Missing hiker Geraldine Largay's remains have been located.
October 16, 2015 10:40 AM   Subscribe


Meanwhile, not too far from there, New Hampshire Fish And Game is currently searching for another missing hiker who is currently six days overdue from a multi-day hike.
posted by bondcliff at 10:48 AM on October 16, 2015

posted by Bee'sWing at 10:59 AM on October 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

She sounds great. How weird that she went so far off the trail, apparently, given where her remains were located.

I hope there is not something terrible going on. I noticed the missing hiker bond cliff mentions seems equivalent in age and physical description to Largay.

posted by bearwife at 11:06 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have much respect for real hikers (I'm more of an aimless lazy rambler) and I get that there's a real exhilaration to being all alone in the wilderness. But man, slowly dying alone knowing I might never be found is, next to being killed by a bear, just nightmare fuel for me.

Poor lady. I hope it was instantaneous, whatever it was.
posted by emjaybee at 11:10 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

posted by Gelatin at 11:13 AM on October 16, 2015

The graphic on this page and the quote that says her remains were found "two or three miles straight behind" the Poplar Ridge leanto don't really add up. I would interpret "straight behind" as 2 - 3 miles off the trail (toward the SERE facility), but in reality she was found about 1.7 miles off the trail, but 2-3 miles north (toward Spaulding Mtn Lean To/Sugarloaf) of where she had started, parallel to the trail.

Either way, not a great place to be. I feel terrible for her family. At least now they have some closure, but this certainly does raise more questions than it answers.
posted by anastasiav at 11:35 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Such a shame.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:40 AM on October 16, 2015

posted by ghharr at 11:44 AM on October 16, 2015

Looking at Google maps and the location of her remains, it seems very possible that she mistook an old road/railroad bed for the trail. That can be real easy to do - I've done it myself a few times in super overgrown terrain - especially if it was somewhat dim due to the vegetation and being in a low spot.. . . she could have been bushwhacking around trying to get back and had an accident. It's also freakin' scary how quickly hypothermia can set in - if she'd spent the night "in place" once she realized she had a problem, and then the next day in the rain, it could be that alone, even more so if she'd been immobile and hurt during all that rain the next day. The local SAR team probably thought of that but the thousands of feet from the trail might have made the difference - and I'm sure there's another 10 hypotheses that work too. Or at least I hope so - it's better to have a few possible explanations than a complete mystery. But I feel for the canine handlers if it turns out their dogs had indicated very close to where her body was found.

I'm glad the family and searchers have closure, and I hope there's no evidence of foul play or suffering. She looks so happy in that photo of her from that morning, it's heart wrenching.
posted by barchan at 11:50 AM on October 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

I get that there's a real exhilaration to being all alone in the wilderness.

I've done a lot of solo hiking, including a couple multi-day trips. I wouldn't call it exhilarating. Peaceful, maybe. Sometimes it's just done out of desperation because you want to hike and there's nobody around to go with. It can feel a bit weird sometimes but it's also nice to be able to go at your own pace, do what you want to do. I always stay on popular trails so somebody will stumble across me should I get injured or die.

That said, the woods in the White Mountains and Maine are crisscrossed with old (and current) logging roads, snowmobile trails, and x-country ski tracks. While most of the hiking trails are well-marked it is very easy, when you're hiking and staring at your feet, to accidentally leave the trail onto one of these side paths. I'm not saying that's what happened to this woman, just that it's one reason why someone might end up miles away from a trail.

I sure hope there are no signs of foul play in this case or the one I linked to.
posted by bondcliff at 11:53 AM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

The graphic on this page and the quote that says her remains were found "two or three miles straight behind" the Poplar Ridge leanto don't really add up.

I was very confused by that, as well, anastasiav. It seems like someone doing an environmental survey would use more precise terms. "Behind" only means something in relation to something else, and/or the position of the viewer. But maybe earlier (unquoted) parts of the interview with the surveyor made that clearer.

The way it looks to me, if I'm looking at her projected path, she was X miles (three, I guess?) past the Poplar Ridge leanto heading towards the Spaulding Mountain leanto on the trail, and 1.7 miles Northwest off the trail in her final location?

She seems like a person filled with the joy of life, and this is so sad, but I hope at least that it will offer some closure for her family.
posted by taz at 12:15 PM on October 16, 2015

It looks like one of the search teams was really close to her - but if she was immobilized, out of sight, and unconscious, that wouldn't make a difference.

They don't seem to be saying much about the stream that sems close to where she was found that crosses the trail. Could that have a made a difference in the rain?
posted by maryr at 12:16 PM on October 16, 2015

posted by maryr at 12:16 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by Bob Regular at 12:24 PM on October 16, 2015

I wonder if she thought she could hike out to Redington Pond Falls. It's technically not allowed as it is trespassing on Navy land, but if you search around there are quite a few hikers who have attempted it. You'd think that she would have mentioned it to one of the southbound hikers she stayed with the night before, though.

I do hope that this brings some closure to her family.
posted by muddgirl at 12:49 PM on October 16, 2015

I cannot imagine being confident enough to backpack on my own at age 66. dang, I couldn't do it now. I couldn't do it 20 years ago. Her poor husband.

This reminds me of the 70 year old guy who went kayaking in Raleigh a few months ago in Jordan Lake. His wife notified the police that he didn't come home and eventually they found his body. That whole weekend that he was missing I thought of her and how terrified she must have been, trying to cling to the idea that maybe he just lost his mind for awhile or got confused or something. My husband goes kayaking by himself all the time and you never imagine that something could happen.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:57 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

You never imagine that something could happen.

My husband, extended family, friends, and I are all big outdoors people. Maybe I've read too many adventure books; maybe I've just spent too much time hearing about things that have happened; maybe it's just some stupid and/or not stupid things that have happened to me or that I've done that could easily have gone another way; or maybe it's just an overactive imagination, but the older I get, the more this has become a huge worry for me. I worry about it happening to someone I love, but I also worry that something could happen to me and it would be my loved ones that have to go through anguish and pain. And I'm in some nasty terrain sometimes - I would feel horrible if something happened and other people had to put their lives on the line to find me. I'm more anxious that if something happened and my loved ones had to go through that agony than I actually am about dying.

So over the last few years I've become pretty detailed about leaving info about where I'm going, what I have on me, what I'm wearing, and potential times/campsites/mileage. This is the kind of case that's haunting, because they pretty much did have all that information; something still happened, and they couldn't find her for some time despite those details. That's why I'm glad to see more products and better technology for personal beacon technology. There's definitely some way to go with with the tech, but products like SPOT beacons are becoming better and more common. They're not fail proof and they're a little expensive, but it's to be hoped they become cheaper, better, and more commonplace over time, eliminating or providing a big boost in many of the cases like these. (Although they will probably bring other problems, like cell phones have for unnecessary SAR calls, the trade off seems worth it.)
posted by barchan at 1:32 PM on October 16, 2015 [16 favorites]

I've gotten lost in the woods before. It's a lot easier to get lost out there than you think. You can lose your sense of direction, end up wandering in the wrong direction thinking that's where you had come from, just generally get disoriented. It's scary as hell and can cause a sensible hiker to make bad decisions that run counter to all past training and experience.

I don't know if that's what happened to her but that's what comes to mind. This would also be a good time to remind everyone... if you're out on a hike and you figure out that you're lost, stop and stay where you're at. Doing so drastically increases the odds of being found quickly.

posted by azpenguin at 1:35 PM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

Also drone use for SAR just about has to become more widespread. Maybe not in cases like this where the vegetation is so dense, but in rugged terrain and other situations, drones can go over a lot of terrain pretty quickly for a first pass- particularly situations with cliffs that may be hazardous.
posted by barchan at 1:48 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Re: that link I posted, just got word that her body was found today. That's another . for another lost hiker.

I didn't mean to derail the thread, I just had this woman on my mind the past couple days.
posted by bondcliff at 1:48 PM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

posted by allthinky at 3:23 PM on October 16, 2015

I was on a solo hike once, and I met a French woman-- 75-- hiking by herself on the same trail. I remember talking to her in the evening about the risks you run out on the trail by yourself. She said her worst fear was not what could happen to her, but that her husband wouldn't know what had happened. I get that. I hope it was quick, for Largay's sake, and I hope the find brings her family some healing.
posted by frumiousb at 4:20 PM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

A local Portland, ME publication printed a story a few months back with some conspiracy theories.
posted by mbatch at 5:40 PM on October 16, 2015

I don't hike alone all that often, but I do frequently work alone in remote areas and safety is always something I am thinking about. Things can go from under control to very bad in moments, and the margin of safety can be surprisingly small.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:55 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've thought about Geraldine Largay often since I read the Boston Globe's story about her early this year. I'm oddly relieved that they think there was no foul play involved -- dying of exposure is a horrible way to go, but I think the alternatives would have been worse. She seems like a wonderful person. I really hope that getting an answer will be helpful for her family and friends.
posted by daisyk at 11:51 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

bondcliff - I don't think you're derailing. It's related but sad news. Looks like she was swept down a river, so not foul play. Shame nonetheless though. Rivercrossings can be so dangerous even when you know what you're doing.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:47 PM on October 17, 2015

Even under dense canopy, a drone would be able to see a (live) hiker if it had the right kind of infrared camera. Drones could even be used to drop supplies to stranded hikers, and to exchange information between stranded hikers and SAR teams. Paired with personal locator beacons, they could really revolutionize SAR by making it much easier and cheaper to establish some kind of contact with stranded people.

Drones would help less in terms of finding deceased hikers of course, and a beacon is no good if you don't bring it or if its battery runs down before you can be found, but This kind of technology could really make a difference in terms of saving lives. Search and rescue is a difficult and uncertain business, to say the least.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:15 AM on October 18, 2015

Aww bondcliff. I just saw that second link of yours. Jeez. I've hiked parts of that trail myself. What a shame.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:16 AM on October 18, 2015

And wow, swept downstream while attempting to traverse a river? Yeah, that could happen all too easily. Boulder-hopping is fun, but it's also inherently dangerous, especially if you're alone and it's cold. Way too easy to slip, and then find yourself scrabbling around with a busted ankle and a heavy pack strapped to your body while an ice-cold torrent tumbles you against the boulders and tries to sweep you off of a cliff.

A good bit of wilderness safety advice is that if you're about to traverse a river, you should undo the chest and waist straps on your pack so that should you fall you can get it off more easily. A backpack will quickly turn into an anchor if you fall in the water. Crossing rivers is still dangerous though. Be very careful.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:25 AM on October 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

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