I went down to my river spot on Sunday. It is always with a bit of trepidation because of the cottonmouth snakes that live back there.I step daintily, keep an eye out and am relieved when I reach my writer's log. It is a half mile walk through the floodplain and Sunday there were many animal encounters. A pair of mallard ducks were roused from their island peace and flew up the Flint. Four deer took off at my approach and a flock of Sandhill cranes were calling overhead. I never could spot them but they travel by us twice a year migrating up and down the river. I kept thinking; " follow the river, follow the river" and my thoughts, like a bird after a long flight, slowly brought a story that haunts me.
In 2013, Geraldine Largay, a 66 year old hiker from Tennessee was living her dream. She was fit and healthy and perhaps at her age she thought":, now or never". She took off from West Virginia with a friend, to hike the Appalachian Trail to its end in Maine.There are pictures of her smiling, glowing, as she walked slowly along. Many thought so much of "Inchworm", her trail name, that they wanted their picture taken with her.Then the first of several unfortunate things happened. Her friend had to get off the trail in New Hampshire. I can see her in on the trail wrestling with this; should I go on; I am almost to Maine? She was known to have direction difficulties. She went on.
She went on and knowing what I know, I choke up as I type this. At some point in the deep Maine woods, she left the trail and when she started back, she was lost. She found a hill and tried to use her cell phone.The messages to her husband were found on her cell phone two years later. Geraldine had starved . She kept a journal and it seems that she decided to put down her tent on that knoll and wait for someone to come along.The spot unfortunately was a mile away from the trail. A monumental search was launched to no avail. For two years her family wondered what had happened.
The part that saddens me so is that there was the Oberton stream was nearby and in August it probably wasn't terribly full.There is a hiking rule; follow the stream. It eventually will take you to something; a bridge, a town, something. Perhaps by the time she decided to do this she was too weak. If you have hiked from West Virginia to Maine and are near to your goal, the one thing you don't want to do is go backwards or down.
In 2015, they found Geraldine's neatly piled clothes near her journal , a water bottle , a rosary and her tent. If I close my eyes, I can see her there, praying.