As of today, December 18, 2014, winter is officially three days away. We've had a gloriously warm and hikeable autumn in Georgia. Elsewhere? Cabin fever is in full swing. Outdoorspeople want to go for a walk in the woods or up a mountain, even if it kills them.
That's the problem for the rangers at Baxter State Park in Maine, home of Mount Katahdin, the northern end of the Appalachian Trail.
According to the Baxter State Park Facebook page, two less-than-brilliant adventurers entered the park and camped for a few nights, without registering with the park, according to the rules.
After entering the Park without registering and camping for several nights at Roaring Brook and Chimney Pond without reservations, a group of two men from Ontario, Canada separated -- with one man returning to a vehicle at Togue Pond and the other man heading up on Katahdin on Monday, December 8. The hiker had only a tent, light boots and minimal gear.Rangers became aware of the situation late in the day on Monday and started fires and lit propane lights in Katahdin-access roadside camps in case the hiker found his way out Monday night.On Tuesday, Rangers began actively searching for the hiker. The National Guard responded to our request with a Blackhawk helicopter equipped with Forward Looking Infrared sensors. The helicopter could only fly for 2 hours due to the worsening weather in front of a significant rain and snow storm forecast for Tuesday afternoon and evening.Later on Tuesday morning, Rangers located the hiker who had left the Helon Taylor trail, traveled down the slope and through the forest to eventually reach the Roaring Brook Road after falling through ice and spending an uncomfortable night in the woods.
Nobody died. That's good news. Until the bill arrives.
Baxter State Park Rule 2.2 states: "The Baxter State Park Authority may request reimbursement of search and rescue costs in cases of reckless hikers."
How much did this foolish jaunt cost the park and/or the hikers? "Over $10,000." That includes costs for the rangers and a couple of hours flying time for a "Blackhawk helicopter equipped with Forward Looking Infrared sensors." (Not available in any store.) The park will send a bill to the rescued individual requesting reimbursement of costs.
The folks at Baxter said it well, "Events can conspire at times to mess up even the most prepared and thoughtful hikers, but reckless and illegal actions needlessly endanger hikers and rescuers alike."
This is America. (Or Canada, eh?) You have the right to walk into certain death in a frozen wilderness, if you choose. (OK, maybe not in Canada.) The cost for 1st Degree Stupid can go way beyond $10 grand. It might cost a life or three.
If you don't care about your own life, please care about the people who are compelled to go out after you and drag your crazy butt back to safety. Please.
We join the park rangers in this sentiment:
We thank the huge majority of our visitors who treat the wilderness with respect and incorporate planning and safe decision making into their wilderness journey.
Tags: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Accidents, Rescues, and Robert Sutherland Travel Writer
Published Jul 30, 2015. The goals common to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Baxter State Park are similar but are they compatible? Can their paths merge atop Mt. Katahdin?
Baxter State Park issued three citations to Scott Jurek for actions after setting the record for fastest known time for running the Appalachian Trail.
Published Oct 22, 2014. Winter is coming to Mt. Katahdin in Maine's Baxter State Park. That means the Appalachian Trail will close for 2014. Chief Ranger Woodard tells us when.
Published Mar 29, 2016. Maine's Baxter State Park requires northbound Appalachian Trail thru-hikers to obtain an AT Long Distance Hiker Permit Card.
Published Oct 22, 2015. As of October 16, 2015, Maine's Baxter State Park is open for day-use. Weather permitting, Appalachian Trail hikers can summit Katahdin's Baxter Peak.
Published Jan 27, 2014.
Published Aug 16, 2014. Maine's Baxter State Park closed Abol Trail for the rest of 2014. The Appalachian Trail to the top of Mount Katahdin remains open.
Baxter State Park Naturalist Jean Hoekwater says Mt. Katahdin's ecosystem is especially fragile during "shoulder seasons," such as spring and fall.
Published Mar 29, 2016. Appalachian Trail Conservancy CEO Ron Tipton graciously responded to news of a permit to be required for some hikers in Baxter State Park.