She was alone, though that wasn’t originally the plan. Her hiking companion had had an emergency that called her home early from their adventure. She was hiking the Appalachian Trail in remote western Maine, a difficult stretch. But everything seemed to be going okay — until she vanished without a trace.
Geraldine Largay, known as Inchworm on the trail, made national headlines when she disappeared in July 2013. The Maine Warden Service launched a massive search for her that continued for days, then weeks, then months. For more than a year, they followed leads.
Maine author Denis Dauphinee is now giving voice to the last days of Largay’s life. His newest book, “When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the Appalachian Trail,” is published by Down East Books.
The book, Dauphinee hopes, will help make sense of what happened while giving readers a chance to draw their own conclusions. “I hope that readers don’t judge Gerry so harshly — it can happen to a lot of people. I hope they respect her will to try. I hope they learn a few valuable lessons that if they get turned around in the woods, they can use them,” Dauphinee said.
Dauphinee is an experienced back-country guide, mountaineer, fly-fisherman and photographer. He’s assisted in search and rescue operations as well. He also works in medicine, assisting in surgery three to four days a week, for between six and eight months a year. And for about a year and a half, he dug into who Largay was, what she experienced and what might have happened when she lost her way.
“In the first two weeks of my investigative research, I realized what a lovely person she was and that there were some lessons beyond the obvious lessons to be learned from her story that might help other people in the future,” Dauphinee said. “The people I met along the way in the first few weeks were so engaging and were so passionate about her and her story.”
From trail logs to official reports, Dauphinee used many channels to pull together the information and write this story. “I reached out to the family first and then to the [Maine Warden Service] and, using the Freedom of Access Act, I got not just the warden’s reports but the forensics report,” Dauphinee said
And in the forensics report, he was looking for something specific: Were Largay’s ligaments intact? “That would tell me she didn’t sprain an ankle or hurt a knee … she could walk out on her own,” Dauphinee explained.
Both Dauphinee’s medical experience and his wilderness experience came in handy in his research. “It helped a great deal — I could recognize that Gerry had some back problems and some issues with being afraid of the dark … I could tell that Gerry really faced some of her fears [on the trail],” Dauphinee said.
Largay wasn’t carrying heavy loads — her husband was driving between points and meeting her — so the load weight wasn’t really an issue. Still, Dauphinee believes “she was on the edge of a ketotic state.
Sarah Walker Caron
Sarah Walker Caron is the senior editor, features, for the Bangor Daily News and the editor of Bangor Metro magazine. She’s the author of “Classic Diners of Maine,” and five cookbooks including “Easy...
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