While deaths on the Appalachian Trail are rare, death is a reality from time to time. In all of 2013, I could only find three deaths recorded as occurring on the A.T. With 2-3 million hikers visiting the trail each year, the odds of a fatality are one in a million. Still… what a sobering reminder to hike smart, to travel with caution and walk with in wisdom.
First, Benjamin Aaron Lewis, 28, of Newark, Delaware died on Wednesday afternoon, August 21, 2013, after exploring Race Brook Falls while hiking on the A.T. in Massachusetts near the Connecticut/Massachusetts border. Benjamin fell 35 feet to his death at Race Brook Falls. He was a landscaper and local musician. He was hiking with his brother, Luke Lewis, 22, also from Newark, however, Luke did not witness the fall as he was hiking just ahead of his brother.
Second, Robert Accola (trail name: Lucky 10), a 54-year-old North Carolina man was found dead on the Appalachian Trail near Warren, NH in July 2013. Two hikers found the man’s body – the hikers were apparently worried when they didn’t see any activity and looked inside the tent. There was no evidence of foul play and the cause of death has been determined as a heart attack. The body was found in the Jeffers Brook Shelter (NOBO mile 1788 in New Hampshire) Robert was from Raleigh, North Carolina and according to his sister, Katharine, he was greatly anticipating the hike in New Hampshire, “That is where we grew up hiking and that is the last place he hiked.” Robert began hiking north from Lee, Massachusetts on July 6th and his last Trail Journal entry was found in Hanover, NH (mile 1743) on July 24.
Third, the body of Richard Lemarr, age 50, was found at the Tricorner Knob Shelter in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park on January 16, 2013. Lemarr, who lived in Knoxville, TN, had left Newfound Gap Saturday morning (January 12) with the intention of hiking 30 miles along the A.T. to Davenport Gap. Tricorner is the halfway point of that section. After failing to show up on Monday afternoon a friend reported Lemarr missing and a search of the trails in the area was initiated by park rangers. The cause of death, according to the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office, was hypothermia.
I share my sympathy to these families. May they find sufficient grace in their grief to carry on and find healing for their heartbreak.