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Rescued Washington Hiker Completes Appalachian Trail

By: Lindsey Fry/ April Davis
By: Lindsey Fry/ April Davis

An avid hiker from Beaufort County who had to be rescued from the Appalachian Trial November second because of snowdrifts up to 5 feet high left by Superstorm Sandy, has now completed the entire trail.

Steve Ainsworth of Washington started his hike June 19th in Maine, and hiked 1,946 miles- just about 200 miles short of completing his journey after snow blew into the Great Smoky Mountains, and temperatures dropped forcing him to hunker down and call for help near the end of his nearly 2,200 mile journey.

After a couple weeks of rest, the 56-year old headed back to where he was rescued so he could finish his quest to hike the entire trial. He hiked 15 to 20 miles each day and finished on Springer Mountain on November 30.

Ainsworth's wife Debbie says he decided to go back out to hike the rest of the trail because he came too close to not finish.

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An avid hiker from Beaufort County spoke to WITN Monday about being rescued Friday by helicopters off the Applachian Trail after snow blew into the Great Smoky Mountains, and temperatures dropped forcing him to hunker down and call for help near the end of his nearly 2,200 mile journey.

Steven Ainsworth started his first attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail in June and said he was lucky to make it out alive.

"I didn't believe I'd survive a night beyond that," said Ainsworth with tears in his eyes as he talked about using his sleeping bag to stay alive.

56-year-old Ainsworth is thankful to be back in his Washington home. He worried he might never see it again after his hike of the Appalachian Trail turned into a near death experience. Ainsworth started his hike June 19th in Maine, and hiked 1,946 miles- just about 200 miles short of completing his journey. On Thursday night, after superstorm Sandy brought 5 feet of snow to the Tennessee -North Carolina border, where Ainsworth was, he knew he would not be able to continue. He was rescued Friday afternoon, and says he's not sure if he'll try it again.

"it's disappointing that I haven't been able to finish it, But I don't know whether this is the end or not.," said ainsworth.

Ainsworth says his feet are still swolen from the cold conditions and are slowly regaining feeling. He says, he plans to catch up on some much needed rest before thinking about a second hike.

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An Appalachian Trail hiker from Eastern Carolina has been rescued from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after calling 911 to say he didn't think he'd be able to make his way out because of snowdrifts up to 5 feet high left by Superstorm Sandy.

Park service spokeswoman Molly Schroer says rescuers used two helicopters Friday to pick up 56-year-old Steven Ainsworth of Washington.

She says Ainsworth used his cellphone to call 911 on Thursday afternoon. He spoke to dispatchers again Friday morning and said he was hunkering down and might not be able to hike out of the park located on the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

Just before 3:00 p.m., a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter found Ainsworth from the Park’s backcountry and transport him to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport in Sevierville. From there, he was taken by ambulance to LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville for medical evaluation.

WITN spoke with Ainsworth's wife, just moments after his rescue. "You know, it's just incredible. I have talked to him, he sounds good," says Dr. Debbie Ainsworth. "I'm going to head up tonight to pick him up and bring home."

According to his online blog, Ainsworth was hiking the Appalachian Trail by himself. It says he started June 19th in Maine and had walked 1946 miles at last check.

He was about 200 miles from finishing when rescued.


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Rescue efforts are underway for a hiker from Eastern Carolina who is stranded in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The National Park Service says Steven Ainsworth from Washington called rangers this morning and told them he was able to hunker down overnight.

The 56-year-old old Ainsworth first notified authorities Thursday afternoon that he was in distress in a remote section of the Appalachian Trail somewhere between the Pecks Corner and Tricorner Knob Shelters.

Late Thursday the park sent two rangers on foot to the approximate location of the hiker. After a nine hour hike in steep terrain, high winds, and four to five foot snow drifts, the rangers took temporarily shelter in a cabin on the Appalachian Trail for a rest period. The rangers were some four miles from Ainsworth.

The Park Service this afternoon launched an air operation in attempts to rescue the man. If winds are too high for a hoist operation, rescuers will try to drop supplies to the man if possible.


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