Rangers urge hiking safety after Appalachian Trail hiker’s death

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GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS (WATE) – A Tennessee hiker’s tragic story of survival leading up to her death is getting a lot of attention as her own words share more information about what happened on the Appalachian Trail.

Last week the warden service released Geraldine Largay’s journal showing how she survived at least 26 days in Maine after getting lost when she left the trail on July 22, 2013, to go to the bathroom. She also wrote that she knew she was going to die and knew it could be years before her remains were found. Many are now wondering how easily that could happen in the Smokies and what to keep in mind.

Millions of people each year head into the mountains, and no matter what trails you choose the National Park Service says there are guidelines you should follow to stay safe.Previous story:Missing Middle Tenn. hiker found dead in Maine last year kept journal of ordeal

“Even if you think you’re only going to be out for three or four hours, that could turn into three or four days because of some unfortunate unforeseen accident,” said park spokesperson Dana Soehn.

It is the longer hikes and the ones further into the mountains that rangers say can be particularly difficult. Backcountry specialists say being prepared before you start your hike is key–take a head lamp, food, water and something that can work as a shelter.

“If you’re not prepared, you can find yourself if a lot of different predicaments–weather. Weather changes quickly here. Temperatures change,” said Backcountry Ranger Nick Yarnell.

Rangers say it is always best to stay on the trail, but if you do have to leave the trail for some reason they say to stay within sight of it. Once you lose sight of the trail it can become very easy to be disoriented.

“Everything looks the same when you get off the trail. It can be disorienting for anyone, even if you have experience,” said Yarnell.Previous story:Tenn. hiker’s decision to stay put was the right one, at first

If you do think you are lost they say it is usually best to stay in place. Before you leave make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back, so if you do not show up people will be out looking for you.

“The easiest way for us to find you if you end up is trouble is for us to know where to start to look,” said Soehn.

If you are planning a back country hike there are trip advisors at Sugarlands Visitor Center who can help you make sure you are ready.

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