Inside the Futile Search for 'Inchworm' on the Trail

'Boston Globe' recounts death of hiker Gerry Largay in Maine
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2016 11:42 AM CDT
Updated Aug 28, 2016 9:43 AM CDT
Inside the Futile Search for 'Inchworm' on the Trail
A photo taken on July 22, 2013, of hiker Geraldine Largay at the Poplar Ridge Shelter on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. She would lose her way soon after.   (Dorothy Boynton Rust via AP)

The discovery of a 66-year-old hiker's body off the Appalachian Trail last year made headlines in part for the poignancy of the journal and letters she left behind. “When you find my body,” wrote Jerry Largay, “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 found me." The Boston Globe now takes an in-depth look at the futile hunt for Largay, who got lost in July 2013 after leaving the trail to go to the bathroom. The woman whose hiking moniker was "Inchworm" lived for at least 19 days as search teams roamed the woods of Maine. And as the Globe explains, some faulty information may have hindered the search.

It seems that some young hikers reported seeing a woman they thought was Largay at a particular hiking station, and rescuers adjusted their search accordingly. The boys described her as quiet, however, which didn't mesh with the gregarious Largay. "I’m thinking, that’s not Gerry," says a lieutenant with the Maine Warden Service. "But I’m like, but maybe she’s having a hard hike that day, maybe she’s not feeling so good. I tried to force it to fit." Days later, they would discover that the hikers had confused Largay with another older woman on the trail, and they readjusted back to the original "last place seen" location. It was still to no avail, though Largay wrote about hearing the search planes in the distance. Click for the full story, which points out that Largay had covered 900 miles of the trail, including some of its toughest sections, before her death. (More Longform stories.)

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