CARRABASSETT VALLEY — The search for a missing hiker from Tennessee was intensified and concentrated Sunday, but no new clues were found, according to the Maine Warden Service.

The service also said the search effort, which has gone on for more than 10 days, would be “extensively scaled back.”

As many as 115 wardens and professional volunteer search-and-rescue workers took to the woods again, according to Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service.

Adam said Sunday’s search included nine human-scent-sniffing dogs and searchers riding on horseback. The dogs can smell for living people and for human remains, he said.

“What we are trying to do today is get in between linear features that we have already searched,” Adam said. “Things like trails, drainages, roads — she’s obviously not on those. Which indicates to us she must be in between one of those, and that is obviously much more difficult in this terrain.”

Geraldine Largay, 66, of Brentwood, Tenn., was reported missing July 24 by her husband after she failed to show up at a prearranged meeting place on Route 27 in Wyman Township, just north of the Sugarloaf ski resort. Largay was attempting to hike the Appalachian Trail from West Virginia to Katahdin in northern Maine.

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What started as about an 81-square-mile search area had been narrowed down to about 4.2 square miles on Sunday. The remote terrain was complicating search efforts, however, as it was taking search teams about 40 minutes just to get to the search area Sunday, Adam said.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference at the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel, Adam said neither rescue workers nor family and friends of Largay — who has been missing now for more than 10 days — were giving up hope in an effort that has confounded and frustrated those involved.

“Obviously, you never know how far the human spirit will go, but — and I have talked to the family about this — I do have grave concerns over Gerry’s condition right now,” Adam said. “Still that doesn’t change our search tactics.”

Searchers have found little evidence of Largay, even though they believe they have narrowed where she should have been and searched dozens of areas where a hiker might logically go, were they to get off the well-marked Appalachian Trail.

Adam said they believed Largay had all of her gear and belongings still with her as they have not yet found anything belonging to her.

“She wasn’t leaving like a bread-crumb trail,” Adam said. “Those clues that can lead us to them, and they are finding stuff — pieces of cloth, little candy wrappers, they are finding things like that — but nothing that we can definitely attribute to her.”

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Adam said the search efforts had been limited to only trained personnel, largely because of the challenges the steep and often thickly wooded terrain presented.

Sunday’s search was focused on wooded areas off one of the side trails connecting the AT to Mount Abraham near the township of Madrid. Adam said the wardens’ investigation had determined Largay never made it to the Spaulding Mountain lean-to, as they previously believed.

Adam said while the search area was smaller Sunday, it was very detailed and often in thickly wooded and steep terrain.

“There’s only one way to clear (those areas),” Adam said. “That’s to get people in there, and they have to search as best they can. There’s no other easy way to do it.”

Meanwhile, a representative for Largay’s family, David Fox — also of Tennessee — expressed the family’s gratitude for the ongoing efforts of the state and volunteer workers.

“They have been doing this as though they were looking for their own spouse or their own mother or their own family, their own friend,” Fox said. “It’s been an unbelievable thing, and there’s just no way to express just how much the family appreciates that.”

“Right now the family’s focus is completely on hoping that they find Gerry and praying for the searchers,” Fox said.

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Request for info

Anyone with information regarding Largay is asked to call Augusta Public Safety Dispatch at 207-624-7076 or in Maine only dial 1-800-452-4664.

Long searches strain resources: Financial, physical and emotional

Looking for a person lost in the wilderness is often compared to looking for a needle in a haystack.


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