(WFXR) — This week, first responders came to the rescue of two hikers who fell 30 to 50 feet in different parts of southwest Virginia, which is why WFXR News spoke with hiking experts about the safety precautions you should take before tackling certain trails.
On Sunday, May 29, the Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Department says a hiker — identified as 23-year-old Paul Classen from the Netherlands — died after falling about 50 feet from the summit of McAfee Knob in Masons Cove and being airlifted to Roanoke Memorial Hospital that morning.
Then, just before 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1, the Bedford Fire Department says it sent crews to Sharp Top Mountain near Buzzards Roost to help an injured hiker who reportedly fell about 30 feet. Following a 30 minute trek, first responders reached the hiker, wheeled them out from the trail, and flew them to Roanoke Memorial.
According to Don Defreeze — hiking guide and operator of Excihiking, which offers Appalachian hiking and camping services and supplies — if you are going on a hike, bring the essentials.
“An extra shirt or something can be used for a bandage, or in case you do get cold or wet or something like that, but then you got to think about your food supply, how far you’re going,” said Defreeze.
In addition, Defreeze recommends bringing medication; long pants; proper hiking boots; canned foods; a first aid kit; and, most importantly, water.
Next up, he says you need to know the type of terrain you are about to walk on.
“If you are in a position where it’s very steep, and you can have rocks and very loose dirt in some of those places,” explained Defreeze. “Also, try to not walk through those when it is raining and torrents of water because you can lose your footing on mud very easily.”
Both Defreeze and WFXR News’ Kelsey Jean-Baptiste even climbed on top of boulders during their McAfee Knob hike on Wednesday, June 1. However, Defreeze admitted that getting too close to the edge can be dangerous, so he demonstrated the importance of foot placement.
“In a way, I’m adjusting to maybe even a more serious situation, you want to maybe push your boundaries just a little bit. I know that I have another rock I can step down to, so I’m not in any kind of danger here,” said Defreeze.
With all this information comes a question: what are the best beginner trails to learn how to hike in the Commonwealth?
According to the assistant store manager for Walkabout Outfitters, Jake Smith, there are many.
“I know a really good one for beginners is Bottom Creek Gorge. It’s kind of up towards Floyd, kind of Bent Mountain area. There’s multiple trails, it’s a nature reserve with a waterfall. It’s not too rocky, not too steep in any place and that’s a really good one to start with.” said Smith.
If you are looking for advanced trails, Smith says Tinker Cliffs, Dragon’s Tooth, and McAfee Knob — all of which are in the Roanoke Valley — are the best options. However, he urges you to be smart and prepared.
Hiking experts warn anyone trekking on the advanced trails that you need a level of experience. With that being said, never try to tackle those hikes without confidence and comfortability.