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70-Year-Old Backpacker Airlifted Out of Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Albert "Morgan" Briggs was hauled to safety Sunday by a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter after eight days in the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. NPS photo.

Spam, fruit, and rainwater sustained a lost 70-year-old backpacker in Great Smoky Mountains National Park who was hoisted to safety Sunday morning by a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter after being stranded atop an outcrop for the past week. Albert "Morgan" Briggs thanked the whirlybird's crew and park rangers for plucking him out of the backcountry and after meeting with park officials headed home to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, with family members.

Mr. Briggs, who had set out on August 22 for a four-day trek through the park, became stuck atop Porters Mountain on Monday after traveling off-trail. The backpacker, a member of the park's "Ridge Runner" volunteer organization that regularly hikes sections of the Appalachian Trail through the park as a public service, told rangers he became disoriented in the heavily vegetated and steep terrain and that his trek was hampered by sheer rock bluffs, downed trees, and dense rhododendron thickets.

Park crews launched a search Wednesday for the man after he failed to show up Tuesday as planned. On Saturday crews on the AT thought they spotted a tent on Porters Mountain, and a contract helicopter made visible contact with Mr. Briggs. They then dropped a pack with food, water, and a park radio for communications. Due to the lateness of the day and the rugged terrain that would have to be crossed to reach Mr. Briggs, it was agreed that he would spend another night in his tent and be rescued Sunday morning.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m. Sunday the helicopter crew lowered a "hoisting seat" 250 feet down to Mr. Briggs, who was then hauled up and into the hovering whirlybird. The helicopter landed at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Mr. Briggs was then taken to the park’s Little River Ranger Station to talk to rangers about the circumstances that led to his rescue. He did not need any medical attention and left the park with family members. Over the five-day search effort about 40 National Park Service personnel were involved in the effort.



That is one tough old bird. Kudos Mr. Briggs.

P.S.- Bring a better map and compass next time.

Yay! Nice to have a happy ending. It reminds me that even the most experienced among us can get lost. I'll make sure to check my kit twice the next time I go backpacking!

I am so glad that he is safe and sound, thanks to his good attitude and the good rangers who found him. Ohio

Thank goodness that Mr. Briggs has a good constitution. And God Bless the Angels of mercy that rescued him.

Mr Briggs should be charged with the total cost of the Rescue effort.

Anon, would you have said that if the man had not been found alive? Shame on you. The way I see it, my tax dollars paid for that rescue; and I'm glad that money went to save a life.

I met Morgan while hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies.  He as the "Trail Walker"...he hiked the trail in the Smokies for a week then stayed at his cabin a week.  He had a park radio and helped hikers.  He was a retired Marine.  He was a very strong and knowledgeable hiker.  I heard that he walked the AT twice.  He was a first class individual.

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