Day 102. Well, that was an interesting evening. The picture above is not of me, but it is a story worth telling in today’s post. Nothing as interesting as this medical evacuation happened to me today, but I’ll briefly rush through my hike so I can get to that story for you.
I had thoughts of doing the 18 miles planned today, or perhaps 23 if my feet were up to it. Coming down Harmon Hill this morning was a steep decent, but I met a nice family on their first backpacking trip in 30 years. They haven’t been out since the kids were born, and decided this was the year. The parents, Bev and Mike, were joined by their son for a section of the AT, and severely overpacked on food. To my advantage. When I passed them on the trail, they were eager to learn about my travels and to share their trail mix and apples in exchange for stories. Apples! Fresh produce was a welcomed treat and I thanked them for the juicy treats as we walked down together.
Then I climbed up, up and up. One hill after another for the next 15 miles. There weren’t many views, and the bugs kept me from stopping anywhere long enough to enjoy a rest anyway. So I rushed through the terrain and made my way to Kid Gore Shelter, unsure of whether I’d stay (18 miles) or go on to the next one (23 miles).
But when I got here, I knew I wasn’t leaving for 2 reasons: one good, one bad. The good reason is that this shelter looks out over a valley to the east, with a beautiful view at night and (supposedly) and even better view at sunrise. Getting to see that sunrise tomorrow is my primary motivation to stay here, I hope it’s as good as the guide books say. Here’s the view at night as I write this:
The bad reason, was because a hiker was waiting to get extricated by rescue services. He was a young hiker, on his 3rd day thruhiking the Long Trail (which overlaps the AT in Vermont). While hiking yesterday, he had a nasty fall and thought he tore a ligament in his knee. After a day of rest, he tried to hike out today but couldn’t get more than a couple miles before the pain was too much. So he called the local police and asked what to do, they said to wait at the shelter and they’d come get him.
Side note, Happy has a similar medical evac story from Montana that I knew of, but this was the first time hearing about/seeing it in person out here on the AT.
Now, let me say, I am incredibly thankful for the people that do this, and knowing they will come if needed is extremely reassuring. But, I was even more amazed by the process of this rescue. Approximately 3 hours after his initial call, just as I was finishing dinner, we heard them coming. Nine men, one women, a dog, and a stretcher on one wheel all rolled into the shelter. They cane from a back road behind the privy, the opposite direction of the Appalachian Trail. It is approximately a 1 mile hike up a secret unmarked trail, which is used only for maintenance and rescue purposes (I learned almost every shelter has these). The Fire Chief told us that they all hiked up together, after an ATV ride up a private dirt path from the nearest accessible road. The EMTs with them (2) immediately began gathering his vitals and medical history, and the others (consisting of fire fighters) waited patiently while assessing the exit strategy. I learned that the reason for so many people, was to make sure teams of men could carry him down in shifts, if needed. That wasn’t needed (nor was the stretcher), as the hiker was going to hobble down alongside them on his feet, with some assistance. The rescue team did not mind, and they all left together after about 20 minutes.
I hope I never get hurt out here, but it feels very comforting to know now what happens if I do. And, that’s just for calling 911. If I push the emergency button on my PLB device, the army and a helicopter are on their way to get me even faster. Now feels like a good time to symbolically “knock on wood”…
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)
- Start Mile: 1607.4
- Start Time: 08:45
- End Mile: 1626.1
- End Time: 17:05
- Miles Hiked: 18.7
- Miles to Go: 564.8
- Lodging: Kid Gore Shelter
It sounds like a good news/bad news day. Had one of those in 2016 while on the High line trail in Glacier. Great start and fun day that ended with a very expensive medical evacuation by helicopter. It is proof that your life can change in the blink of an eye. Bottom line is you can’t predict the unexpected. In my case being airlifted out of the park wasn’t even in the realm of possibilities when i started the hike that day. You have witnessed it first hand now. You take care, Happy Trails
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In years past, when solo hiking, I’ve carried a SPOT device for tracking my path and sending a message at end of each day, and also capable of calling rescue in if needed -assuming I could push the button. Sounds like your PLB is similar. A good knowledge of wilderness medicine can also come in handy when someone is hurt out in the boonies -see NOLS medical courses. Never assume emergency rescue is a given, it’s not -especially if you’re off trail and alone.
A couple years ago a women went off-trail on AT to go to bathroom and got turned around and lost -they found her body a year or two later. Best insurance is keeping your eyes on the trail and not wearing yourself out -avoid physical and mental exhaustion, it can get dangerous in short order. It’s a good lesson to test/find your own physical/mental limits (experience it), but not when you’re out alone! Keep your wits about ya… but, I know you’ve got a good supply of wits, Mike! 😉
Enjoy the trail!
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Good views and a most intriguing blog today. Nice to have the gift of fresh fruit and a chance to share your trail wisdom and stories.
Regarding my rescue: Yes, I was part of a helicopter rescue on one of my Glacier Park trips. It resulted from food poisoning from an unclean restaurant worker. There were several dozen people around the Park were affected. 5 of our group got sick – two of us severly sick and we were helicoptered out All was well after a evening hospital visit.
It goes without saying, that the AT Trail can be very challenging – steep grades, sharp rocks protrusions, slime on damp rocks, pieces of wood obscured by layers of dead leaves (not to mention. A few king snakes every know and then to keep you on your toes… they are not items/not dangerous/not poisonous, but I didn’t know that beforehand). Bottom line… hiking the AT is not necessarily hazardous, but you need to keep your eyes open and use your common sense.
Looking forward to hearing more about the Green and White Mointains. Keep on truckin’
Mom & dad