Careless first-time visitors to Shenandoah are described as wearing ‘flip flops’ and carrying bottles of ‘DASANI water’
Shenandoah National Park is warning first-time visitors who have ventured in record numbers onto the park’s 500 miles of trails this year to be prepared before confronting the outdoor elements and difficult terrain.
“You can be charged for Disorderly Conduct if you require a rescue due to a SERIES of poor decisions,” says a park advisory that comes on the heels of two medical emergencies on Old Rag Mountain during the overnight hours of Oct. 16 and 17, both of which required search and rescue teams to spend cold nights on the mountain with the injured victims.
According to the park, on Oct. 16 it received an emergency call shortly after 7 p.m. reporting that a 19-year old woman had suffered an injury in the middle of Old Rag’s Rock Scramble. Paramedics responded to the scene and due to her condition and time of day the decision was made to bivouac overnight and call for a helicopter hoist evacuation in the morning.
“The paramedics spent the night keeping the victim warm and comfortable during which the temperature fell to 36-degrees,” the park states. “In the morning the United States Park Police Eagle 2 helicopter arrived overhead shortly after sunrise, affected the rescue, and transported the patient directly to Fairfax Medical Center.
“The victim and her companions had made a series of poor choices, including departing for a 9-mile mountain hike at a late hour, failing to carry basic equipment for the predicted weather (cold overnight temps), food and water, map, and light sources other than their cell phones.”
Following that rescue, on Oct. 17 the park received an emergency call at 6:44 p.m. for a man who was having a medical problem near the summit and was unable to continue any further.
“The same paramedics who had spent the night on the mountain on the previous night responded to the scene and found the patient unable to be removed from the summit,” the park states. “They bivouacked with the patient for their second night in a row with temps again dipping into the 30s. The paramedics were prepared to call for another helicopter hoist in the morning, but by first light, the patient had recovered and was able to hike out assisted.”
Shenandoah just recently welcomed a new superintendent, Pat Kenney, who told the Rappahannock News by telephone that due in part to so many people escaping the confines of COVID-19 there is a “different clientele of first-time visitors” who in many cases are inexperienced with the outdoors.
Kenney, who previously was at Yellowstone National Park, described the typical offender as somebody who sets out on a trail wearing “flip flops” and carrying bottles of “DASANI water.”
To prevent a search and rescue, Shenandoah asks that its visitors be prepared by following these important steps:
— Carry the Ten Essentials , including light sources and extra batteries. https://americanhiking.org/resources/10essentials/
— Know your own physical and mental limits; do not overestimate your abilities; choose your destination trails accordingly
— Carry your cell phone with you into the backcountry, as it can be a useful tool. But understand that Your Cell Phone is: Not a light source; Not a map; Not a survival kit; Not always going to have battery or service.
The park extended its thanks to Orion Mountain Rescue for assisting with the pair of Old Rag rescue operations.