Officials “mystified” as search for missing Appalachian Trail hiker enters Day 6

Franklin Search and Rescue Team Leader Pat Cyr briefs a group of volunteers before a grid search of an area on the AT earlier this week.
Scott Thistle | Sun Journal
Franklin Search and Rescue Team Leader Pat Cyr briefs a group of volunteers before a grid search of an area on the AT earlier this week.
By Scott Thistle, Sun Journal
Posted July 30, 2013, at 6:01 a.m.

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — The search for a missing hiker on the Appalachian Trail near Sugarloaf Mountain will go into its sixth day Tuesday and officials said late Monday they remain “mystified” as to the whereabouts of Geraldine Largay.

“We don’t typically have searches for AT people where they totally disappear,” Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service said late Monday. “They are usually on the trail, in known hazard areas or are injured on the trail. But to just totally disappear and get off trail and not on another trail is unique.”

Adam said the search would continue Tuesday but authorities did not believe Largay was still on the trail or had somehow missed her rendezvous spot and had continued hiking north of the search area.

“She’s not on the Appalachian Trail,” Adam said Monday. “She’s not on some of these side trails.”

He said searchers also had looked about 100 feet on either side of the AT and the multiple connector and side trails.

“Does that mean we could have missed her?” he said. “We could have, but it would be rare; she would have to be in a wicked hole that for some reason somebody didn’t look in or somebody walked by. I still feel she’s not very far off the trail and we just haven’t found that little hole yet.”

Searchers on Monday were focusing on a “high probability” search in an area that centered on approximately 8 miles of the AT.

Largay, 66, was reported missing last Wednesday by her husband, who said he was expecting to meet her in the village of Stratton in the town of Eustis about 7 miles north of Sugarloaf.

And while wardens were not ruling out foul play, officials said there was no indication of such.

“We’ve had absolutely no indication of that at this point,” said Cpl. John MacDonald, a warden service spokesman.

Warden investigators were at the mobile command post Monday, along with U.S. Forest Service rangers and agents from the U.S. Border Patrol.

Meanwhile, more than 30 people remained involved in a search that ramped up late last Thursday and has included as many as 100 people, including members of local search and rescue teams in Franklin and Oxford counties.

Largay, of Brentwood, Tenn., was believed to be in good health and was in the process of completing a hike on the AT that started in Virginia. That she took a wrong turn and got lost seems unlikely, according to Adam, who said she would have been confronted with dozens, if not hundreds, of other decision points along the way and she had managed fine until the section in Maine where she went missing.

Steve Mitman, a 10-year volunteer with Franklin County Search and Rescue, said he agreed with Adam that officials and volunteers had scoured almost all of the possible ground where they would expect to find Largay or even signs of her.

“This one has really got us all stumped,” Mitman said.

Mitman said she also had experience on the trail and had been on it for many miles starting in Virginia.

“She knows what she’s doing,” he said.

Largay’s family remained near the mobile command post at Sugarloaf but did not speak to reporters Monday. Adam said the family was grateful for the efforts being made on their behalf.

A band of thundershowers that moved through the mountains Monday afternoon slowed the pace of the search but did not stall the effort substantially, Adam said.

Largay is 5-foot-5, 115 pounds, has brown hair, brown eyes and was wearing a black pullover shirt, tan pants and a blue hat while carrying a black-and-green backpack.

Anyone with any information should call the Maine State Police Communications Center in Augusta at 207-624-7076 or 800-452-4664 (Maine only).

Sun Journal Staff Writer Ann Bryant contributed to this report.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/07/30/news/state/officials-mystified-as-search-for-missing-appalachian-trail-hiker-enters-day-6/ printed on October 2, 2014