not too terribly heavy to carry extra calories in high-density food bars for emergency rationing. But when you’re getting beyond several days to a week – it’s an entirely different thing…
Without knowing more details, I take away two major points from this tragedy.
1. Do not go far off the trail to relive one’s-self.
2. Make all efforts for search & rescue to find (see) you, and focus significant energies on such, especially during the time period when you figure they’ll be looking for you.
Any additional observations or input regarding items that should be carried (and/or knowledge) to help get you out of the predicament of becoming ‘lost’ in the forest?
Bangor Daily News
The search was covered extensively on “North Woods Law”…she had a rescue beacon that she left behind in a motel room, she was to meet her husband in a day (I think) from when she went off trail, so the search was started almost right away…also, being only about 3000 feet from the trail, one has to wonder if she had a whistle…???? I can tell you, the thick woods of Northern New England can be very east to get turned around in, especially in light of the fact that almost all of it is second growth. I have a mere ten acres and at dusk have been turned around on my own land.
Lesson: Never leave your rescue beacon behind (a great investment for those who do this sort of thing!)
Lesson: Always bring a whistle (great input Kevin)
I too can attest to being turned around up here in the north woods (happened to a few of us on my own acreage up here one night awhile back while tracking a shot bear into the night).
A tragedy without a doubt.
There can be hundreds of “what if’s” and I know nobody wants to go into all of those.
Just think “what if” she could have started one little fire. Burn down the forest if needed, just one little way to start a fire.
Very sad indeed, could not imagine the feelings of the family left behind.
I am definitely not going to arm-chair quarterback this woman. Surviving 26 days is probably more than most today could pull off in this situation, myself included. But a very good case history to learn from. It would be very hard for me to admit I was in trouble and switch into the “I need help” mode.
…and to be clear to everyone, my intent of the article is not to criticize her, but to tribute with some potential lessons for others. To turn the tragedy into a little bit of positivism that maybe, just maybe might help one other person…
And I didn’t mean to come within 20 miles of implying…
understood… – simply using the opportunity to make it clear to others (sometimes intentions are mistaken and I didn’t want to come across as demeaning her tragedy).
Could someone explain what a rescue beacon is….and where to buy one??
I don’t know from personal experience, but from what I understand, the emergency beacons are electronic devices that when activated send a signal thru the GPS satellite systems and provide something like time/date, long/latitude, and a “HELP” message. Back-country skiers use them to help with locating live and deceased people after avalanches, injuries, etc.
I believe they are available from outdoor venues of different types. Same type of system I think is available on “self-releasing” life boats on larger pleasure boats. Boat goes down, life-boat releases from cradle on deck and after inflation, activates the “EPIRB” I think it is called and calls for help. I have limited knowledge, just what I have picked up reading different things. Loclyokel
Example of Rescue Locating Beacons:
Rescue Beacons (on Amazon)
Since she had originally been traveling with a companion I would assume that maybe the companion had a compass and maybe a whistle. I can understand weight being a concern when backpacking, and maybe carrying only one item instead of each carrying their own, but still, a whistle and compass are minimal in weight as well as fire starting equipment.
I just don’t understand why people don’t carry fire making items. Even when traveling with a companion that should be one of those items that everyone carries. I think all the errors added up to cause the outcome.
A little fill in gleaned from news reports. Largay’s trail name (AT hikers use ‘aliases’ as identifiers) was “Inchworm” because of her slow pace. Her companion reported that Largay had a very poor sense of direction and she sometimes had to backtrack to find her and get her back on the trail. Largay’s strength level was low and she did not pack extensive food supplies, instead depending on frequent rendezvous with her husband for resupply. It appears that she decided to stay in one place to make it easier for rescuers to find her. If that’s the case, she made a classic mistake in a survival situation – depending on someone else to rescue you.
We all must know our limitations. I, for one, am not Rambo.
@JustAnOldGuy …that does fill in some informational gaps. Perhaps this hike was too ‘over her head’.
Potential Lesson: Know your limitations and don’t let your emotions ‘out-reason’ your critical thinking and reasoning. In other words, even though you might really, really want to do something potentially dangerous, take a critical look inward at your knowledge and abilities.
Considering her age, lack of strength, and poor sense of direction I would doubt that mentally she had the capability to realize that she should not be out on her own. Maybe that is why she was with a companion.
I know several people who should not be driving because of medical/vision or slow reaction time. They think they are fine, and until someone steps in and tells them that no they are not fine, they will continue to drive. The companion or husband maybe, should have stepped in when the companion had to leave and told her that she should return and not be on her own.
Curious where you got the notion that someone (a seasoned citizen) who gets lost by wandering off a marked hiking trail, who has people who know their route and last location less than 24 hours earlier, is “making a classic mistake” by staying put and depending on someone is rescuing them.
She rightly would have assumed that her failure to meet her husband would initiate a search. In about a week it should have been obvious to her that the search had failed. In addition from the stories I’ve read it appears that her camp had been occupied for almost all of the time she was lost.
There is some evidence that she did make some ineffective attempts to signal her location according to a story in the New York Times. Her companion hiker had left the trail on June 30th because of a family emergency so it was certainly more than 24 hours since her last location was known. Her only contacts since then were with other hikers and they would have no way of knowing that a search was on for her while they were on the trail.
Staying put for two or three days maybe even a week makes sense. Staying put for a month as all your food is consumed doesn’t if you intend to survive in this situation. She was obviously near a water source. Heading downstream might have saved her.
The value of the information published on this site is proven by frequent and varying events that we can not explain or anticipate. Prep and stay safe.
Just One simple, lightweight, quick-strike road flare can burn brightly for 30 minutes or be used to start a larger fire even with wet wood. The living do, in fact, get to second-guess and learn from the mistakes of others. I keep one in my truck and in my Walk Away Quietly WAQ-Bag.
Surviving 26 days is a great feat considering the participants on the TV show “Alone” tapped out in just a few days! She wasn’t prepared to survive, she was prepared to enjoy her adventure. Something I had dreamed of doing one day, hiking the AT.
It is ironic….look at her picture and ‘see’ the survival items she has on, (whenever that pic was taken from an earlier jaunt ?) knowing your limitations and admitting them to yourself are two things that are hard to bring together. Her journey at 26 days is a tribute to endurance and I will not be a armchair quarterback. My own experience, was at 21 when I was building a cabin the mountain in New Mexico, and suffered, and survivied a explosion that vaporized my right hand and I had to fend for myself for the next hour getting to a small town where I could receive medical help………..but that experience forever changed my life, and my passion for being prepared for the unexepected.
I’m sorry the woman died. But, why did she leave her beacon in her room? Why did she not have a compass? It also doesn’t sound like she had a very caring companion and neither of them had any business prowling around in the forest by themselves… companion or otherwise.
Since the companion apparently already knew the woman was slow and had no sense of direction, the fact that she kept walking off leaving her says what kind of mindless brainless jerk she was. The fact that her companion hiker left her out there by herself is totally irresponsible, regardless of whatever family emergency she may have had. And, regardless of how well or not they knew each other. She should have taken her with her when she left.
Were they on an actual trail? Or, were they just out in the forest walking around? If it was a worn trail, she should have taken her compass bearings before leaving the trail. Ok… I forgot… she didn’t have a compass. If it was not a worn trail then she should have either done her business behind the nearest tree or had her companion go with her. It’s really not rocket science.
When you companion up with someone to hike in the wilderness you assume a certain amount of responsibility for each others safety. This is not the “Survival” reality TV media circus where every one is competing against each other for a prize and stabs everyone else in the back. It’s not every man for himself because we are all grown ups and can take care of OURSELVES. It’s about two companions in the wilderness that need to stick together as a team and walk at the pace of the slowest one.
Two people going off into the wilderness together need to be fully apprised of the other persons weaknesses and strengths and make adjustments in their own actions accordingly. To do otherwise is asking for a whole lot of trouble. Just saying.
Agreed 100%. Isn’t this why the boy scouts and girl scouts stress the buddy system from the very beginning? This is one of the most basic rules when venturing into the backcountry. NEVER SEPERATE FROM YOUR BUDDY! If one must leave, both must leave.
My rule when out for any kind of “walk” is you only go as fast as the slowest one in the group-doesn’t matter if it’s a person or a pet.
Yes, makes so much common sense.
In this case, with her walking buddy leaving her alone, especially when walking buddy was of opinion she lacked skills/supplies, is possibly a bit fishy, or weird.
Reminds me a bit of the little boy, aged seven (a few days ago) whose parents left him in a forest well populated by bears, to return and not find him. (it was punishment for his crime of throwing rocks in a river)…
Boy still not found..
The parallel, to my mind, is no one should be left alone (unless maybe they are on a marine or such training mission, etc).
Anon, I was thinking the same thing, “in this case, with her walking buddy leaving her alone, especially when walking buddy was of opinion she lacked skills/supplies, is possibly a bit fishy, or weird”.
And that story about the little boy is horrible. Some people can be so demented. Sad.
Okay, call me a skeptic, but..
Had read about this prior, and now again, here.
Maybe she got lost, and maybe she didn’t…keeps running around in my mind..
For instance…so, she had to whiz, seriously, she is all alone, how far would she go off path? Me, maybe two feet, etc…
Started hunting around a bit. Wondered for instance, if by chance the “companion” who left her, and the “Husband” perchance hooked up after..etc etc..
Found this, in a National Post article (seems others have questions)
“In interviews with the National Post, hikers who knew Largay say that there are still unanswered questions about what happened, identifying key factors that taken together proved fatal”
“missing medication;” (she may have been directionally challenged, but most folks know to take their meds)
She was not as unskilled as I thought. “Warren Doyle, the self-styled “Yoda of the Appalachian Trail” who runs the Tennessee-based Appalachian Trail Institute, says that Geraldine Largay came to his school in 2011 when she and her husband George were contemplating the 3,500-kilometre journey across 14 U.S. states.
Largay, who was 66 at the time of her death in 2013, took his course and gradually worked her way up to attempting the full trail two years later.”
She had a “Full Pack”, and still no survival goods?
“Here is a person who had been doing 16 miles a day with a full pack,” he said.”
AND (from her experienced hiking instructor) “She had the physical ability. The only way I could see it is that her mind was just not working properly…if she was in her right mind, this would never have happened.”
“But he is nonetheless baffled that she was found so close to the trail.
“Usually people who get lost get sidetracked on the wrong trail. It seems surprising to me that with all of those people who were out looking, that she was lost so close to the trail. I have a hard time reconciling that,” he said.”
I just now read she was a retired nurse. Seems like she must have had some practical skill too, then.
This off a site called Statement Analysis.
Seems to indicate she was not the sort to “not plan”.
“With her husband, she hiked 200 miles in the Georgia and North Carolina mountains, training for harder trails ahead. She took a course at the Appalachian Trail Institute. She sought the advice of a woman who holds the record for hiking the trail in 46 days. She read seven AT books. In all, she spent 18 months in logistics and training, even weighing her food to determine how much she should carry. George was her constant, bemused fellow planner.”
The husband keeps using past tense… kinda strange after being together for so many years, I would think. She was reported missing at the end of July (a little over a month ago) and he’s given up hope already? Wonder if the police searched his car for evidence?”
Apparently the Japanese Boy (left in forest by parents), has been found,
alive and well.
This sounds too amazing to be true…7 years old, alone in a Bear Infested forest, for Seven Days…..
Anon, Ha! I just came on here to tell you the same thing and saw your message! Yeah, the whole thing is shady.
When I belonged to the Colorado Mountain Club many years ago, there was a policy that there always had to be at least 4 people in any hike. That way, if one person became sick or injured, there would be one person to stay with the injured hiker and two people to go for help.(That was before cell phones.)
One time, I became ill during a hike and had to go back. I was adamant that I would be fine to go back by myself, since I didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s hike, but they insisted that two people go back with me. At the time, I was really upset that two people had to give up their hike because I got sick.
First off, I wish to express my condolences to the surviving family members. This was a tragic loss that could have been prevented.
Having done some SAR work in my younger years (before GPS was available to the masses) I would like to share things I do and have done in back country in order to be/remain safe:
1.Sounds like an over reliance on modern technology: Communication by cellphone. If it is limited or spotty then it is unreliable and heavy. Leave it behind. She may have had a hand in harming herself by going to high ground for cell coverage as opposed to staying in a sheltered area in the trees away from the wind and rain. Two whistles (one on pack and one in pocket of parka at all times along with a wristwatch. I told my supervisors and family that if I am hurt or lost, but alive, listen for the 3 burst whistle blast at the bottom of the hour, every waking hour (that or a gunshot indicating I’ve just shot dinner).
2. Judging by the description of “Inchworm” and faulty sense of direction, I have concerns about her safety being on the trail alone. She should have left the trail with her husband though this hindsight helps nobody. If a person is hopeless with map and compass, they are followers. She belongs at Club Med.
3. Plan and equip yourself for things to go wrong: Firesteel on top of bic lighters, small pruning saw and lightweight axe or hatchet. I’m not cutting down trees. If it is thicker than my fore arm, I’ll find a smaller piece of wood. Axe can mark blaze on trees or you can stack rocks as you travel. redundancy is key.
4. Conserve your strength and work smart rather than “going for it” all the time. Just like gathering small sticks for firewood as opposed to cutting down whole trees. Pace yourself toward a goal each waking moment of every day. Set traps for food rather than hunt(trotlines and snares). My goal is to travel cross country on a diet of fish, squirrels and rabbits as opposed to dropping a deer once a week.
5. Lastly, If I am lost but in OK health status, I can be found along a lake or stream either hiking or with a line in the water. I stay away from ridges and high country whenever possible. I can be found in the treeline trying to make do.(more low tech: fishing line and hooks. All else can be improvised.)
I did this when I was working as a ranger/wildland firefighter in the Southern Sierras decades ago. The more primitive the environment means the less you should trust high tech anything. If it has batteries, it will fail. If you do not use it daily/leave it behind-it is heavy. One last note: Our radio communications were limited to 4 hr increments to save on battery life: We checked in at predesignated times: 12, 4 and 8 pm every day. I no longer backpack like this because Modern Technology has yet to create freeze-dried beer and Mexican food.
Great tips from your experiences. Thanks.
I especially like how you said, “Plan and equip yourself for things to go wrong”
My husband gets so frustrated and impatient when things don’t go as planned or a project takes longer than he thinks it should. I tell him to EXPECT delays and setbacks, it’s just the way it is! That way when they happen you won’t get so bent out of shape.
Same goes with preparedness. It’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.
A recommended method of hiking alone is to leave something at trail side when leaving the trail. I wouldn’t recommend your main pack but maybe a day pack. If other hikers see the item they will know someone left the trail at that point. If it becomes a search and rescue, the team knows where to start looking.
…that is an excellent tip. Thanks.
Some long while back, I actually recall reading a news article where something like this, leaving something at edge of where you turned off, saved someone.
Maybe, also could tie a t-shirt/bra to the tree.
Okay, you all might think this silly,but maybe someone like this woman (and sigh, maybe me for lack of directional skills) should take a ball of brightly colored yarn, and tie bits to trees, so they could follow their way back?
Seems like that sort of very basic trail is about all she had the skills for.
Actually I do carry some biodegradable flagging tape/surveyor ribbon in bright pink. I have never used it for this purpose but have used it to leave trail markers for people following behind me. The cellulose type breaks down in about three months if left behind and not retrieved, don’t use the plastic type.
Okay, good to know (not such a silly idea then).
I was thinking that cotton or wool yarn would be good too, as I think that would also degrade over time.
Your idea of marking your path off-trail with bright yarn is not silly at all, and I’m glad you were thinking of cotton or wool so it would degrade eventually. However, flagging/surveyor tape has the advantage of giving you a bigger splotch of color which is easier to spot. I’ve carried bright orange tape on hikes in case I needed to step off trail in dense woods, or needed to “bushwhack” off trail for some reason. (I’m glad to hear there’s biodegradable tape of that sort; I’ll replace my plastic tape with biodegradable.)
Most of my AT hiking was done in the southern Appalachians. There were many places where the forest was so dense I thought, “If I walk ten feet off this trail, I could be lost forever.” (And I have a reasonably good sense of direction.) Even if you have a good sense of direction, it’s MUCH SAFER to mark your off-trail path as you suggest.
When I read she got lost just walking off the trail a bit to relieve herself, all I could think of was Hansel and Gretel.
With some water and a sunny spot, she could have made a magnifying glass with her glasses and had fire. Over flying aircraft may have spotted the smoke.
It is so easy to get lost in wooded areas. I was living in Alaska and went for a short walk on the adjacent lot. I had a small dog with me and sure enough I got turned around. I told the dog, ok, lets go home and she just looked at me to lead the way! I had a larger dog outside at home and called his name and his barking brought us home.
A trick I use for trailing deer works in these type of situations. Toilet Paper has so many uses. Often while trailing a wounded animal at night I would take out my half roll of TP and tear off a single sheet leaving it as a marker to find my way back to the truck. One sheet every 100 ft at eye level lets me retrace my steps and marks the last drop of blood in the event I lose sign.
Also TP is great fire starter and works for its original purpose. It will dissolve after the first rain so I never worried about picking it up. Just a tip for those who travel in unfamiliar places and are directionally challenged. Low tech, in expensive and always works. If it is pouring rain I recommend using more than one sheet so always have a minimum of half a roll in your pack.
I knew we would get TP into the conversation one way or another..
BUT!!!! That’s an excellent suggestion Rtw, unfortunately this young lady got lost before she knew it, with the same breath someone else (searcher) may have followed it. If she had used your idea, good to know.
This is a good thread to give a little advice for rescue situations, even when close to home. I had a situation a little over a year ago when a neighbor rolled his tractor off a high ridge, rolling some 200 feet down, suffering extensive internal injuries and broken bones.
I was able to convince the 911 operator to get a medi-vac helicopter in the air, due to the fact we are 45 minutes from the closest hospital by road, and this hospital could not handle his injuries.
The 911 operator kept me on the phone while talking to the helicopter crew, and the first thing they asked for was GPS coordinates. Even though I had them written down at home, I wasn’t at home. Minutes were wasted while the rescue chopper crew tried to locate our remote location on a map. I now keep that information written down on a card in my billfold. My neighbor survived his injuries.
And a 1:50,000 military style terrain map.
A smart fone has a compass and GPS…..until the battery runs out ….and if you are in range.
An analogue faced watch can be used for a compass ….if you can see the Sun.
I saw the show about the lady but at the end she was not found as a mystery. She plainly lacked the skills to survive in the woods by herself. A big majority of people are the same way. They make no attempt to remember landmarks, mark a new trail, or bring matches to start a smoky fire, don’t have an emergency radio for weather with emergency beacons and sirens on it, no gun, no whistle, don’t bother to have enough food or survival food bars, no emergency blanket or pay no attention to the direction they are going- N,S, E, or W. They just don’t know to bring these things, do these things or be aware to use set skills to prevent getting lost or help being rescued.
I lived a mile down the Appalachian trail in Pa in the Poconos and I would never go walking that trail alone or unarmed. Getting lost is one thing, murderers walking the trail, deer in rut, and bears are another.
(Deer killed more people than any animal in PA)
I read this very same article a week ago… It was posted on a local forum. She kept a journal, sadly – she didn’t use a compass by the sounds of it, nor did she leave any “Bread crumbs” So to speak… I’d hate to have a bucket list, and kick it while filling it – but, she did what she wanted to do…
Kudos for her for even attempting the rest of the trail alone.
@ Youngest Of 3
“I’d hate to have a bucket list, and kick it while filling it”
My comment is somewhat out of context, but I feel it pertinent. As I have gotten older and maybe not so much wiser, I have realized there are a LOT of “things” I still would like to do in this life, Hence I do have a “Bucket List” and I add and subtract as the years go on and on.
I personally believe it’s important to have goals, wishes, dreams, and yes that Bucket List to pursue in life, for as long as life goes on.
It is my intention to do exactly what you would seemingly hate to do, “Kick it while filling it”, I would do the exact same thing as this young lady, mostly, and try to fulfill a dream and make one more check mark on that well worn out Bucket List. Better than having a Heart Attack sitting at a desk somewhere doing a B/S high stress job.
I personally could think of no better way to go than Hunter S. Thompson’s quote;
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Please do not get me wrong, but for anyone that believes we are going to get out of this life alive, wellllll, I’m working on my Bucket List, because Life is to short not to.
As you said; “Kudos for her for even attempting the rest of the trail alone.” Remembering that life does not always turn out the way we would hope.
I’ve read this blog for the past year, but never posted before.
Anyway getting that out of the way. I live in a fairly rural area in the Ozarks, sadly not as rural as it was when I first moved her 25 years ago. Two years ago one of my nephews came up to hunt some deer and help me reduce their numbers and damage they do to my garden and fruit trees.
It was a very cold night and he came back to the house stating he’d shot one with his bow. We tracked the blood trail for around two hours, well past dark. Again, this is my property that I’ve lived on an explored for a quarter of a century. In the blackness that is a rural night we got spun around many times following that blood trail. I kept track of a old logging road to try and maintain some idea of where we were.
When he was finally ready to give up for the night we started back home on that logging road in the direction I thought was correct based on some faint sounds of vehicles on a two lane highway that’s roughly a half mile from my home. We were going in an entirely wrong direction and I only realized it when I began to give my nephew a little lesson in the constellations of the night sky.
Long story short, Orion was somehow behind us as we walked and that’s when I realized that instead of walking south as we thought, we were heading north. Heading south Orion should have been in front and to our left of us as we walked, not behind and to the left. We corrected course and got home a few minutes later than possible. The night sky is the most perfect and for our lives permanent map in existence. You only need to know a few of the most basic constellations and where they should be located at any time of the year to get your bearings. Just understanding the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia will always be North might be enough, but knowing when each is either a little NW or NE would be better. On clear nights at least, I always have my compass just by looking up.
Thank you for commenting, what took you so long?? HAHAHAHA
Great story you shared, a good example of just getting turned around for sure.
I see Ken has posted a new article:
“Find North At Night By The Star – Polaris”
I have not read it yet….. heading that way next
Mother nature is a cruel Bitch.She will try to kill you if given half a chance…every time.
People tend to forget that.
2 guys on a day hike in Las Vegas went off the trail in Lake Mead Park.The next day they found 1 dead and the other out of his head.They got lost,wandered around in the hottest part of the day.Got dehydrated and nature took over.
If they found a little shade and conserved energy by dusk they could of followed the lights to safety.They had no plan,no water,no skills and no chance.
Those situations are pass/fail.Pass you live fail you die…
@ Bill Jenkins Horse
Little off subject.
Hey Bill, time to answer that challenge you gave, but cant find the scenario HAHA, maybe that’s the challenge? If you can find it please post in last weekends open forum, Thanks
NRP, I posted the scenario on the 5/14/16 weekend free for all post…towards the end of the comments.may of posted it on the the 15th.Have fun…
@ Bill Jenkins Horse
Dude, it’s not only Mom ya have to watch out for, good ol Father Time will kick yar azz also if given a chance.
Yep,Father Time has been breathing down my neck for a while!
As OL Jim sung…”No one here gets out alive…trade in your hours for a handful of dimes…gonna make it baby in our prime” …
Time is flying by!Can’t believe it’s June already!
@ Bill Jenkins Horse
@ Bill Jenkins Horse,
It’s that kind of attitude that really ticks off Mother Nature. If you find yourself lost in the wilderness, the first thing you do is hug the closest tree and sincerely apologize for every limb you might have broken, every tree you might have cut. Then lie down on the grasses and apologize for walking on it and disturbing its peace. Speak to the air and express your sorrow for your role in polluting it. The tree will reach down and caress your face with gentle leaves, the grass will lead you to a beautiful meadow where a Unicorn will give you a ride back to your world.
Unless the effects of the mushrooms you ate wear off first. Then you are on your own.
Don’t forget to apologize for every tree your ancestors cut down.
Dennis,do ya think she’s still mad at me for carving my initials in the tree when I was a kid?
Bill Jenkins Horse,
Probably, but don’t worry too much. I think I burned that one up in my stove.
Dennis,now we are both on her list!
*Soto voce* I burned the list…
Bill Jenkins Horse,
Probably, but don’t worry to much. I think I burned that one up in my stove.
@BJH, You are absolutely correct. Mother Nature will do her ‘thing’, so we must do our due-diligence, understand, and prepare for such circumstances. The unfortunate fact is that most figure they will be ‘okay’…
The number one lesson, I received as a young man a 2 year association whih an old miner/hunter who knew where he was at all times he would point out things in the lanscape that he would associate with something in life maybe a boulder that looked like a house or a tree that was out of place when coming back through the areas those things were a sure sign you had come from that way in your ‘wanderings’. So my hiking/hunting/living in the vast open areas of the Western States was a roadmap I created as I travelled.Get in the habit of not just looking but seeing with you minds eye…enjoy the visitas and the mountains, but create that map and look at what they look like so you will recognize them on the return. This method has never failed me yet even when being ‘slightly unsure’ were I was at a few times while on hunts or outdoor treks. More then a few are in such as rush to get to a distant point in front of their nose and see or take in anything from where they have started from.
A tragedy yes…not to stomp on her grave…her staying out on the trail by herself is really stupid on her part at 66 years old. Lessons learned (from personal military experience): taking on this hiking task requires training and several “test runs” on shorter trips. Hike with an experienced buddy (maybe your trainer) Equipment: compass, topographical map -or- a trail map, fire starter, small ax, knife and cord, solar charger, personal locator beacon, possibly a hand-crank charger for your “2-meter ham radio transceiver” and good quality smart phone with a MAP application–GPS app. An absolute must-have, .45 cal light weight semi-auto hand gun. Food, water, energy bars, etc. Keep your pack at 30 lbs max weight or maybe 40 lbs if you are under 40 years old. Guts alone will not save your life and always have a backup plan.
Like the Web site.
AT thru hikers are NOT preppers. Most thru hikers are focused on as light a pack as possible, and that means most ‘what if’ gear is left behind. The thought process is that the AT is a well marked, well traveled trail, and that anything you don’t use every day is unneeded weight. This includes compass, multiple fire starters, etc. Food is the minimum to get to the next resupply point (usually 4-7 days). This risk analysis is somewhat borne out by the extremely low death rate on the AT for through hikers.
I’m not a through hiker but have read up on it alot in long term prep for doing something like that. I have recently backpacked in the Smokies and went a long way in to the lightweight backpacking realm. But I still had a compass, firestarters, large pocket knife (alot of thru hikers think anything bigger than a tiny swiss army knife is overkill), and extra cordage. I figured a half a pound of insurance like that made sense.
I don’t understand the argument that if you don’t use it everyday you don’t need it, for insurance items like I mentioned. That’s the definition of insurance: you don’t need it until you need it! That said, a thru hiker doesn’t need a small axe or saw, lots of extra food, or “a hand-crank charger for your 2-meter ham radio transceiver”.
You are so right HikerPrep. Hikers don’t think like preppers. Many years ago I took up hiking and had that hiker mindset until a couple of minor incidents. Once, I got lost because the trail map I had was wrong, and I found myself facing trails that were not on the map. It was a short hike as I was just getting into hiking, so I was lucky. I found my way back with a little time. Then another time got caught in a quick downpour and got drenched and nearly got hypothermia. Then another time, I rounded a bend in the trail and found a raccoon on the trail just walking in circles. I could not go around him as there was a swamp on one side of the trail and dense brush on the other side. I was forced to backtrack. The raccoon never saw me, which was lucky for me as I had no protection.
After the raccoon incident, I started thinking more like a prepper and thinking “what if” and changed my supplies that I carried on my hikes.
Hypothermia is a big concern, even during the summer months. Staying dry is important!
10 Rain Gear Items
I work in Aviation (not a pilot) and stories like these remind me of the things we were taught about Aircraft Incidences. They are usually caused by a series of small mistakes that by themselves are overlooked and would not be an issue by themselves. But a series of small mistakes can multiply a small problem into a big problem, and a big problem into a possibly fatal problem. It’s why we constantly have checks and balances, and why each leg of the table needs to always do their due-diligence (even if it’s never been a problem before). It is why preppers, survivalists, etc. talk about plans, redundancies, and backups, because if you become complacent for too long you can easily start (or contribute to) a series of mistakes that (in this story) leads people to ask a lot of “if only’s” after the fact.
I think that stories like these (however tragic) serve to educate the rest of us. It reminds us (or perhaps reinforces) the topics that are discussed here, but also for us to sharpen our Situational Awareness to recognize (and correct) the small snowball of mistakes that could eventually run us over if we do nothing.
@Kilo Sierra, Your comment has so many parallels…and could be applied to so many things. Excellent advice.
Are their any uses of these known items other than what they are intended for that would have benefited in this situation. (toothpaste, baby powder, a first aid kit, cord twine, a pencil and pen and a paper trail map)I like learning new things especially when something could be used other than what it’s intended for which in return could help us one day.
Very sorry about the loss. Perhaps a light weight high pitched whistle would have helped direct a rescue team to her location. Should the need arise to leave the trail, utilizing trail markers helps one to relocate the trail.
Agreed… a whistle is a very important emergency prep item to carry while hiking.
yes, whistle…simple, cheap, very unlikely to break or not work…
curious, as I cant recall, did this woman not have a whistle? Seems like a terribly basic “thing” to forget…
after my question re “did she have a whistle”?
I looked at your picture up top,
and it looks to me like she has a whistle attached to strap on left side (as you look at picture)?
Even if this is (?) an older photo, it seems odd she would “remove” a standard bit of safety equipment from the strap of her backpack?
The whole things still seems a little off. I mean how far off the trail do you go to err ‘go’? And why would a person keep on moving when it’s obvious you got turned around? If I didn’t see the trail in x amount of steps i would stop and start yelling.
yes to all
on the topic of whistle, though, do you agree that is likely a whistle on her backpack strap?
I cant make out what else is attached to the straps, but there do seem to be a few items….
It is kinda blurry but it looks like an orange whistle on the right strap.
Two votes for her having a whistle.
question is, why would she have used it?
I’m not sure if that picture was from her last trip, although I did ‘snip’ it from one of the news media articles of her last trip…
I don’t hike. I occasionally walk in the woods with my husband and his compass, on short trails which have maps and loops which return us to our pick-up truck, which in turn brings us to one of those great little roadside eateries that invariably has a picnic table outside under a tree so our trail-walking dachshund can join us for lunch. My sense of direction is such that I’m always surprised to see the truck at the end of our walks, “Oh, look, there’s the truck…” One time in Northern Maine we came upon a moose at the edge of the forest. He turned and walked into the woods and his massiveness disappeared completely and immediately. Although I was close enough to hear him crashing around in the trees, the dense Maine woods had swallowed up a moose right before my eyes. That disappearing moose planted my feet ever more firmly on all I’m good for– short, marked trails. Although I obviously wish Ms. Largay’s adventure had ended otherwise, I admire the heart that she and all hikers need to take on those long, lonely trails.