BLANCHARD TOWNSHIP — Several Maine game wardens, two Mount Desert Island search and rescuers and a Maine Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter crew worked Thursday morning to rescue three out-of-state hikers stranded on a flooded portion of Maine's Appalachian Trail.
Two women, one from Maryland and the other from Virginia, became stranded on a portion of the AT near Blanchard due to a flooded East Branch of the Piscataquis River. Wardens and the SAR team located the women around 9 a.m. Thurssday. A third stranded hiker, from Maryland, was also located by the rescuers.
According to John McDonald of the Maine Warden Service, Amy McConaughy, 27, of Belair, Md., and Kelly Wood, 25, of Nokesville, Va., had been dropped off Sept. 28 in at the AT in Caratunk by Wood's father. They had planned to be out on the evening of Sept. 29 in Monson. When they did not arrive, McConaughy's father called the Warden Service the following day, Wednesday, around 2 p.m.
McDonald said that a northbound through-hiker, Billy Lehman, was located in Monson and reported seeing the two woman Tuesday around 7 p.m. He said that they were about a mile southwest of the Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to, a shelter maintained by the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, near Blanchard.
At the time he saw them, Lehman reported they were camped and fine. He said he stayed at the lean-to until Wednesday morning, when he continued on, crossing the East Branch of the Piscataquis River. McDonald said that Lehman reported the river crossing was over his waist and flowing heavily.
"It quickly became evident that the two hikers likely became stranded near the lean-to due to the fast-flowing river crossing," said McDonald in a press release. "A search soon focused on that area."
It was near the intersection of the AT and the East Branch of the Piscataquis that searchers located McConaughy and Wood. They also located Gabriel Grace, 26, of Baltimore, Md. All three were cold and wet, but were said to have additional supplies with them.
McDonald said the National Guard helicopter responded to the area with an air rescue basket and extricated the three hikers, lifting them to safety at a nearby field.
"Without their help, this rescue would have been much more difficult," said McDonald.
The two women were through-hikers from Georgia. McConaughy began her hike April 1 and Wood started two days later, on April 3. They did not know each other prior to the hike, but became friends along the trail, said McDonald.
The third rescue hiker, Grace, began his hike March 9, also in Georgia.
The Maine Warden Service advises all hikers of Maine's AT that rivers are currently very high and dangerous. “People hiking the AT, or any of Maine's woods and trails, should bring with them good communication devices to aid in unforeseen mishaps such as this,” said the press release.
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