“When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry,” she wrote. “It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me — no matter how many years from now.” These were the last words written in the diary of Geraldine Largay.

Largay, 66, was a retired air force nurse and a semi-experienced hiker. After conquering a few long trails near her home in Tennessee, Largay decided her next feat would be hiking the 2,168-mile Appalachian trail. Along with friend Jane Lee, Largay started her hike on April 23, 2013.

George Largay, husband of Geraldine, met them at certain points along the trail to refill supplies and sometimes take them to motels for showers and a night indoors. On June 30, about 1000 miles in, Lee had to leave early because of a family emergency. Largay decided she would continue on the trail by herself.geraldine largay

On the morning of July 22, fellow hiker, Dottie Rust, asked to take a picture of Largay. Largay was wearing her large backpack, matched with her equally as large smile. That was the last time anybody claimed to have seen Largay.

By 11 a.m., Largay was lost. Largay went off the path to relieve herself and quickly found herself in a tough situation. After multiple text messages to her husband failed due to lack of cell service, Largay decided it was time to set up camp and wait to be found.

Multiple search parties were sent and K9 teams came within 100 yards of her camp. Search efforts were scaled back on August 4. On October 14, 2015, two years later, her remains were found insider her sleeping bag by a forester who has property bordering the trail. All of her supplies were found at the camp. Most importantly, her journal where she documented her experience and left notes to loved ones was still intact. According to her last journal entry, Largay had survived for 26 days at least.

The camp was less than two miles from the Appalachian trail. Walking south 60-70 yards from the campsite, the dense forest becomes open woods with good visibility. After another 25 minutes, “a clear logging road” leads to lodging. In total the walk takes about 30 minutes.

A tragic story, but much can be learned. Too often hiking trips are rushed and not planned or thought out properly. It is amazing that Largay had survived so long, however it would have been much better for all parties involved if she had survived.

In order to help your Scouts have the best and most safe experience hiking, we are going to look at four tips for safety and survival in the backcountry by Adam Provance. Provance, author and founder of www.yourhikeguide.com, is an Eagle Scout and an experienced hiker/canyoneer. As an instructor for Desert & Wilderness Survival, and ‘Leave No Trace’ camping practices, Provance has been featured on several news publications including Discovery NewsABC NewsFox and KSL TV.

  1. Prevention: It is important to do your research and know your route. Check the weather forecast, temperature highs and temperature lows. Know how long it will take to complete the trip. Have current maps of the area where you’ll be hiking. STAY on the main trail. Be familiar where rivers or streams are and know what direction they flow. Be hydrated and always observe your surroundings. Every couple of minutes and take a look around so that it should look familiar to you on the way back.
  1. Share your Travel Plans: ALWAYS tell two or three responsible adults the specific location where you are going and when you expect to return. Always means even when you are with a larger group. Give them a written itinerary so if you don’t return by the scheduled time they can contact authorities. Social media is not sufficient. Nobody is accountable for you when you post on social media.
  1. Never Hike Alone: Even though you may be experienced in the outdoors, don’t take the risk. One unlucky thing happens and you can find yourself in terrible circumstances. Two or more people have a better chance of survival than one when lost.
  1. Be First Aid/CPR Certified: It is not sufficient to have taken First Aid and Emergency Preparedness at Scout Camp back in the 90’s. Get re-certified. It can be useful for everyone, anywhere and everywhere.

What other tips do you recommend for safety and survival in the backcountry?

Check out www.yourhikeguide.com for more tips and tricks.

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Jarom Shaver
Writer for the Voice of Scouting and a marketing associate for The Utah National Parks Council.

2 comments

  1. Peter Shaver says:

    Jarom,
    Excellent and well-written article. Full of good common-sense advice which all hikers, short or long distance should follow, even the so-called day-hikers. Keep up the great writing!

  2. Darryl Alder
    Darryl Alder ( User Karma: 9 ) says:

    This story and post really set me back. 1000 miles in means she was experienced, for many of us that is the problem. We are just too comfortable. In the many summers of directing camps for BSA we have had lost Scouts usually because they were not with their buddy. Just being with someone else can make a huge difference.
    The Boy Scout Fieldbook (see FB page 51) has an excellent little trip plan that I learned to file as a new Scout in 1961. In those days we hiked and camped as patrols with NO adults, so the plan was really important. Basically it help you prepare you for the challenges of a hike. It used to state: “Take a copy of your trip plan with you and leave one with your parents or other adult. The parts of a trip plan are:
    WHERE are you going? Decide on your destination and the route you will travel to reach it and
    return. For backcountry trips, include a copy of the map with your route marked in pencil.
    WHEN will you return? If you are not back reasonably close to the time on your trip plan, someone
    can take steps to locate you and provide assistance if needed.
    WHO is going on the hike? List the names of your hiking partners. Write down who will transport
    you to the trailhead, if required.
    WHY are you going? Going fishing, climbing a mountain, exploring a new area are all good reasons
    for a hike. Write a couple sentences about the purpose of your trip.
    WHAT are you taking? Carry the Scout outdoor essentials and list other equipment and clothing
    you will need.”
    These days they have added: “HOW will you respect the land by using Leave No Trace hiking skills?”

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