Haven't seen this posted..
Hikers rescue woman on Appalachian Trail
By Ken Garfield
Knight Ridder Newspapers
May 11, 2005
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - (KRT) - Even before the rescue, their hikes along the Appalachian Trail meant the world to four friends from Charlotte, N.C.
Two or three times each year, the buddies from Covenant Presbyterian Church take off from work and spend several days hiking and camping along one of the most spectacular trails God ever made. Their goal is to walk the entire trail in segments before they're too old to finish.
Alan Kuester, Henry Lafferty, Toney Mathews and Wade Cantrell come to these hikes with different careers, aspirations and ages. But once they start walking, they leave behind their differences and the occasional disappointments that mark life in the real world. It's just four friends and a brotherhood that makes their backpacks seem as light as a feather.
No wonder, then, that a cold rain on April 22 could do little to dampen their spirits.
They were somewhere near Fontana Village in the Great Smoky Mountains - "Gosh, it's pretty up there!" Kuester said - when they first saw her. She was sitting on the edge of a slope along a narrow part of the trail, her backpack on the ground beside her, her legs covered in mud.
It didn't take an expert outdoorsman to realize Carolyn Bowers was in trouble.
Bowers, 61, is a mother of two and grandmother of three from Alexandria, Va. She retired in May 2004 from her job as an auditor with the Environmental Protection Agency.
At that point in life, some of us take up knitting.
An avid walker, Bowers decided to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone - some 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine. The plan was for her husband, Chad, to meet up with her along the way with supplies and support.
Her adventure began March 29 in Georgia.
It ended around 10:30 a.m. April 22 in the North Carolina mountains, 90 minutes into her walk that morning. Picking up her pace because it had begun to rain, she slipped in the mud on a downhill part of the trail, fell and hurt her left arm when it became tangled in the straps of her walking pole.
Right away, she knew it was probably broken.
She had been sitting there five or 10 minutes - her arm throbbing as she grew more nauseous and blew on a whistle for help - when she laid eyes on four men coming down the trail.
"They just materialized right there when I needed them," Bowers said, recalling exactly what she said to the four strangers who didn't remain strangers long. "I said, `Excuse me, I have a serious problem here. I think I broke my arm.'"
The group's response?
"He (Kuester) told me they were four Presbyterians," Bowers said. "I guess to let me know they were nice guys."
The pleasantries out of the way, Kuester, Cantrell, Mathews and Lafferty sprang into action.
With lightning and thunder giving them cause to hurry, they got her into dry clothes, fashioned a splint out of a couple of sticks, gave her ibuprofen from her backpack for the pain, picked up her 33-pound backpack, put their arms around her and began walking to the nearest shelter.
"Alan stayed right with me," Bowers recalled. "He held onto my coat in case I slipped."
It took them 90 minutes or so to walk nearly three miles back to the shelter from which Bowers had come - "a little lean-to in the middle of the woods," Kuester said. The weather grew worse as they walked.
Once at the shelter, the help continued.
Fearing hypothermia, they got Bowers into dry clothes, put her in her sleeping bag, gave her ibuprofen, made her hot tea and hot noodles and re-splinted her arm with the help of other hikers they met at the shelter.
Cell phone service is spotty at best on the trail, but Mathews managed to get through to park rangers to relate what had happened and to tell them to come quickly.
Two rangers reached them that night and spent the night in the shelter with Bowers, checking her blood pressure and other vital signs and making sure she was OK before taking her out the next morning.
She went to the hospital and then home, where she's on the mend. She hopes to walk the trail again.
The four buddies said goodbye to Bowers that night when they knew she was safe. In all, the men from Charlotte and the grandmother from Alexandria were together maybe three or four hours, tops.
It wasn't long enough for her to learn all the guys' names.
But it was long enough for everyone involved in the rescue to appreciate what it meant.
Bowers, who describes herself as a believer but not much of a churchgoer, said it was as if someone were watching over her.
"It just seemed so perfect," she said. "I needed help, and they just came at the right time. I couldn't have asked for more, really."
Kuester said he was humbled by the chance to show kindness to a stranger, and humbled, too, by the timing.
Surely other hikers would have come along, seen a woman in trouble and stopped to rescue her. But they saw her first. They were the ones given this opportunity to turn a hike among friends into something more.
Surely it didn't just happen that way by chance.
"Who knows how that works?" Kuester said.
However it worked, there's a group of four buddies who will never forget one hike along the Appalachian Trail in late April.
And there's a woman on the mend in Alexandria who will never forget four men who embodied the kindness of strangers and who showed her what it means to be saved.
"She said she'll have a soft spot in her heart for Presbyterians now," Kuester said.
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