Thanksgiving

There are two anniversaries to my brother’s death. One is Thanksgiving Day, and the other is November 23, when Thanksgiving fell that year. This year marks the 15th year since he left us. This event and the time of year that it happened are imprinted in the cells of my body. I usually start feeling more depressed than usual in November because of this fact, along with the cold and darkness, as well as the onset of the holiday season that magnifies loneliness.
This November, my depression seems to be tempered. Maybe it is due to my prolonged largely catatonic state, or maybe the inflammation is beginning to ease in my brain and thereby putting depression at bay. Maybe I am starting to learn some lessons from my illness about releasing myself from my past and stepping more fully into my present.
I have been on the Autoimmune Paleo diet for almost six weeks now, but unfortunately, it has not touched my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. My energy remains non-existent and somehow even worse than October, which has been frustrating to say the least. My digestive tract is also still troubled. Days where I must get up early are particularly hard on it, as has happened for the last two years. In addition, I have been losing sight in my right eye. I feel like my retina is detaching!
Lately, I have been hearing stories about people who are following the AIP diet who are not only not improving, but are being diagnosed with additional autoimmune disorders! I have heard that once you have an autoimmune disorder, it is common for another one to develop every 3-5 years (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, etc) . These stories and statistics are extremely alarming! I have also been hearing about people who have strictly followed this diet for more than a year and then discovered (through the Cyrex Array 10 testing) that they are sensitive to many of the foods on the AIP approved list! By following this diet, foods (such as lettuce and carrots, for example) are causing inflammation, which allows disease to persist! Many people have to backtrack and continue to remove foods from their diet with the end goal of eating the AIP approved foods that work with their particular bodies for the rest of their lives. I have also heard of people who became allergic to foods that they later reintroduced, such as almonds! Once your body starts producing antibodies to food particles that have leaked into the bloodstream (now foreign invaders to the body), they will always illicit an immune response to these foods. Gut problems and autoimmune diseases are no joke. They will affect you in one way or another for the rest of your life. Nothing will ever be the same.
In some ways, this is a good thing. Illness wakes you up to areas of your life that need attention. The key is to make this fact work in your favor. I am learning that I have been a ticking time bomb all along. The childhood trauma and stress that I experienced on a daily basis, the non-ability to feel safe or loved or worthy, and the poor nutrition I received did not allow my genes to be expressed the way they were meant to be expressed. My adrenal glands have been worn out from remaining on high alert for too many consecutive years. My gut flora was probably always out of balance (its population actually changes to match the people you are living with: entrainment in the microbiome!), but I didn’t know it. The events that happened on the PCT were too much for my body to handle. They have produced catastrophic effects.
Diet and supplements are not working. If I want to know what foods are still causing inflammation in my body, I will have to find a new doctor who will order the tests for me and pay thousands of dollars for them, myself. At this point, it seems like this would be the best route to take. I have started the process of having my medical records transferred to a Doctor of Osteopath, whom I have never met. I am hoping she will be more receptive to my physiology and problems than the primary care doctor I saw this summer.
I am learning a lot these days. I am learning about the molecules that act as keys to open up the tight junctions in the intestines, I am learning that probiotics won’t do anything unless you have a specific bacterial strain in your gut that acts as a seed for the others, and that probiotics need their own food to work. I am learning that brain inflammation (stemming from gut inflammation) inhibits the signalling pathway to the adrenal glands. Even more importantly than the science (which is all still in very early stages), however, I am learning that what is happening OUTSIDE of your body is equally, if not more important that what is happening inside of it. Family and psychic ancestral pain affects your DNA and the resilience of your body to rid itself of parasites and heal. I have been under the effect of psychic ancestral dysfunction and pain my entire life. I need to free myself from these chains in order to be able to live. Now is my opportunity to make some big changes in my life. This forced period of sitting is giving me the opportunity to change my belief system and thereby change my gene expression. Underneath it all, this illness is asking me 1) if I really want to be alive and 2) what will I do with my life if I get my health back (and even if I don’t!). It is also giving me the opportunity to learn the most important thing of all- to start loving myself.
I still have moments when I question the reason I should be alive if I must remain in this state for years, but these days, these kinds of thoughts pass much more quickly than they did in the summer. The last time I felt very depressed was in October when I tried to take a yoga class at my studio in Boston. Not only is the drive a nightmare in rush hour traffic, but the parking is equally tough. A new restaurant just opened on the street that I usually park on, making even less space available. On this particular night, I parked in the only spot I could and hurried in to class. When I walked back to my car after my enjoyable hour and a half, I discovered that it was gone! Its location was unknown to me, and I didn’t have a way to get to it. It was also pitch black out. It cost me $100 to get my car back, and then I found a parking ticket on the windshield when I finally got home for another $55! This was not a pleasant experience- especially for a girl with no income! For the next three days, I felt extremely depressed and didn’t do much other than sleep. I guess it was another way for the universe to tell me to stay home and rest. Don’t try to do the things you used to do, Wendy!
Something else that I am learning is that gratefulness reduces inflammation in the body. As one of my teachers, Jacqui Bonwell said, “Thanksgiving is a state of mind.”
Tomorrow, I will not do anything I haven’t been already doing for these last few months. I will stay home and rest and eat the foods I have been eating for the past 5.5 weeks. I may treat myself to my first coffee in that amount of time with coconut milk creamer that I will make myself. And I will enjoy it with the first Autoimmune Paleo baked dessert that I made- pumpkin bars! Maybe I will one again start a formal written gratitude practice. I am hoping that I will remain free of my usual deep depression from being alone on this holiday. If I can do that, I will feel like I am improving in at least some way. If I don’t manage that, I will simply allow what is and what comes.

I wish you all a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving! Special thoughts for all who are struggling on this day. Remember that you are loved.

And for anyone needing a little relief or humor, here you go! (I love dramatic musical life interpretations!)

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“Living Through Death: Love at the End of Marriage”

This is an extraordinarily beautiful and thoughtful piece by Lara Dotson-Renta, found on the ‘On Being’ website. I highly recommend listening to the recorded version in the link, where you can hear the nostalgic music that accompanies it. I listened to it in the dark just before I fell asleep one night a couple of weeks ago and found it extremely enjoyable, comforting and wise.

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/living-through-death-love-at-the-end-of-marriage/7989

“The sound drifts over to our bedroom like clockwork. Every night the piano plays a jaunty tune next door. It is usually the piano’s keys dancing in turn, but sometimes it is a record from the ’50s, a swaying, big-band sort of music that somehow brings our little corner of the neighborhood back several decades to when these homes were built, and a marriage was just beginning. Time rewinds and restarts with each change in key.

I stop and sit each time, pulled to the window. I pause to listen and imagine the scene as the music sweeps into each corner of their home — over the graying couch in the sitting room, over the mounted family photos, over the beautiful open Bible on a wooden stand. Our elderly neighbor plays faithfully, the notes an affirmation of presence, a victory of joy, a connection maintained.

Our neighbors have been married for over 50 years. The husband attended our alma mater, Dartmouth College, where my husband and I met. When we moved into our home, the one we are raising our babies in as we sweep into our mid thirties, our neighbor, my husband, and I traded stories of young lives in rural New Hampshire experienced five decades apart. It is impossible to not see some mirror of one another, an inversion of life stages just next door. Time has a funny way of crossing your path with those you need to meet, with those that have something to teach you.

Our neighbors raised five children together, and have grieved the loss of an adult child. Rather than sink into their grief, they remained aloft, holding on to one another like defiant petals in the wind. The creases in their eyes remember, but don’t tell. Their hands are soft and worn with time; their soft bodies such a contrast from the small and fast bodies of the children I hug and care for each day, the babies that give my days rhythm and purpose. I feed, I bathe, I sing, and I comfort. So does my neighbor. He and I spend our days caring and loving, and preparing different goodbyes: My children are growing, changing, preparing for adulthood, when they will leave me and begin to craft lives of their own. Every day they are close to my chest they are also a day closer to leaving, to letting go. I will mourn this, but it is the way of life. My neighbor’s wife is changing, and preparing to leave him as well. With much grace and kindness, he is loving her through what remains, tending to her body as it gives in and gives way, preparing a gentle path for her death. This too is the circle of being, but a way of knowing and understanding that I have not experienced yet, that I can only hope to live up to if put to the test.

I watched her body deteriorate from the window or my doorstep, in short visits and morning hellos. I saw the energy present just a few short years ago fade a little — in the crook of a missed step, in a word forgotten, and then nearly lost entirely, eyes adrift. She is present in vibrant sparks and spurts, usually when my children come by — there is something about a small child that awakens something in a mother. Nevertheless, I have watched her fade from the world bit by bit, remaining in it but not quite of it.

Except for when she is with him.

When she is with her husband, she is here. After more decades together than not, and as her mind and body slowly erode, it is clear that her husband is the axis upon which things can still make sense for her, the security she needs to navigate this final gray space between life and death. I see the sparkle in his eye when he looks at her still, and it is both heartbreaking and inspiring. There is no measuring, no holding back, no keeping score or negotiating there. There is no use for pretense at this place in the journey, and he is all here, all in, with her.

It is rare to see the promises of love lived out fully, to watch people supported by family and friends in late life in such a way that such may be realized. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to guide someone to their end: I see their daughters come by, their grandson mowing their lawn every week, a local nun’s order helping with adult care. I grapple very much with the idea of God in this broken world, with the idea of a divine something that I cannot quite grasp or logically explain — but if such a thing exists, the devotion I see in my neighbors would embody and affirm it. His simultaneous acceptance of letting the love of his life go, and his commitment to being there and loving her through it, of bearing witness and being a part of a process that must be immensely difficult in its labor and finality, is the stuff of legend. Getting married is easy. Loving anyone this way, for this long, is hard and messy, miraculous and graceful. Accepting and facing death, stopping treatments when it is evident they are of no further use, choosing to live what is left simply rather than prolong, is quietly courageous and brave in a culture ill at ease with death and dying, uncomfortable with what it all looks like. There is no glamor in the smells and textures of death, in gradual decline. But it is here where life is at its most palpable, its most raw, its most layered.

As often as I can, I stop in and visit, and bring over a treat or a reminder that we are here should they need anything, anything at all. I have been told that I am a kind neighbor, and that this is very nice of me. I reject this. The truth is I am the lucky one to have been privileged enough to witness both the simplicity and intricate nuance that is enduring love, to see firsthand what end-of-life care is and means, to consider that each day of marriage is a step on a very long walk, a walk that must end as all do.

Their melody plays in my head each night, making me pause amid the frenzy of laundry and toddler bedtime and remember that it all comes full circle. We are all in some way preparing for endings. Some day the music will stop next door, and everything will change. But for now, the music keeps playing. Life is being lived, completely and honestly. I will keep listening. I will keep remembering that the most extraordinary lives are often the ones lived most quietly, most remarkably, by one’s neighbors and loved ones, if we just pay attention. If you just listen, everyone has a song.”

“The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac” (part 4) by Mary Oliver

Late yesterday afternoon, in the heat,
all the fragile blue flowers in bloom
in the shrubs in the yard next door had
tumbled from the shrubs and lay
wrinkled and fading in the grass.
But this morning the shrubs were full of
the blue flowers again.
There wasn’t a single one on the grass.
How, I wondered, did they roll back up to
the branches, that fiercely wanting,
as we all do, just a little more of
life?

What am I Eating?

I grew up on a diet of Kellog’s cereal, skim milk, white bread, deli ham, peanut butter and jelly, Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes, Fruit Drinks, Campbell’s soup, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Hot Dogs and canned beans, Oreos, Pinwheel (marshmallow) cookie, Hershey candy bars, Ice Cream, Doritos, and soda (in other words- junk!). On a special occasion, my mother would make “greenbean casserole” of which the directions were found on a Campbell’s soup can. We also had a box of Dunkin’ Donuts on some Sundays. If we ever ate “out”, It would be at MacDonald’s or Papa Ginos. I ate this way for 18 years. By the time I graduated from college, the fanciest restaurant I had ever eaten at was a Chinese food restaurant. I grew up on the campus of a private high school and when in session, my family would often eat our dinners in the cafeteria. This is where most of my “nutrition” came from. This diet, along with the criticism and lack of love I was receiving on a daily basis, formed my constitution. Suffice to say, I had a lot to overcome.

I was speaking with a woman who attended my talk recently about our gut issues and she mentioned that 80 year olds are not suffering from these problems (and don’t understand why we are) because they grew up eating real farm food, which provided them with strong constitutions. Until she said that, I hadn’t thought about the role the diet I consumed in my formative years was playing a part in my current state. My heart sank a little more.

After college, living on a very low income, high in college tuition debt, and not yet having learned to cook, I continued to eat cereal, soup, bread, dumplings, candy and cookies as my staples. I lived in a room in an apartment in which I did not feel comfortable. It wasn’t until I moved into my own apartment that I tried cooking fish and other meals for the first time. Ten years ago, feeling heavier than I wanted to, I bought a no carb diet and workout book and began making the recipes from it (as well as following the strength exercises). This was a deprivation diet, and after the initial 2 weeks, I had a hard time sticking with it. However, three meals from the book became my staples over the next years. I would cook batches of turkey chili, Basque chicken, and ratatouille on the weekends, and bring portions into work to have at lunch. One of the recipes was for tumeric chicken strips. Unfortunately, there was a mistake in the recipe, calling for WAY too much of the spice. When I tried it at work the next day, I felt like I was being poisoned! I could not take more than 2 small bites. Since that time, I have not been able to eat tumeric spice again (which is unfortunate as this is a highly anti-inflammatory food!)… The memory of that incident remained too strong in my body. My breakfasts since that time have also been based on a recipe in that cookbook: egg whites (which turn out to be the bad part of the egg for those with autoimmune diseases!) with shitake mushrooms and tomatoes, and turkey bacon. I went back to drinking coffee and eating cookies and chocolate daily to satiate my sweet cravings. I’ve always felt that I needed to have something sweet after every meal.

Since returning home from the PCT, I have not felt like cooking at all (aside from the same breakfasts I just mentioned). Transitioning back to this other life is very, very difficult (today I was thinking about how that time felt and I am very happy that I am no longer in that space!), and cooking for one person is never fun anyway. Because of my continued stomach pain, I was eating Greek yogurt with berries for lunch. And I would buy soup, or already cooked food from the Whole Foods hot bar for dinner. I thought miso soup was a healthy thing to eat throughout the winter.

In the last few weeks, I have discovered that most of the things I thought were “good” for me (eggs, tomatoes, yogurt, miso soup, turkey chili) were actually slowly killing me!

For the last three weeks, my diet has consisted of:

Breakfast:
-A smoothie with spinach, ginger, turmeric, berries, a bit of green powder, a bit of brown rice protein powder, and goat kefir.
This week, I will start to add in some celery, cucumber, and papaya.
-Green tea

Afternoon “snacks”
-Plantain Chips (LOTS of them! This is my new snack since I can’t have any nut butter, bars, or chocolate). I eat two 9 ounce tubs per week.

-8 ounces of Bone Broth per day

-Usually a sauasge

-(On days where I feel REALLY awful, I allow myself to eat some cacao covered coconut pieces)

Dinner:

-Salmon, chicken, or turkey, kimchi, an array of vegetables consisting of any of the following: collard greens, broccoli, avocado, sweet potato, roasted butternut squash, and occasionally a brussel sprout (blech!)
(A Thanksgiving dinner every night!)

-1/2 bottle Ginger Kombucha

I am following the Auto Immune Paleo diet (an anti-inflammatory diet), with a few exceptions.
Kefir is not approved on this diet, as it is dairy. However, I believe that goat’s milk kefir is okay for me at this point, as it does not contain the harmful components that cow’s milk does.

The brown rice in my protein powder is not approved as it is a grain. However, I personally feel that I need some protein in my smoothies to make them more substantive, and of all the possibilities, brown rice is the safest protein powder base for a person with digestive issues.

My green powder contains goji berries, which are not approved, but I am really not worried about this!

For the first four days of my diet, I ate some sliced bell peppers (gasp!) with my mid-day sausage.

I’ve also eaten sausage with unapproved spices such as paprika and chili, simply because I could not find an alternative.

Cacao is not approved as it is a bean. Sometimes, a girl needs a treat!

The Auto Immune Paleo diet (like any diet) is not a one fits all plan. It has only been around for 2 years and clinicians are now seeing patients who have strictly followed this plan (and are down to 10-15 foods) for a full year or more who are still not healing. There are many possible reasons for this result. One is that every individual has food sensitivities that are specific to them. Some of these foods are on the approved list for the AIP diet. Some people are allergic to the gelatin in bone broth, for example. Despite being told that bone broth should help them, it is actually hurting them! Food allergies and sensitivities cause inflammation in the body and inflammation causes disease. At this time, there is only one fully comprehensive food sensitivity test available. It is performed by Cyrex Labs and is called Array 10. Unfortunately, insurance does not cover any of the cost. A health care provider must order the test and the patient pays the $680 cost. Most of us suffering from chronic diseases are not only not able to work (or work minimally) and can not afford even our basic cost of living, but unfortunately, aren’t able to pay for this kind of information that we need to heal ourselves. Other factors that may cause a person to not get better are hidden co-infections (also a new frontier). For example, a person may be under the attack of several active chronic viral infections that they are not aware they have and which aren’t helped by diet. The science behind these diseases is very, very complicated (immunoglobulins, antigens, antibodies, etc)! Sometimes, a person who is being treated for gut issues will not heal because the brain component of the brain-gut axis is impaired and not included in treatment. The vagus nerve might not be properly communicating to the abdomen. Other people have histamine sensitivities. Because the number of tests to be done are overwhelming, and due to my lack of finances, I am going to do everything I can on my own first. It is also extremely hard to find clinicians who are at all aware of these issues. I can’t reiterate enough how insulting and hopeless it feels to be told by doctors that a person who is physically suffering so much is simply depressed and needs talk therapy. (It is actually NOT helpful to verbally repeat the trauma that has happened to you in the past… This only serves to prolong the cycle of suffering… But that is a topic for another day!)

I have now completed 21 days of this diet, and I am very proud of how well I am doing with it! I do not miss coffee (or chocolate for the most part!) and I do not feel deprived (the key to a lifelong diet)! When I do start to crave foods that I am not allowed to have, I tell myself to settle down, settle down. Usually they dissipate. One major caveat to this type of diet is that you must always stay close to home (at this point, I don’t even have the option for anything else!). I dropped 5 of my extra 10 pounds that I have put on over the course of this last year (yesterday marked the day that my knee fully gave out one year ago) in the first 17 days and am now holding steady. The other five will have to wait until the inflammation in my body subsides (this takes a LONG time) and until I have the ability to work out again. I’ve already noticed an improvement in the inflammation in my brain (if left unchecked, the disease will change the myelin sheath surrounding the brain and progress to early dementia…). I am starting to think more clearly, remember things, and I have finally read my first book in a very long time! (I think this is only the second one I have read this year!). It was “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Hidden Epidemic”, which was excellent, just as my friend had said. I highly recommend it for everyone to read. (It is not being published anymore, but you can still buy it used). It not only helps one understand what it is like to have this condition and how to go about healing it, but it offers great advice for everyone on how to prevent such a disease from happening in the first place. As time goes on, I fully believe that more and more people will struggle with autoimmune diseases due to the poisoning of our food system, and the amount of stress we carry in our lives.
Although this book was published in 1992, the authors fully knew then, as many clinicians are discovering today, that diet and supplements are only ONE part of the healing process. All disease is really an opportunity to examine one’ beliefs about life and make changes that will last a lifetime. It also allows one to examine the stress issues that led to the disease. Changing patterns in the subconscious mind is really the root of healing. Often, people who suffer from autoimmune diseases find it hard to love and forgive themselves. I feel that I have a strong intellectual grasp on what I need to do to heal (and have had so for a long time), but as of yet, I have not been able to actually make the deep changes that I need to. Over the course of these next few months and years, I must undertake the hard work of changing my subconscious beliefs about myself and about the world. Before one can heal their illness, they must first heal their life. This is the journey that I am about to embark on.

The Mysterious Disappearance and Death of AT Hiker Geraldine Largay

Geraldine Largay disappeared from the Appalachian Trail in Maine on July 22, 2013. She had planned on meeting her husband at a road crossing the next day. Two years later, her remains were still not found. I had planned on posting this article on a significant piece of information pertaining to her disappearance last July, but did not manage to do so before I was hit with my tremendous fatigue. Here is the article: http://thebollard.com/2015/06/30/m-i-a-on-the-a-t/
Although it is long, it is well worth the read. It goes into depth about the Navy SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) training school which is located on a large section of property adjacent to the Appalachian Trail for approximately a mile to the north and south of the shelter Gerry was last seen at. (Interestingly, there is also one on the west coast, very close to the PCT in Warner Springs, CA). This school employs psychological and physical torture tactics on its students to prepare them for war scenarios. Participants role play escape, capture, and torture scenarios in the wilderness. Brown writes, “David J. Morris said he underwent SERE training as a lieutenant in 1995. ‘I was hooded, beaten, starved, stripped naked, and hosed down in the December air until I became hypothermic,’ he wrote. ‘When I forgot my prison number, I was strapped to a gurney and made to watch as a fellow prisoner was water-boarded a foot away from me. I will never forget the sound of that young sailor choking, seemingly near death, paying for my mistake’.” Many participants are deprived of sleep, tortured, and confused by the reality of the situation. I do not believe that I was aware of this school or its property during my thru-hike, and after reading this article, I am thankful that I did not know about it then.
The article also mentions that a call was placed to the owner of the Stratton Motel, where Gerry and her husband planned to stay on Wednesday night. The unidentified caller said that Gerry would be late. This call is hugely suspicious to me, No other hiker on the AT had seen Gerry after she left the shelter that Monday morning. The previous night and that morning, she was in very high spirits. She had only 8 miles to hike on Monday, and 13.5 on Tuesday. Only someone that played a part in her disappearance would have known that she would not arrive on time (or at all). It is even more suspicious that the Maine Warden Service stated that they knew who the unidentified caller was and then backtracked when pressed. Hutch Brown wrote, “When I asked Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service about this, he said, ‘We’re sure we know who made the phone call, but the verbiage was screwed up.’ After I expressed surprise that they’d identified the caller, Lt. Adam backtracked a bit. ‘I believe we know who made the call,’ he said. ‘A little got lost in translation.’ The caller was reported to have been a female by the Stratton Motel owner.
After reading this article, I felt that the answers concerning Gerry’s disappearance and death could be found within the borders of the SERE school. It seems highly likely to me that a sensory deprived participant in this mock escape and capture scenario came upon Largay as she hiked this section of the AT that practically touches the SERE property and confused her as an “enemy”. However, this scenario was not even questioned nor were searches conducted on much of the SERE property! Clearly, the SERE school holds great power over all of the search and rescue groups and state departments and was not willing to cooperate with search efforts. I do not understand why more pressure was/could not have been exerted upon them.
Brown writes, “When I first called Lt. Adam, a lead investigator and spokesperson for the Warden Service, I asked him about the SERE School. ‘I don’t know anything about that,’ he said. He wasn’t sure whether there had been a SERE course in progress the week Largay vanished or not. (At the end of that week, helicopter pilots spotted campfires inside the facility and initially thought they were a sign of Largay; they later determined SERE students had set them.)”
“The staff and students of the SERE School aren’t just inclined to be secretive about what goes on there; they’re legally bound to keep it classified. But according to Prosser, neither he nor his staff have even been questioned by state authorities about Largay’s case. ‘I was never interviewed,’ he told my editor, ‘and I don’t recall any interviews with members of my staff.’

On October 14, a “contractor” discovered the skeletal remains of Largay. It was no surprise to me that they were located on the SERE property about 2-3 miles from the Appalachian Trail. The case was dismissed and many people commented on the fact that her family now at least has closure. To me, and to the author of this article, this finding would bring anything but closure! http://chrisbusby.bangordailynews.com/2015/10/22/politics/case-of-missing-a-t-hiker-far-from-closed/
Her family declined to comment until they could process the information.

Many hikers have commented that the section of the trail she was on was very well marked. In order to get to where she was found on her own, she would have had to bushwack through tough terrain for 2-3 miles! This was a very happy woman who was fulfilling a dream of hers, scheduled to meet her loving husband the next day. She also had a whistle on her backpack strap. If something had happened to her in which she felt in danger, she would have blown the whistle if she could have.

At the end of October, her case was officially declared closed. An article in the Portland Press Herald reported, “The skeletal remains of Largay were found Oct. 14 in a wooded area about 3,000 yards off the trail, two or three miles from where she was last seen in July 2013, authorities said.

‘These findings now bring closure to one of Maine’s most unique and challenging search and rescue incidents,’ Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service said in a statement.
Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Geraldine Largay died of exposure and lack of food and water, according to an autopsy by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.

The Maine Warden Service announced the results of the state medical examiner’s inquiry, which also used DNA to confirm Largay’s identity.

A cellphone found with the remains was examined by the Maine State Police Computer Crime Lab.

‘Information found on the cellphone concluded that Gerry reached Orbeton Stream and the discontinued railroad bed crossing in the late morning of July 22, 2013. Shortly after reaching that intersection, she continued north on the Appalachian Trail and at some point left the trail and became lost,’ MacDonald’s statement said. ‘After examination of the remains and working in conjunction with information from investigators on the case, the Chief Medical Examiner determined this was an accidental death due to lack of food and water and environmental exposure’.”

This report is an injustice to Gerry and to her family. She did not become lost and bushwack 2-3 miles off the trail. The AT is well blazed, and any long distance hiker who has not seen a white blaze in awhile and thinks they are lost knows to turn around and backtrack until they find one again.  She did not remain silent while teams of searchers and dogs and helicopters were scouring the area trying to find her. She did not lie down and wait weeks to die from starvation without searching for water or for help.  She had a cell phone that she texted her husband from that morning. Even if she was out of range, she would have kept walking until she found reception. She did not die from “exposure”. She was well equipped to survive cold temperatures for long periods of time (and this was July!).  If she was incapacitated by a medical event, she would not have been able to get to the place she was found. Gerry’s family deserves real answers. They, at the very least, deserve to know what actually caused her disappearance and death. There are many questions that still need to be answered and I hope that pressure will be exerted on the officials at the SERE school to cooperate and provide much more information. This could have happened (and might still happen) to any one of us hiking the Appalachian Trail!