AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The family of a hiker who died after getting lost on the Appalachian Trail in Maine isn't going to criticize searchers even though they abandoned their full-scale effort while she was still alive.
Geraldine Largay's family members saw searchers' efforts and know from visiting the location of her death how difficult it would've been to find her, the family said in a statement released Friday evening.
"While we grieve for Gerry, we do not second-guess any of the efforts to find her when she went missing. We witnessed firsthand the passion and commitment of the hundreds of game wardens and volunteers who searched for her," the statement said.
Documents released by the Maine Warden Service this week under Freedom of Access Act requests by media organizations indicate the 66-year-old woman from Brentwood, Tennessee, survived more than three weeks after getting lost in July 2013.
Journal entries made by Largay indicate she lived on even after the Maine Warden Service suspended the search. Hundreds of searchers had scoured the area but never found the remote campsite where she hunkered down.
Resigned to her fate, she wrote a note directing anyone who found her remains to contact her husband and daughter.
Her body was in a sleeping bag in a collapsed tent when it was found last October, more than two years after she went missing. The state medical examiner determined she died from lack of food and water, and exposure to the elements.
In the statement, the family said "her final days were a testament to her bravery, resourcefulness and her faith."
"Gerry was doing exactly what she wanted to do. She'd hiked a thousand miles — after 200 miles of training hikes the year prior — and as the warden's report indicates, she was lucid and thinking of others, as always, until the end," the statement said.
The family described her as "a positive, vibrant, optimistic, enthusiastic and spiritual person" and encouraged contributions to two causes that would've been important to her, the Maine Association for Search and Rescue, and the Nature Conservancy.
Maine Association for Search and Rescue: http://mainesearchandrescue.org
The Nature Conservancy: http://www.nature.org