On Sunday, May 19, 2013 at approximately 8:45 p.m., Wolfe County Search and Rescue Team (WCSART) was dispatched to serve as mutual aid for Menifee County Search and Rescue Team (MCSART) in a search for three hikers missing on national forest land in the Red River Gorge. The hikers in distress had dialed 911 and reported themselves as lost; their cell phone battery died shortly after the call preventing further communication. Based upon the report from the hikers, it was determined that they started their hike near the concrete bridge on the border between Wolfe and Menifee Counties on Kentucky Highway 715. It was decided that the hikers had likely entered the woods on either the US Forest Service (USFS) official trail Osborne Bend Trail or on the unofficial user-trail Douglas Trail. It was also determined that the hikers had possibly taken a wrong turn at a trail junction and left their intended route, therefore the official USFS trails Lost Branch Trail and the Sheltowee Trace between Corner Ridge and HWY 715 were also added to the search area. WCSART and MCSART each divided their teams into two separate hasty teams, creating four search teams. WCSART was tasked with searching Douglas Trail with one hasty team and the eastern half of Osborne Bend Trail with the second hasty team. MCSART was to simultaneously search a portion of the western half of Osborne Bend Trail accessed via Cope Ridge Road, and then move on to Lost Branch Trail with one team. The second MCSART hasty team searched the Sheltowee Trace southbound from Corner Ridge.
At approximately 11:00 p.m., the MCSART hasty team searching Lost Branch Trail made verbal contact with the subjects and located the trio a short distance off of the trail. All parties left the woods safely.
While the consequences of spending a night it the woods would likely have been relatively benign due to the lack of environmental threats, it was still pressing to find the missing subjects as soon as possible. This urgency was necessary because the subjects’ feelings of panic could have potentially lead them to make further errors, placing them in peril in the cliff filled terrain of Red River Gorge.
When going for a hike, much can be done to help prevent becoming lost. It is always advisable to obtain a good map that includes the trails of the area you are planning to hike. You should also learn the basic navigation skills necessary to sufficiently interpret the map. Always pay attention to trail blazes as well as trail signs at junctions. It is a good idea to contact someone knowledgeable of the area for advice and guidance in planning your trip.
If you do become lost and you are able to contact help, STAY PUT! It is much easier for searchers to find a stationary target.
Free trail maps of Red River Gorge can be obtained at the USFS Gladie Cultural and Environmental Learning Center. Waterproof topographic maps can be also purchased there. The Gladie Center is also an excellent place to seek out information from knowledgeable Forest Service staff.
Reported By: Drew Stevens