She Disappeared On The Appalachian Trail. Two Years Later, Her Journal And Heartbreaking Final Words Were Found

A forester was working along the Appalachian Trail in Maine when he stumbled upon something unexpected. A dilapidated tent was sitting in the trees. He had just stumbled across the abandoned campsite of a hiker that went missing two years prior.

Things became even weirder when he found the lost hiker’s journal inside the damaged tent, giving an inside look at her final moments.

Gerry Was Taking On The Appalachian Trail

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Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife/Facebook
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife/Facebook

Geraldine Largay, Gerry, was 66 years old when she decided to take on one of the most iconic hiking trails in the United States — the Appalachian Trail.

Extending from Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine, the trail is about 2,200 miles long and not for the faint of heart.

An Outdoor Lover

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Gerry Largay/Facebook
Gerry Largay/Facebook

An outdoor lover, Gerry was highly involved in her community in Atlanta, Georgia. She was even a member of the local Nature Conservancy. The group did many things around the city and the state, including quilting and going on the numerous hikes Georgia has to offer.

It was only a matter of time before she tried her hand at the Appalachian Trail.

Her Family Loved Going On Adventures With Her

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ariyawu/Facebook
ariyawu/Facebook

It was not uncommon for Gerry to bring people along on her adventures either. Sometimes, her husband, George, and daughter Kerry would join, along with her grandkids. They all loved going hiking together.

Soon, her sights were set somewhere her family couldn’t follow, something that was going to take a lot of time and energy — the Appalachian Trail.

Gerry Began To Plan Her Trek

Exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park
George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

Gerry had made up her mind. She was going to plot a course and hike the Appalachian Trail. While George was not up to following his wife on this particular adventure, he was very supportive.

So, after they sold their home in Atlanta, the couple moved in with their daughter in Brentwood, Tennessee. It was there that Gerry began to plan her trek.

She Suffered From A Back Injury

Horns Pond offers views, snooze
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

It was going to be a long and hard journey, and there was one obstacle Gerry had to figure out. Years before, she suffered a back injury, making it hard for her to carry large and heavy backpacks.

Luckily her husband came up with the perfect solution for his wife.

George Was Going To Run Supplies To Her Checkpoints

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Imgur
Imgur

Instead of carrying all of her supplies for the entire trek, George told Gerry that he would regularly run supplies up to her various checkpoints so she wouldn’t run out. It was the perfect solution!

Now, all Gerry had to do was a few practice trials, and she was off to conquer the Appalachian Trail!

They Began Their Journey On April 23, 2013

Shirley Gamble of St. Petersburg, Florida and Arlene Petty of Ava, Missouri hike on the Appalachian ...
Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Gerry and her friend Jane Lee began their journey on April 23, 2013. Starting in Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, it was said that the two friends wanted to hike north to the town at Mount Katahdin.

From there, they would catch a ride back to their starting point and journey the southern half of the trail down to Springer Mountain.

Everything Was Going Smoothly

A long established hiking trail follows along Nesowadnehunk Stream as it courses through Baxter Stat
John Ewing/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
John Ewing/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The two ladies were having a great time. They didn’t even let a little bit of rain get their spirits down. It was evident from the early entries in Gerry’s journal that she was having the time of her life, seeing all of the different flora and meeting other hikers.

She even adopted a trail name — Inchworm!

Jane Lee Had To Race Home

7/20/2007 Appalachian Trail Story A segment of the trail on the Appalachian trail, Friday afternoon. Photo by Ben Hasty
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Sadly, the ladies’ luck took a turn for the worse. In late June, two months after they began their journey, Jane Lee got word about a family emergency back home. She had no choice but to leave Gerry on the trail.

Not deterred by her friend’s absence, Gerry kept going.

Gerry Was By Herself

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Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Gerry was by herself, but she was making the best of it, constructing makeshift shelters in remote areas of the trails and seeing George when he brought her supplies at checkpoints. He even got her to campsites or motels for a good night’s sleep!

All in all, things were still okay for Gerry.

There Was Some Rough Terrain Ahead

Following the Appalachian Trail
Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images
Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

By late July, Gerry had managed to trek about 900 miles of the Appalachian Trail! At that point, she was about 200 miles away from Mount Katahdin. She was so close to completing the northern portion of the trail.

Before meeting with George for supplies for those last hundred miles, Gerry had to hike through 22 miles or rough terrain.

22 Miles To Go Until She Met With George

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BlueBloodedHiker/Imgur
BlueBloodedHiker/Imgur

Gerry knew that the 22 miles to George were going to take at least two days. So, she packed a tent, just in case other sleeping arrangements did not present themselves.

As it turned out, she was able to snag a cot at Poplar Ridge for the evening of July 21.

Everything Went Downhill On July 22

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Garrett Parker/Unsplash
Garrett Parker/Unsplash

After getting some rest, Gerry was ready to hop back on the trail. Saying goodbye to a fellow hiker she met the night before, Gerry was off and unaware of what was about to happen on her journey.

On July 22, things started to get really bad and sideways for Gerry.

Gerry Was Lost

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Marc Rafanell Lopez/Unsplash
Marc Rafanell Lopez/Unsplash

On July 22, Gerry was hiking the trail when she wandered off in the foliage to find a place to relieve herself. Unfortunately, the spot she chose was an old logging site, with foliage and discarded trees making everything look the same.

It did not take Gerry long to realize she was lost.

She Tried To Send A Message To George

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Frankie Spontelli/Unsplash
Frankie Spontelli/Unsplash

Needless to say, Gerry was trying her hardest to stay calm even though she had no idea where she was. She typed out a message to George, asking for him to contact the Appalachian Mountain Club.

The text said, “In some trouble. Got off trail… Now lost. Can you call AMC to see if a trail maintainer can help me? [I’m] somewhere north of woods road.”

The SOS Signal Didn’t Send

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Dmitri Vaccinium/Unsplash
Dmitri Vaccinium/Unsplash

Unfortunately, Gerry was too deep in the woods. There was no cell service, so the S.O.S message was unable to send. Gerry was on her own. When she noticed the message was not sending, Gerry searched for higher ground, hoping there would be cellphone service there.

Sadly, she found nothing.

Gerry Tried To Send A Second Message

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Maddy Baker/Unsplash
Maddy Baker/Unsplash

After looking for higher ground, Gerry called it a night and decided to set up camp in the area. When she woke up the following day, she once again tried to send a message to George, this time asking for him to contact the local police.

Once again, the message did not go through.

George Was Waiting At The Checkpoint

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Tennessean/YouTube
Tennessean/YouTube

Off the trail, George was waiting for his wife at their designated checkpoint. The weather had been bad the night before, though, so he wasn’t overly concerned when she did not show up at the appointed time.

The last thing he thought was his wife was lost in the woods looking for a cellphone signal.

The Maine Warden Service And Volunteers Began Searching

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Ashim D Silva/Unsplash
Ashim D Silva/Unsplash

When the second morning came and went, George knew something was wrong. He notified the authorities, and soon the Maine Warden Service launched a massive search and rescue team. There were even multiple volunteers scouring the countryside along the trail.

Everyone wanted to make sure Gerry made it home safely.

Misinformation Was Hurting The Search Party

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Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The search party started on the trail north of Poplar Ridge, knowing that was a location on Gerry’s itinerary and the last place she was supposed to be before meeting up with George.

Unfortunately, the search got a bit jumbled as misinformation began trickling in. Some hikers reported seeing Gerry in Spaulding, while others said they’d seen her further up the trail.

Gerry’s Rations Were Dwindling

Augie Buchheit, Shenandoah Park Ridge Runner along the trails in Shenandoah National Park
Benjamin C. Tankersley For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Benjamin C. Tankersley For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The search part kept their sights on the regions around Polar Ridge, hoping to find something. While they were busy trying to find Gerry, she was busy trying to stay alive.

Her food rations were quickly dwindling. But she focused on things she could control, like making her shelter more visible for potential search planes.

She Wanted To To Put Her Tent Out In The Open

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Scott Goodwill/Unsplash
Scott Goodwill/Unsplash

Finding a spot with less tree coverage, Gerry set up her tent and tied strips of her cutup emergency blanket in the trees, hoping to attract some attention. Sadly, the days dragged on, and no one had found her.

The worst part is she heard the rescue planes and helicopters overhead; they just didn’t see her.

Once Again, Gerry Tried To Send A Message

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Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images
Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Gerry found things to occupy her time, though. She read a novel she had in her pack and created complex sewing patterns with a piece of dental floss. Writing in her journal also helped pass the time.

On August 6, 15 days after getting lost, Gerry once again tried to send a message to George.

On July 30, They Called Of The Search Party

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Triston Dunn/Unsplash
Triston Dunn/Unsplash

The search party did a lot of work, covering 23 square miles of the trail, including very remote sections where they thought Gerry might have wandered. Sadly, they all came back empty-handed.

On July 30, with no traces of the lost woman, the local authorities were forced to call off the search mission.

Two Years Later, A Body Was Found In A Sleeping Bag

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Animal Planet/YouTube
Animal Planet/YouTube

It took two years for anyone to find Gerry and her campsite. Finally, on October 14, 2015, a forester working in the area stumbled upon what he thought looked like a body wrapped in a sleeping bag.

He contacted the local authorities immediately, not entirely sure what he’d just come across.

An Officer From The Original Search Party Was There

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NEWSCENTER 26/YouTube
NEWSCENTER 26/YouTube

Officer Kevin Adam and a crew filming an episode of North Woods Law ventured to the spot the forester found the body. Officer Adam couldn’t believe it was Gerry, the lady he searched for a few years before.

But as they crowded near the spot, everything was about to be revealed.

Gerry’s Body Was Identified

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Animal Planet/YouTube
Animal Planet/YouTube

They easily identified Gerry’s body, as her ID badge was in a bag right next to her. It was a hard time for those who were a part of the original search party, including Warden Kris Maccabe.

In an interview with Animal Planet, he said, “There’s nobody that wanted to bring her home more than we did. I really feel for the family.”

They Found Her Journal

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Animal Planet/YouTube
Animal Planet/YouTube

They also found her journal, detailing the last days Gerry was alone in the woods. From the writing, it sounds like the older woman knew she would not make it out.

One message read, “When you find my body, please call my husband, George, and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you find me – no matter how many years from now.”

Gerry Was Thinking Of Her Family

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Animal Planet/YouTube
Animal Planet/YouTube

The last entry was dated August 18, a full 27 days after she became lost. Sadly, she wasn’t even far from the public trail, a solid 2,300 feet from the RailRoad Road Trail.

Gerry’s final request was written down in her journal, reading, “Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them.” As her family stated when they got the news, Gerry was thinking about people until the end.

Gerry Did What She Loved

ST-Trail Photos by Michael Williamson NEG#201954 6/25/08: WE
Michael Williamson/The The Washington Post via Getty Images
Michael Williamson/The The Washington Post via Getty Images

The family was relieved that the search had finally come to an end. In a statement, they spoke of Gerry’s compassion, saying, “Gerry was doing exactly what she wanted to do.”

“As the warden’s report indicates, she was lucid and thinking of others – as always – until the end.”