Book Review: When You Find My Body

When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the Appalachian TrailWhen You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the Appalachian Trail by D. Dauphinee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the local AT thru hikers, AKA Blueberry, mentioned that she read this book in one day. It took me two days complete, the same as my wife who read it immediately after I did. The book is well phrased, and the author has the credentials to do a thorough job of bring the story forward.

I recommended to anyone, experienced hikers and outdoors folks as well as those who hold that that a long hike on Appalachian Trail is a piece of cake. In any given year approximately 30 people get lost while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Sadly, 66 year old Geraldine Largay was one of them in 2013, when she had the misfortune of wandering 2 miles off the AT in Maine after she became disoriented when stepping into the woods off the AT to urinate.

I read all 39 comments about the book here in Goodreads. I am left wondering whether some of the reviewers read the same book that I did ! For example there were comments that Ms. Largay did nothing wrong, that she waited patiently in place for 26 days for a rescue that never came despite the coordinated efforts of hundreds of searchers doing close coordinated searches of the area on multiple occasions

As a former thru hiker of the AT who has since obtained his Main Guide’s license I have received training on lost person behavior and I have also experienced the anxiety being left behind and/or temporarily disoriented myself at times. Ms. Largay was missing two specific skills that might have saved her life: land navigation and fire building. Her body was eventually found after keeping herself alive for 26 days while in possession of a compass and a map of the area. Ms. Largay had a lighter with her but the postmortem site analysis revealed that she was not able to maintain a fire large or long enough to call attention to her location.

Since Ms. Largay’s death I have added a satellite based communication device ( Garmin InReach) to my day hike pack, as an emergency back up. I pay 12 dollars a month for the subscription as I am out in all seasons. I’m not getting any younger and things do go wrong in unexpected ways in the wood and waters of Maine.

I also orient myself with a compass and map and complete a “handrail check” before I enter the woods or a large body of water. A handrail is a feature or landmark that leads towards your destination and one that you can follow or keep within sight. It can be man made or natural. For example, if Ms. Largay had done this, she would have known that Maine Route 27 was directly east of the section of the AT where she became lost. She might not have been able to see the Northeast handrail of Sugarloaf Mountain through the dense foliage, but that big old sun came up directly from the east on each of those 26 days that she was waiting for help. Route 27 was 11 miles directly from her location, and while she might not have been able to get there in one of even two days, she might have recognized the AT as she would have to cross it on her way to the highway.

Smart phone’s GPS/ mapping systems are great tools that I use myself, but Ms. Largay’s sad story only drives home the fact that rudimentary map/compass and navigation skills are necessary when all else, including our sense of direction fails us.

View all my reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s