Hugh Armstrong had been missing for two weeks, without any memory of who he was, when he says that he heard his granddaughter's name in a McDonald's and began to fill in the blanks.
Armstrong was on vacation with his family in New Hampshire. On July 25, he'd left a note, saying that he went out for a walk and would return at 10 AM. On his walk by Stinson Lake, the 72-year-old retired IBM employee fell into a ravine, where he says that he lost his recollection of who he was, though he remembered how old he was and thought that he might know someone in Asheville. Armstrong had a small bag of medicine, but nothing on him that would indicate his name.
In New Hampshire, more than 60 people, including volunteers, mobilized themselves to try to find the missing man, using helicopters, dogs, and boats. By the end of the July, the operation was scaled down to five people.
Along the way, he stacked hay for a farmer in Pennsylvania and hitchhiked across Virginia until he made it to his native state of North Carolina. Armstrong believes his extra clothes, in a garbage bag with which he was found with, came from the farmer, who fed and housed him. The farmer was also the person who gave Armstrong a ride to Roanoke, Virginia when the lost man revealed that he needed to get to Asheville.
Sitting in a McDonald's in Asheville, Armstrong heard a woman calling her daughter "Emma," and he thought that he might know someone by that name. After looking in a local phonebook, he sent a letter to an Emma in Wilmington, telling her everything that he could remember and that he was on his way to her, though he was unaware of whether the letter was delivered.
After the letter was sent, Armstrong began walking down Interstate 40. He could not remember if he received a ride for part of the way. When authorities found him 240 miles away from his house in Clayton, on foot, they recognized him from the initials on his wedding band. The deputies took him to the sheriff's station, where his wife and daughter picked him up. As soon as the car pulled into the station, he recognized it, saying that was his wife.
Deputy Brian Walker from the McDowell County Sheriff's Department said to the Associated Press, "He's my hero. That's just a remarkable feat."