Despite his age, Harry Harvey loved taking himself on intense hikes around the world. His passion brought him to a national park he’d never explored before, where he joined a group and set out to get his next wilderness fix. However, nature wasn’t kind to him. After getting separated, no one was sure if they’d ever see him again… until he showed up in an unlikely spot with a truly harrowing tale.

Stuffing a pack full of supplies and lugging it around on your back through the unpredictable wilderness is the kind of outdoor activity you say goodbye to as you get older. Unless you’re Harry Harvey.

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There was no mountain too rugged or trail too long for this 80-year-old trooper. For decades, he blazed paths throughout the world’s forests and parks, but he never made his way through England’s Yorkshire Dales National Park.

That’s why he booked a spot with a hiking group and headed to the campsite to meet with the team he’d be trekking with. His hiking poles at the ready, Harvey was ready for the experience of a lifetime.

In the countryside, the sun was shining, but there was a cool breeze that hung around as the team set out, and the greenery gradually thickened around them. Everyone was an experienced hiker, so Harvey didn’t foresee any real trouble unfolding.

One of the first clearings the group came to had a tavern called The Tan Hill Inn standing prominently in the center. Harvey thought nothing of it, but he had no idea just how vital of a role the inn would eventually play in the coming days.

See, any hiker knows how quickly the weather can turn on them when they’re out in the elements. The sunshine warming Harvey’s face quickly turned to needle-like rain and hail. Suddenly, the whole team was swept up in a freezing storm.

The wind was howling and visibility was next to nothing for hours. The team, however, survived nature’s fury unscathed. That was, until they all turned around to check on their elderly companion. Suddenly, they had a big problem.

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Harvey was nowhere in sight! Everyone was so caught up in toughing out the hail storm no one noticed he fell out of formation and was following a different path. The park’s Swaledale Mountain Rescue was called immediately.

Richmondshire Today

Over 100 rescue workers broke out into small groups and began combing every square inch of the national park. Harvey was out there, and the Swaledale rescue team was not about to let a death occur on their watch.

WDRB

No one was ready to quit until the mission was successful, and once night fell, flashlights clicked on and flood lights illuminated the trees. After four days of searching with no luck, everyone regrouped at The Tan Hill Inn.

The rescue workers urged anyone who wanted to partake to arrive at the inn ready to discuss different search tactics. At 80 years of age, four days in the woods alone could easily prove a death sentence.

The rescue workers kicked around different ideas. Would signal flares work? Helicopters? Was there even any point in keeping the search up? As they racked their brains, a visitor entered the inn.

Right in the middle of the meeting, as if out of a movie, entered the man who the meeting was about! Everyone stared in brief disbelief, and then miraculous relief washed over the whole inn as Harry Harvey strode through the front doors. How had this happened?

Harvey explained what happened during a live Facebook interview soon after: “I just got separated by getting caught in a really heavy hailstorm, a howling gale of wind,” he said. “The place was absolutely desolate.” He went on.

Manchester Evening News

“There was no chance of putting a tent up, so I had to find somewhere safe, which is what I did. I had a plan B straight away, find somewhere safe to camp, put my tent up, and keep warm.” On his own, he even faced an emergency.

The Tan Hill Inn / Facebook

While alone, Harry Harvey actually slipped in a stream and bonked his head on some rocks, giving himself a nasty cut on his forehead. Ever the outdoorsmen, he managed to patch himself up. Apparently, the incident didn’t cause him too much grief.

Despite the misadventure, Harvey didn’t seem all that frazzled. “I had three really good wild camping nights where I was on my own and had all the kit I needed.” He even admitted to seeing rescue crews while he was “missing.”

Paramount Vantage

Having no clue the overpassing rescue helicopters were actually dispatched for him, he thought nothing of their presence. Now, while Harvey was basking in the tented freedom of the park, his family definitely didn’t share the enthusiasm.

Harvey’s family used the word “torture” to describe what they felt while he was gone. “He’s had a blast, we’ve had a nightmare. We know he is experienced, but not three nights, that’s taking it a little bit to the extreme.”

Daily Mail

North Yorkshire Police Inspector — and one of the men at the search’s helm — Mark Gee said of the mission: “This is fantastic news that Harry has been found safe and well. I want to thank all the search volunteers.”

Richmondshire Today

Harvey certainly didn’t act like his four solo days at the national park would deter him from future group hikes. Still, an elderly hiker on the Appalachian Trail did make him reconsider any trips to the States.

Daily Mail

For hiking enthusiasts, the Appalachian Trail is considered one of the most breathtaking thru-hiking experiences in the world. Winding its way through 14 states, the A.T. is the perfect way to experience all the beauty that the U.S.’s eastern coast has to offer.

National Parks Foundation

But make no mistake — the Appalachian Trail is not for the faint of heart. The 2,200-mile path is marked by rugged terrain and extreme climates, and of the nearly 4,000 experienced hikers that set out on the A.T. each year, only about a quarter hike to completion.

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Those odds aren’t great, but for Geraldine “Gerry” Largay, they were still odds worth taking. The 66-year-old retired nurse from Tennessee was searching for her next great adventure, and in the spring of 2013, she decided that the Appalachian Trail was just that.

The Bollard

Despite an anxious nature, Gerry resolved to hike the trail without her husband, George, believing this challenge was one she needed to overcome alone. Still, that didn’t stop her childhood friend Jane Lee from tagging along in pursuit of her own life-changing adventure.

And so, on April 23, 2013, the two women set off on their first leg of the Appalachian Trail, entering through a trail opening in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Unlike most who tackle the A.T., however, Gerry and Jane decided to go about their hike a little differently.

Travel Destinations

Instead of thru-hiking the trail with no assistance, Gerry and Jane were met along the way by George, who would resupply them and even take them to a hotel for the evening to shower and rest. After all, these women were in their 60s — the less risk they had to take on the trail, the better.

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Yet age wasn’t the only factor that made the hike a dangerous endeavor. Gerry had a notoriously poor sense of direction and would often make wrong turns along the trail, making these short stops — as well as Jane’s presence — all the more essential.

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Despite these precautions, however, Gerry and Jane’s adventure came to a grinding halt just two months in. After getting word of a family emergency back home, Jane was forced to abandon their hike just a few miles into New Hampshire.

Maine Public

Before she did, Jane implored her companion to return home with her, believing that Gerry wasn’t equipped to handle the remaining stretch of the A.T. But Gerry wouldn’t be swayed — she was going to finish what she started.

The Inquisitr

Over the next few weeks, the 66-year-old steadily made her way through New Hampshire and into Maine, the finish line in sight. She rested briefly on July 22, and a group of fellow hikers snapped this picture of her.

Perhaps seeing this photo would’ve calmed George’s nerves, as two days after it was taken, he received no word from Gerry despite scheduling a call with her to check in. When the 24th came and went without sign of his wife, George knew he had to act.

The Portland Press Herald

He contacted the Maine Department of Parks and Recreation, who immediately summoned a search party for what would become the largest manhunt in state history. For 20 days, volunteers combed every inch of Maine wilderness, though by the end, Gerry was still nowhere to be found.

Heartbroken, George and the rest of Largay family had no choice but to assume the worse and held a memorial service for the beloved wife and mother later that year. But had Gerry really perished on the trail? Some investigators weren’t so sure.

D. Dauphinee

According to one witness, a woman matching Gerry’s description was spotted wandering through a nearby town, though around the same time, another witness claimed to have seen Gerry living in a women’s shelter back in Tennessee. Investigators were stumped, though in October 2015, they finally got their answers.

The Boston Globe

While filming an episode of North Woods Law, an Animal Planet film crew stumbled upon a crumpled yellow tent just a half mile off the Appalachian Trail. They assumed it had been left behind by a hiker who had set up camp off the trail. They were wrong.

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Beneath the rotting remains of the tent was a body so decayed that the crew was unsure police would even be able to identify it. Further investigation uncovered a journal tucked beneath the corpse, and inside, they discovered a heartbreaking truth.

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The body belonged to Geraldine Largay, who, according to the journal, had wandered off the A.T. shortly after chatting with the hikers on July 22 and was unable to find her way back. With the trail out of sight and her supplies dwindling, she waited for help, which never came.

Most tragic of all, however, was the final note she left behind: “When you find my body please call my husband, George, and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you find me – no matter how many years from now.”

The Boston Globe

Incredibly, Gerry had survived 26 days alone in the Maine wilderness and wrote in her journal right up until the very end. And while the search for the missing hiker had ended sometime around August 4, 2013, the journal showed she was still alive as late as August 18.

With this news, George and the Largays were finally able rest easy knowing that Gerry was at peace. Despite losing the love of his life, George says he has no regrets about encouraging Gerry to hike the trail because she died doing what she loved: living life to the fullest.

The Boston Globe

Preparing for the Appalachian Trail is no joke, and that’s why those seeking to tackle the path often spend months at a time preparing for the journey. Thinking she might tackle the trail, a certain teenager headed straight into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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“I know this valley like the back of my hand,” 17-year-old Maddie Roark told Vice. “I’ve grown up running around the woods and exploring everywhere. The woods is where I feel more comfortable.”

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And if you took just a single stroll with her through the tree-lined ridges, you’d have known she was telling the truth. She could identify tree species with the same ease in which you might identify your neighbors.

Vice / YouTube

That’s because the teen lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains, totally off the grid, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, for six months out of the year — but she wasn’t entirely alone at her cabin, which sat in a dusty clearing.

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A handful of dogs might’ve followed her on any walk to the hen house, where birds worked hard to ensure she had a few eggs for breakfast. A few goats strutted alongside her too, as well as a cat.

Vice / YouTube

Luckily, she wasn’t without human companionship. Her dad shared the cabin with her, and it was his dream that drove the duo so far from other humans. “The idea of living off the grid started when I was a child,” he said.

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He continued, “I was disgusted with the way people just took their resources for granted, and they just didn’t think about how they affected the circle of life that they were very much a part of… you just find yourself living with your head stuck in a hole.”

Gregg Segal

Maddie, of course, had her own reasons for spending some of her most formidable years in relative isolation — and it wasn’t to avoid petty high school drama or highway traffic.

Mean Girls

The impressive teen lived off the grid to prepare for a six-month solo hike along the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200-mile path that takes travelers from Georgia to Maine. It’s a grueling and demanding journey.

Chicago Tribune

But nevertheless, those six-months, Maddie believed, would be beneficial: “Hiking through the woods for six months is a good way for me to figure out who I want to be in life before going off to college,” she said.

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Yep, while most 17-year-olds “find” themselves by getting a little too involved at a high school party or by attending a college really far away from home, Maddie’s approach was a little different — but she was a different kind of person.

Maddie’s “way of seeing the world is very much the way that young children in cultures that live closely with the Earth” see it, her dad said. It’s very much “that ‘I’m in the present'” mindset. “It’s almost an ancient way of seeing the earth.”

Living off the grid didn’t mean that Maddie and her dad lived in squalor, however. In fact, thanks to a few very particular sets of skills, the duo ate meals that would make any foodie’s mouth water.

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On one morning, for instance, they ate scrambled eggs from their coop, shiitake mushrooms they foraged, and onions they grew, all cooked in bear grease they made themselves from lard gifted to them from hunters.

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There was no grocery store within walking distance of their little cottage, so to get their proteins — like deer jerky and summer sausage — they had to get their hands dirty. But they had the tools and talents for that, too.

With rifles, bows, and arrows, Maddie and her dad hunted for their own meat. “To become a good hunter with a bow, you have to understand the pattern and rhythms of the woods,” her dad said. And boy, that duo did.

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Maddie felt more in tune with the world because they killed for meals. “Growing up around death and knowing that [it’s] necessary in order for me to survive, I think it’s made me know and appreciate the importance of life so much more,” Maddie said.

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Her dad echoed the sentiment. “Anything that keeps you more connected to the earth and the resources that keep you alive,” he said, “is a really important skill.”

That’s why Maddie never let an animal go to waste. After killing and skinning a deer, and then scraping all the fat and meat off the hide, she created bags and pouches from the pelt, which she then sold on Etsy to fund her Appalachian Trail hike!

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She may have appeared like a truly special teenager, but Maddie didn’t see it that way. “I’ve never thought that it’s special that I know all this stuff, or that it makes me cooler or a better person,” she said. “It just is what it is.”

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You can’t help but wonder what Maddie will become in the future. These one-of-a-kind childhoods can forge incredible people — just ask the man known as “Tree Beard.”

Mick Dodge — who would eventually earn the moniker — was born in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula where he quickly developed a love of the outdoors. Growing up, he never lived in one place for too long, seeing as his father, Ronald Dodge, was a Marine.

Mick attended Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, Japan, where his father was stationed. There, he learned a variety of survival skills and Buddhist principles.

After Mick graduated from high school, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Marines, where he served for nearly six years. When he finally returned to the United States, he found work as an auto mechanic, but it wouldn’t last long…

Mick always knew his family was in tune with the natural world. Four generations settled in the Hoh Rainforest of the Pacific Northwest. His grandfather passed down his knowledge of the land and essential survival skills. Nature was in his Mick’s bones, and pretty soon it would be his world.

Mick’s father instilled in him a lifelong passion for physical fitness. Once, as an adult, Mick ran a race from Washington to California, and back! He simply loved the challenge of pushing his body to the limit.

As years passed, Mick became increasingly frustrated at the stress that seemed to plague every aspect of life. People all around him chased commercial success. Mick wasn’t all about those goals, so one day, he made the biggest decision of his life…

He packed a backpack with essential supplies and headed deep into the woods of the Hoh Rainforest. The forest would become Mick’s new permanent domain. But, would he be able to survive?

It wasn’t going to be easy, but Mick was ready to use his primal instincts and everything his grandfather taught him to make a life for himself. In his opinion, that meant ditching one very important piece of clothing…

His shoes! Mick believes he has a special connection to the earth when he walks barefoot. He also had chronic heel pain he claims almost disappeared after ditching his kicks. His root tattoos represent the bond he feels with our planet.

So what exactly does Mick do every day? He spends much of his time gathering food. He forages for berries and even stocks up on fish and worms. The forest is rich with nourishment if you know where to look… and you don’t mind eating worms.

Mick also spends time fashioning weapons out of sticks and stones so he can hunt larger animals. The berries and vegetation can’t provide him with everything he needs, so he also hunts larger game.

To wash down the bugs, Mick ferments what he calls his “jam juice” and sips it while lounging under the forest canopy. But, what’s a bottle of wine without some good company?

Well, even though Mick mostly does his own thing from day to day, he has a few good friends who he shares meals with from time to time. Like him, they too have embraced the nomadic lifestyle.

But it’s his dog who is his truest companion. The two have been inseparable for years. Gabu is somewhat of a free spirit herself and sometimes wanders off from Mick for the day, but she always returns to her best friend.

Mick hasn’t left behind all the comforts of home! Using an improvised heating system and gallons of water pumped from a nearby ravine, Mick can make himself quite the luxurious hot tub. But, where does Mick go when he needs something he can’t find or build?

He’ll take a journey to the nearest town and barter for the goods and services. He’ll bring along a few bottles of his jam juice and other handcrafted tools and trade!

Mick was living alone in the woods for 20 years before word started spreading about his unique life. In fact, National Geographic actually created a show called The Legend of Mick Dodge that highlighted Mick’s never-before-seen life in the Hoh Rainforest.

Mick admitted to cameras that he does leave the forest life behind to travel into the city to visit family. While he’s there, he’ll also treat himself to his guilty pleasures: chocolate chip cookies and hamburgers!

He’s been nicknamed “The Barefoot Nomad,” “Tree Beard,” and “The Hobbit,” but no matter what people call him, one thing’s for sure: Mick Dodge lives an extraordinarily unique life.