|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – January 2014
Two brothers return to the spot where one almost died.
Winner Randy McDaniel, 56,
of Florissant, MO
Guest His brother Bill, 58
Where to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN, August 17 to 23, 2013
Winning pitch A heart attack cut the pair’s 2010 Smokies trip short; we took them back to complete their dream.
5:30 p.m. After a long drive from Missouri, the brothers depart on a seven-day, 48-mile loop. Bill is unusually slow up the steep trail.
7:45 p.m. Daylight is fading after just 2 miles of hiking. Bill sends Randy ahead .3-mile to drop his pack at the top of the hill. Bill passes out. Ten minutes later, he regains consciousness. Feeling stronger, he resumes his ascent. He suspects heat exhaustion.
8:10 p.m. Randy returns to find Bill’s face bloodied and breathing labored; Bill soon has a seizure, then starts to notice pain in his chest. Randy rigs a tarp and gets Bill comfortable.
8:30 p.m. Randy hurries to retrieve his pack. He follows a trail of chocolate mints into the brush where he locates it—bear-ravaged. He takes advantage of brief blips of cell service to leave messages with family about the emergency.
9:30 p.m. The brothers set up a bivy on the trail. Meanwhile, Bill’s wife calls the park, which dispatches rangers.
1:27 a.m. Two rangers arrive and provide first aid. A threatening storm prevents evacuation.
7:19 a.m. A 10-person litter team begins evacuating Bill. His massive heart attack requires several surgeries, including a heart transplant seven months later. “The doctor said it’s a miracle I survived the night,” Bill says.
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