Tuesday, February 24, 2009


On April 28 of '08, I finished up my hiking day of 14.7 miles on the AT and made camp at the Hogback Ridge Shelter in Tennessee. It was a small shelter, sleeping 6 (we crammed 7) with water nearby. It was chilly in the morning, around 2 pm or so the sun came out for a bit, but overall was cloudy & chilly most of the day. I slept in the shelter between a couple of my AT buddies, Aboman & Slightly. Big Red, Thought Criminal & a couple of bearded guys (don't remember your names, guys, sorry)were in the shelter. 1/2Ounce was in his tent closeby.

That night turned out to be the coldest night for me on the trail. The wind was blowing & howling, and at times, sounded like a turbine in the trees. With the wind, cold & being pinned between Abo & Slight, sleep was pretty elusive. Slight was curled in a fetal position, his knees digging into my back. Abo's feet were at my head, or my head was at his feet. Either way, he was kicking me in the head during the cold, wind-roaring night. Those two can snore, too! Yeah, it was a tough night for everyone, especially for Big Red.

Big Red is a tall, red-headed girl from somewhere. Sorry, Red, forget where it is you're from. She's a strong hiker & a strong talker. About 7 am, as I was trying to delay the inevitable morning nature call, I heard some rustling about in the shelter to my left. Looking up, I noticed Abo, Slight & TC leaning over and tending to Red. Seems during the night she wasn't warm enough, became hypothermic, and at this point in the morning, wasn't coherent. She was shivering, mumbling & not looking good. TC got next to her, climbing into 2 sleeping bags that Abo & Slight had zipped together. Abo & Slight started heating up some water, making hot water bottles to put into the bags with Red & TC.

At this point, knowing that at least one hiker was in danger, a few of us started bangin' on the tents surrounding the shelter. 1/2 Ounce was ok, as it seems he can sleep through anything safely. A couple ladies, at least one of which was a nurse, were fine, and another young kid named Oops was sound asleep in his tent, fine as well. The 2 bearded guys in the shelter were also good.

1/2 Ounce & I gathered wood for a fire as the others were tending to Red. After a couple hours, Red was able to stand up on her own and walk over to the fire. Another hour later, Red was ready to hit the trail again. The characters of Slightly, Aboman & Thought Criminal did something I'll never forget, save someone's life. I was proud to have witnessed their diligence & teamwork in pulling Red back from the grips of hypothermia. It was awesome!

Several of us encouraged Red to stop at Erwin, TN a take a nero. For those of you who don't know, a nero is a term meaning near-zero. It's a day where you only hike a couple miles or less, maybe 3 or less, I'm not quite sure. But the 29th was predicted to be colder than the night that Red narrowly survived, so 1/2 Ounce, Red & I hiked another 2.4 miles to Sam's Gap on US Rte 23, hitched a ride into Erwin TN from a couple guys that just happened to be hiking south to Hogback Ridge Shelter. They were posting flyers around town and at nearby shelters for Trail Magic that was taking place at Sam's Gap in another couple days. One of the guys was also digging up some wild ramps to take back with him. Thanks again guys for the ride into Erwin! We 3 stayed at the Super 8 Motel that night.

Hypothermia is a scary thing, though pretty subtle in its approach. Did you know that most hypothermia cases happen in temperatures between 30 & 50 degrees F? Many people out for a day hike don't realize how quickly it can start to affect them. When out hiking on a cool day, remember to dress in loose-fitting layers. Individual layers can be removed as you warm up and put back on as you grow colder. Don't be so proud to think that you can take whatever nature throws at you. Learn how to detect & protect yourself from hypothermia.

For more info on hypothermia, check out these links:




~The Pilgrim.