The Appalachian Accident

A teacher from a local high school was recently rescued after being stranded in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for four days.

Will Henderson, a 39-year old biology teacher at Jefferson High School and experienced hiker, was in the middle of hiking from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail when he ran into trouble. As he was attempting to cross a stream, Henderson slipped and broke his leg. After constructing a make-shift splint from sticks and string, Henderson proceeded to crawl for four days through the forest’s thick underbrush.

Henderson’s pack, which was about 40 pounds at the start of the hike, had to be pushed in front of him as he crawled. After a day of crawling, he had to discard most of my clothes and most of the other things that were not essential in his pack to reduce the weight.

“I had several pictures of my wife and two little girls. I looked at them a lot, especially when I got discouraged” Henderson said.

After his days of crawling, Henderson finally reached a major part of the trail and was found by hikers. While one of the hikers went to get help, the other stayed with Henderson to make sure that he didn’t worsen his condition. Following several days in a hospital near to where he was found, he was transferred to a hospital closer to his home.

“I never doubted that I’d be found. I got discouraged sometimes, but I figured that I had plenty of food and thought if I could get back to a trail somebody would come along before long. I’ll tell you though, I was sure happy when I heard those first footsteps coming up behind me” Henderson said.

Looking back, Henderson realized that he broke what is said to be Rule #1 of hiking in that he went alone. His accident has not deterred his spirits, and he has maintained his goal of completing his journey across the Appalachian Trial, following the healing of his leg of course.

Lying in his hospital bed, Henderson repeatedly brought up how grateful he was for the men that found him.

“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 be mentioned in my will” Henderson said.