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366 Smoky Rescue 2011-03-25


A University of Tennessee student went for a solo hike in the Park for his Spring Break. The 23 year old planned a 43 mile trip which would include trail-less, cross-country travel.

On the second day of the trip he began the cross-country travel; but soon he found that the thick rhododendron was a formidable obstacle. His backpack was snagging on everything, making it impossible to continue. He decided to take off his backpack, leave it, and continue his route. The thickets were still difficult, so he climbed to the closest ridge top. There he decided to stay and await rescue.

The only problem was that his backpack was still far below in the thickets of rhododendron. After four days of survival he decided he had to move to be found. He continued across the ridge to the Appalachian Trail and on to a shelter. At the shelter he found some hikers who contacted the Park and the rescue began.

The hiker was a sturdy young man. Staying out for four days without food (or much food), extra clothing, sleeping bag, or shelter is pretty amazing. We are glad that he is safe.


A few lessons that we can all learn from his trip...

Leave a detailed itinerary when going on any trip.

It is safer to travel with a companion. One important aspect of having a hiking partner is that you have someone to discuss and alter the trip's objectives.

It is okay to turn around. Don't be so goal oriented that you risk your life or end up spending a few miserable days and nights in the woods just to reach a goal.

Similar to above, accept that you made a bad plan and salvage the rest of your trip.

Plan for change in your trip.

Before going on a cross-country trip, sample the terrain - all of it looks easy to do looking at a map!

Find out all you can about your route by posting on forums and talking to Park Staff.

Listen to the advice and change the plan. In East Tennessee when I was young I asked a farmer about the location of a trail. He sized me up and said, "well, it starts down the road a piece; but be careful, that trail is rough as a cob." I have never used a corn cob; but if a corn cob is as rough as that trail was, I'll stick to Charmin! I should have listened to him.

Never leave your pack behind. Never. I cannot think of a single reason why you would leave your pack behind. If you cannot do the route with your pack, I would seriously consider looking for a detour or altering the trip. When Amy and I were climbing the 54 Colorado 14ers, as we neared the summits, we could have stashed our packs for the last push to the top; but we always climbed with our packs. What if we needed .....? What we needed were our packs and we always had them with us. Never leave your pack!

Poor planning and decisions makes the knowledge of survival skills necessary. We are glad the hiker was a good survivor.

Happy and glad I have my pack trails


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