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The Appalachian Thru-Hiker

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September 20, 2019

Early NoBo AT thru-hiker rescue highlights the importance of cold weather prep


As excited as I am to get on the Appalachian Trail, I’m not sure I could handle a January start like many brave thru-hikers have already begun this year.  Hiking during the day tends to keep one warm pretty easily, but at night I like to be warm. One of my greatest pleasures of the outdoors is feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin; tossing and turning in frigid temperatures? That sounds like a good way to begin despising the trail very early on. I did my share of camping in two feet of snow as a teen, but I do believe I’ve lost my immortality since then.

This year, things appear to be further complicated by the huge snowfall seen by much of the east coast in the past few days.  On Friday a hiker was rescued in two feet of snow after activating an emergency location beacon.  See the full story from WSPA 7 News below.  According to another report of the incident by ABC News, this particular hiker was both experienced and well prepared in terms of equipment, but the weather was just too much.

Even with a late March start, I am putting a lot of forethought into the best way to stay warm in the early weeks on the trail.  I am hoping to move far past survival into “comfort” territory.  I have already decided that unless I get a new 10-20 deg mummy bag, I am hoping to supplement my current 30 deg Alpine bag with the Sea to Summit mummy bag liner which is supposed to add an extra 25 degrees of protection, theoretically turning my 30 deg bag into as low as a 5 deg bag.  Still, I hope to do at least one overnight trip here in upstate NY to test it out before heading to Georgia in March.

If I can’t swing the mummy bag liner, I do have some budget hiking tricks up my sleeve. One idea is to get one of those cold/hot compresses that you can find in most drug stores, drop it in some boiling water for a few minutes, and stick it in your bag.  The last one I bought for an injury came with a decent fabric case to avoid the discomfort of plastic and to avoid scalding.

It may seem like overkill (I know many people get by with a 30 deg bag and thermals), but what can I say? I like to be warm!

trail_rescueA hiker was rescued Friday near Albert Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in nearly two feet of snow.

According to Macon County Emergency Services, 21-year-old Michael Gelfeld of Maryland called 911 at noon on Friday requesting help.

After using coordinates from an emergency location beacon, search crews found Gelfeld uninjured near Bearpen Creek at around midnight.

Searchers from Otto and Cowee Fire Departments, the United States Forest Service, Macon Co. Emergency Services, and Clay Co. Emergency Management assisted in the rescue.

Source: Hiker rescued from Appalachian Trail in Macon Co.

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