April 5, 2017 Hiker Story assignment
A local high school teacher has been found alive after surviving 4 days in wilderness with a broken leg making him unable to walk.
Will Henderson, 39, was hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smokey Mountains when he fell and broke his leg. He was in a remote area far from the main trail and had no means of contacting anyone.
Two other hikers found him on the main trail near Gregory Bald after four days of crawling, nearly mistaking him for an animal. It wasn’t until they heard him yelling for help that they realized it was a person in distress and ran to his aid.
“One of the guys stayed with me while the other went for help.
I’ll never forget the feeling I had when they found me, not if I live to be a hundred. Those guys are going to get mentioned in my will,” Henderson said.
Henderson is currently recovering at a local hospital near his home after being hospitalized several days in Knoxville, near where the injury occurred.
Henderson managed to construct a makeshift splint for his broken leg using some sticks and string so that he could crawl with his injury. He had a 40-pound backpack with him that he pushed in front of him as he crawled.
“I had several pictures of my wife and two little girls. I looked at them a lot, especially when I got discouraged. I would spend a little time looking at those pictures, then I would crawl a little bit more,” Henderson said.
Henderson is an experienced hiker, a member of the National Hiking Association, and began hiking at the age of 10. He had been hiking for 10 days before the incident occurred.
“I broke the first rule of hiking, of course. I hiked alone. I learned my lesson about that.”
Henderson is a biology teacher at Jefferson High School. He says he still plans to hike all 3,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail after he recovers.