no avatar

The down side of hiking

By Johnny Molloy • May 18, 2017 at 12:00 AM

When you hear the word “hiking” what comes to your mind? Do you think of walking down an alluring grassy path through an inviting forest with sunlight filtering through the leaves, sharing treks to waterfalls and overlooks with your friends and loved ones, engaging in a collective appreciation of the natural wonders of the world?

Or do you conjure up images of faint, overgrown trails, where fallen trees and divergent animal paths confuse you as to which way to go? Or maybe you remember that time hiking when a thunderstorm caught you without a jacket, and you trekked for miles chilled to the bone, slopping through mud?

There is a down side to hiking. Yes, there is cold, there is wet, there is fear of being lost. There are injuries – even death. And people do get lost. Every year we are treated to stories in this newspaper of hikers losing their way, unintentionally spending the night out.

Just a quick scan of previous stories in the Johnson City Press reveal multiple hiker mishaps, from a body found on the Guest River Gorge Trail near Coeburn, Virginia to the rescue of a lost teen in the Twisted Falls area of Carter County, where helicopters and infrared scanners were used in the rescue effort. In 2015, the assistant district attorney of Washington County was lost for two days off the Blue Ridge Parkway, where she had gone for a simple day hike.

And then there’s the infamous story of the lost woman, Geraldine Largay, hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine. The 66-year-old hailed from Brentwood, Tennessee. One of Geraldine’s dreams was to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

In October of 2015 year her remains were found. She had survived at least 26 days after becoming lost. We know this because she kept a journal. Her journal included “When you find my body please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry”.

It was July, 2013 when Geraldine Largay was hiking the AT and stepped off the path to void her bladder, then set up camp. She got disoriented, couldn’t find the trail, then hunkered down for what became a nightmarish ordeal ending in death.

When found inside her sleeping bag inside her collapsed tent, Geraldine — whose trail name was Inchworm — was a mere 3,000 feet from the Appalachian Trail, a little over a half-mile from life instead of death. An autopsy revealed she died from what is known as inanition — a prolonged lack of food and water — likely in mid-to-late August, based on the last entry in her journal being August 18, 2013.

Intensive searches were made shortly after her disappearance, and at some point authorities had come within 100 yards of Geraldine Largay. After a month, the hunt for her was scaled back. The Maine Warden Service eventually discovered her campsite and most of her remains, some bones of which had been carried away by animals.

The text messages she sent to her husband never went through. Imagine the fear of being lost, the anger at losing her way on the trail, the sadness at missing her loved ones, and the resignation at dying a slow death in the Maine woods. Much of her mental down spiral was captured in her journals.

Yes, there is a downside to hiking.

Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos