According to an online article written by Robert Sutherland on 20th January 2016, the weather in Georgia was throwing red flags high in the air to all thru-hikers considering a January start in the Peach State. On Tuesday evening, January 19, the governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, declared a state of emergency as the state prepared for icy, cold, and snowy weather on the Appalachian Trail. The predicted weather arrived with a vengeance causing more than a dozen school districts in North Georgia to cancel classes. The residents of fifteen counties found themselves under a winter storm warning as the winter blast sounded loudly in the north Georgia mountains.
Southerland’s advice: “Hunker down, take a few zeroes, risk it or slow down. Please don’t do anything stupid that might put those who must come to your rescue in danger.” Good, sound, discerning advice from the wise writer of Appalachian Trail.com.
Unfortunately, not all hikers took the advice of this trail sage. A hiker was rescued Friday, January 22, 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 Takoma Park, Maryland, called 911 at noon on Friday requesting help due to exposure to the severe weather near Coweeta Gap and Albert Mountain.
When rescue crews arrived, they were not able to find Michael. After successfully calling his cellphone and using coordinates put out by an emergency location beacon, Gelfeld was located off the trail near Bear Pen Creek at around midnight. According to reports, Michael Gelfeld was an experienced hiker and was prepared for the winter adventure, but simply became disoriented in the winter weather and failed to stay on the trail. Gelfeld was evaluated by Macon County EMS and, although being exposed to the cold and severe weather for an extended time, he was uninjured.
Search crews from local fire and rescue departments, the U.S. Forest Service, and the county emergency services used utility vehicles and snowmobiles to access the remote area. This very cold hiker was found at an elevation over 5,000 feet, which had received approximately 24 inches of snow.
Winter hiking can be lots of fun – but preparation and planning is essential. Enjoy the snow but be careful and stay warm.
Snow in Georgia: found at http://appalachiantrail.com/20160120/snow-in-georgia-heading-up-the-appalachian-trail/