Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter



Print Jump to Reader Comments

by Staff | 2009-04-30 10:04:00-06


UPDATE 5/2/09 4:07 PM:


: Ken Knight
Height: 5'4"
Weight: 180-200 lb
Point Last Seen: Punchbowl Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in VA
Time Last Seen: Sunday, April 26, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.
Unique Characteristics: wearing a dry-bag style backpack with a bright orange packbag, hiker is vision-impaired.

If you have info, please contact us:

Photo above taken Wednesday, April 22 on the Appalachian Trail.


"*** ALERT *** APPALACHIAN TRAIL HIKER FOUND!," by Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-04-30 10:04:00-06.


Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Remember my login info.

Display Avatars
Sort By:
Donald Johnston
(photonstove) - MLife
Some thoughts. on 05/03/2009 14:20:26 MDT Print View

I can understand the comments of some members of the general public to the newspaper articles. They don't have the perspective, don't understand and don't really want to. It's easy to judge and even easier to judge when you don't have anything more than general information or broad overview from one perspective. Whatever mind set is currently popular in the general public due to current events will also have it's influence.

Backpacking like many outdoor activities involves some risks. That is a part of it we all accept at some level. Some wouldn't really want to participate if there wasn't this challenge to overcome. All of use hope that should something go terribly wrong somebody will come looking for us and not be all about assigning blame and who should pay. We hope that we won't see our experience hashed over in public forums. Who can say what combination of circumstance will be the the one that would get us? Yet we all prepare because we accept that it could happen.

I was on site though I never did anything more than be available and listen. I'm sure I probably misunderstand some of it also but I think I'm close. From what I understand what Ken experianced this time normally would not play out this way but like most situations requiring rescue it was a combination of very minor things which combined to make the perfect storm. Maybe it isn't the storm that would have gotten me or you because our boat has a different design which just happens to make a difference. How did we end up on the boat we are on and will we always be in the right boat for the particular storm that comes our way? What if what I really need is a sub?

We backpackers try to learn everything we can to prepare for the unexpected and talk a lot about it and achieving balance at the same time in forums. We talk about what to do if indeed it does all go wrong. Ken is a very experienced backpacker and as each of us are aware of our individual circumstances he is well aware of his own and like us is normally very successful at managing it appropriately. He has been successful at it for more years than many of us have been into the sport. Ken actually achieved in this situation what may hikers who end up in a rescue situation have not by making enough correct choices to come out with a positive outcome. Most experienced backpackers will see this immediately but the general public will not. Those with less experiance may still think it won't happen to them because they are unable to see a situation that could get them. We have spent so much time and energy and care to make sure it won't. For most of us that one really bad day won't ever come. Yet in this community regardless of experience we all think we need to be prepared so it doesn't happen to us. We spend quite a lot of time on this subject.

You can exam any set of events after the fact and come up with a different way to do things next time. It's how we learn to do better next time.

When I put myself in Kens place I have real fears that I would not have made those correct decisions. I would have been to hasty. I probably would have taken some risk that might have gone very bad or gone good to get myself out of my situation. How many who didn't make it out have done this before me resulting in sage advice in the texts such as stay put and they will find you. Move around and you make it harder for them to find you. Could I have made myself stay in place with little food that many days? I like to eat.

Like many backpackers I didn't think I could be the one to accidentally start a forest fire but I had that notion scared out of me in a back county campground in Yosemite one year when I discovered the DIRT under my stove in this heavily impacted dirt campsite smoldering enough to burst into flame before my eyes when I lifted the stove to packet it up after I cooked dinner. Dirt doesn't burn does it? I learned that it can if composed of enough organics of the right kind and moisture level. I've always carried something very light but effective to place under my stove since.

Could I make signal fires every day for a week without a spark getting far enough away to set off something unnoticed before it is too late? I realized after this event that I have not practiced making signal fires. I wonder how many backpackers have? When the rubber hits the road and I need to do it how big does it need to be to make enough smoke using the materials I have at hand to be noticeable. Sure I've read about it but that isn't the same as doing. If this is a much larger fire than I have experience with how big of a clearing do I need to account for sparks that might travel and what about ground that might appear safe but doesn't turn out to be? I know how to make small controlled fires. Something big and smoky enough to attract attention isn't in my practiced skill set. Could I achieve a week worth of signal fires before something went wrong?

Many of us have hiked with Ken. Those few I have talked to would not be very critical of how he handled his perfect storm. Impressed is more descriptive. I'm sure he has spent a lot of time the past few days pondering what little things he could do differently to shift the odds farther away from this occurring again. I expect he will have gained valuable insight I could learn from.


Dondo .

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Some thoughts. on 05/03/2009 15:42:54 MDT Print View

Nicely said, Photon. Your post should be required reading for any of us who are tempted to rush in with Monday morning quarterbacking. For myself, I'm happy that Ken is safe, and I'll wait for his own post-trip analysis.

Edited by Dondo on 05/03/2009 22:34:57 MDT.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast

Hey, you live & learn. Nice to learn from others' mistakes, but it doesn't always work that way.

Dana S
(Naman919) - F

Locale: Richmond, Virginia
Welcome back on 05/03/2009 16:33:38 MDT Print View

Humbled at the way our community has banded together to support all the SAR operations. Thank you to everyone involved in the search for Ken.

Great to have you back Ken!

Joshua Billings
(Joshua) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz,Ca
Good news on 05/03/2009 16:50:32 MDT Print View

Glad you made it out safely. Good to know that BPL can be used to rescue people. I should hope my name would never be in a red band above the screen but its nice to think that BPL would be there as a tool in my rescue.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Good news on 05/03/2009 16:55:18 MDT Print View

I'm still floored by the amount of support that went out from non-BPL sources. Twitter, for example, had this news flying around very quickly after Ryan posted it here.

Lisa Tompsett
(nativecherokee) - F
Prayers Answered on 05/03/2009 17:09:58 MDT Print View

Thank God Ken was found and is alive to tell the story!

I heard of Ken's disappearance from a co-worker whose husband is friends with him. I don't know Ken at all yet I have been drawn to the story of his disappearance with a concern I can't explain. I prayed very hard for his safe return and am glad to hear it happened! It was very touching to see the outpour of concern and the way people near and far gathered to help with the efforts to bring this man home alive. As many others have already said we can only ignore and feel sorry for those who condemn and criticize Ken for being brave enough to continue with his passion for hiking despite his disability. No time or money on this earth is too much when it is spent to save a human life!

Ron Hedlund
(papamuskrat) - F
Why people do SAR on 05/03/2009 17:11:57 MDT Print View

Life is a gift from God. It is precious and priceless, and that is why so many people put so much into the SAR effort. Many situations I see, I realize it could easily have been me in the ringer. Mistakes get made. Sometimes, even when we learn from them, we make them again.

I'll wait for the dust to settle before putting deeper thought to pen. Still recovering from the short-term effects of gravity on an aged, overweight body.
Reply With Quote

from sarman on

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Looking forward to Ken's analysis on 05/03/2009 17:24:11 MDT Print View

Yes, I hope someone will get the red banner off the home page! Of course it is a weekend! With the entire BPL staff either looking for or worrying about Ken for most of yesterday, they deserve a rest day.

I am looking forward to Ken's own analysis of what happened. I know it will probably be a while--it should be, because he needs to recover from the experience and gain some perspective on it.

Since I have reduced vision in one eye from a detached retina and several subsequent surgeries, am at high risk for the same thing happening again in either eye, and have a family history of macular degeneration, I could very likely end up as a visually impaired backpacker myself. This makes me doubly interested in Ken's situation!

One other thing: it's not every boss who would drop everything and travel across half a continent to help search for an employee! I well remember a colleague who almost got fired when he left work to participate in a SAR operation to which he was called. Fortunately, our human resources department scolded the supervisor instead! Good for you, Ryan!

Photon, your post was excellent!

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/03/2009 17:50:46 MDT.

Matthew Roberts
(matthewjamesroberts) - F

Locale: San Fernando Valley
Red Alert on 05/03/2009 17:36:13 MDT Print View

I have also been following Ken's progress. I am excited to hear the wonderful news.

The red banner at the top of the page has served to be very effective.


It would be appropriate for one of the website admins to rewrite the Emergency Alert at the top of the webpage to "MISSING HIKER FOUND".

Edited by matthewjamesroberts on 05/03/2009 17:39:27 MDT.

James Walke
(jaywalke2) - F
Re: Some thoughts. on 05/03/2009 17:55:26 MDT Print View

"Never did anything"? What are you talking about? If you had not been there, who would have rocked that mesh shirt to represent the UL community?

Seriously, Don, I think just talking to his parents about past trips provided a degree of comfort equal (or beyond) going out with a team. I know that seeing his friends come from far and wide meant a great deal to them.

Derek Anderson
(asaw2513) - F
freinds on 05/03/2009 18:44:51 MDT Print View

I think it was also great that many of his friends and family traveled a very long way to help look for him.

Timothy Foutz
(glad777) - MLife

Locale: Virginia
Re: Re: Nasty Comments online on 05/03/2009 22:13:53 MDT Print View

Hey Nate you are as big an idiot on this as everything else. Everything is about politics with you. You are nothing but a typical whining leftist. You want to take shots at people in Virginia pal come hear and do it on the ground. You will find we don't take well to being insulted by leftists from a shall we say manhood challenged part of California.
One more thing you leftwing idiot 60 percent of the budget is not spent on the war. The bulk of the goverment spending is used for social programs and education and whatever other scams you leftists have inflicted on us.

A somewhat rash and intemperate personal attack which has resulted in several people very quickly Reporting your posting. Oh Dear.
Let's all try to retain a sense of humour and good will?
Roger Caffin
Online Community Monitor
Backpacking Light

Edited by rcaffin on 05/03/2009 22:33:32 MDT.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
moderator needed - personal attack on 05/03/2009 22:23:55 MDT Print View

timothy - i think you forgot to count to ten first.

nate wasn't criticizing virginia in general, just the trolls.

btw - my dad was born there, my mother lives there & i completed my military training there. there are many wonderful things about virginia and many wonderful people there, just like there are many wonderful things about california and many wonderful people here.

btw, nate is one of those wonderful people, even though he's not from california :)

Lawton Grinter

Locale: Rocky Mountains
positivity on 05/03/2009 22:58:15 MDT Print View

Ditto what Dave T said.

Ken we are all glad you are alive and well . . . and quite relieved!


Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: positivity on 05/03/2009 23:04:32 MDT Print View


I don't know Ken, but I think anyone that spends any time in the backcountry can empathize with the situation that him and his family and friends just went through.

Cheers and keep trekkin' Ken!

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Timothy Foutz on 05/04/2009 07:57:04 MDT Print View

Firstly, I'm glad Ken Knight was found. I'm also glad that BPL could mobilize its resources to help in the rescue efforts.

That said...

Timothy Foutz, wow what to say? Can you maybe provide a working definition for "whining leftist"? How about a working definition for intolerant bigot? Maybe, while you're at it, you could do me a favor and provide some sort of substantive evidence that the bulk of the US budget is spent on social programs?

Clearly, whatever is being spent, it wasn't enough to educate you, was it Tim?

I hardly post here anymore. BPL seems haunted by gear fetishists and trolls these days. I rarely learn anything here anymore. But I was well pleased that BPL could help rescue Ken. Too bad he has to come home to this kind of sh*t.

Mark Eggeman
(Mark_Eggeman) - F
Thank You on 05/04/2009 09:15:44 MDT Print View

I just wanted to take a moment to thank Ryan Jordan and the others who assisted us with the search for Ken. I know you had to tolerate a lot of questions and long interviews, but your insight as to Ken's routines and hiking habits were a huge advantage to us. Thanks again for all of your help, and please convey our best wishes to Ken.

Kind Regards,
Mark Eggeman
VA. State Search & Rescue Coordinator

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Thank You on 05/04/2009 09:33:40 MDT Print View

Timothy, have you ever been to California? Orange County which seems to be about half of Los Angeles as well as the bread basket area of our state ie The Central Valley vote conservative. Oh, we also have a Republican Gov. too. Your damnation of all things California sounded rather heavy handed and not too informed. I think that the next time you spout off about politics, you should get a degree in it first, then you and I can talk trade so to speak. I have been to Virginia many times passing through on I-95. Richmond is a wonderful place and the scenery is quite beautiful. I really feel the shot you took at Nate was not cool. BTW he is a California transplant, like alot of people that live here. Which means that he is from another state.
Signed, your bleeding heart liberal.

PS It must bum you out that Obama is doing a good job huh?

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ken Knight is Found on 05/04/2009 09:40:43 MDT Print View

Here's an article from an Ann Arbor newspaper that has a little more information about what happened to Ken.