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Hiker stuck on Appalachian Trail by snow from Sandy is rescued

November 02, 2012|By Joseph Serna
  • Part of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine.
Part of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. (Mike Kodas / Hartford Courant…)

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has rescued a hiker stranded on the Appalachian Trail after Hurricane Sandy, authorities said Friday.

Park rangers, after a two-day hike through chest-deep snow in the Great Smoky Mountains, located Steven Ainsworth, 56, of Washington, N.C., on an isolated part of the trail near the North Carolina border. Ainsworth was airlifted to a local hospital.

Highway patrol and state park officials said Ainsworth was trapped for days in the snow – which reached record levels for October under Sandy's strength – and only had a day’s worth of food and a liter and a half of water left when he was rescued.

The search and rescue began after Ainsworth, hemmed in by the heavy snow, dialed 911 on Thursday.

An attempt to find him from the air proved unsuccessful because of cloud cover. Two park rangers set out on foot that night, hiking for nine hours before resting at a cabin about four miles from Ainsworth’s location. The terrain is so difficult, and the snow so high, that Ainsworth told them it took him eight hours to travel a single mile.

Rangers tracked his footprints Friday and located his camp. The highway patrol lifted him from the western Tennessee mountain ridge at about 3 p.m. in a 45-minute operation.

Ainsworth set out on the Appalachian Trail on Monday, despite severe weather warnings as Sandy slammed into the East Coast, park rangers said.

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