HOT SPRINGS — A hiker who became lost while traveling the Appalachian Trail in Madison County has been found and is safe.
Madison County emergency management director Jeff Willis said 35-year-old David Odowd, an AT through-hiker from Indiana, was found by searchers at about 11 a.m. today after becoming lost late Wednesday.
Willis said Odowd was tired and wet but otherwise in good condition. Rescuers planned to take him to the Laurel Volunteer Fire Department “to get him something to eat and warm him up.”
At Odowd’s request, officials then will transport him back to the trail near Sams Gap to allow him to continue his trek, Willis said.
Odowd became lost as he hiked along the trail in rain and fog Wednesday.
“He had gotten on one of the spur trails,” Willis said.
Odowd used his cell phone to call his wife in Indiana to tell her he was lost. His wife called local authorities at about 11 p.m. Wednesday after his cell phone went dead.
Because of poor weather conditions and rugged terrain, officials decided to wait until 6 a.m. today to begin the search.
“We were confident he was okay because of his level of experience,” Willis said. “We felt like it was too big a risk to put people in the woods at night.”
Odowd had made his way to Jerry Cabin, an AT shelter, where he was found.
About 75 rescuers from Madison fire departments and other emergency personnel participated in the search including units from Tennessee, with a staging area at Laurel VFD.
Willis said Madison authorities take part in an average of 10-15 rescue operations a year for lost or injured hikers, many of them on the stretch of the AT that runs through the county near the Tennessee border.
Thousands of hikers annually attempt to hike the 2,179-mile trail that runs from Springer Mountain, Ga. to Mount Katahdin, Maine. Only about 25 percent typically complete the entire trail, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.