Lieutenant Mark Ober
June 18, 2020
Thompson and Meserve’s Purchase, NH – Wednesday evening at approximately 9:00 p.m. a Conservation Officer received a 911 call in which a hiker and his 8-year-old son reported seeing a bear 2 miles up the Jewell Trail and were too scared to continue. The Conservation Officer spoke with the hiker, who was identified as Gerard MacDonell, 55, of Westport, CT, and advised him that if there were a bear to make noise and it would move off and not harm them. After a while, MacDonell confirmed that the bear was gone and the father and son were instructed to continue down the trail.
At 10:00 p.m., MacDonell again called this time stating that he thought he had lost the trail because he did not have a light source, other than the light on his cell phone. Being approximately 1.2 miles from the Base Station parking lot, MacDonell was directed back onto the trail and with nearly 50 percent battery life, he was given instructions to continue following the trail to the Jewell Trail cut-off. Due to the battery life of his cell phone and the distance to the parking lot, he was told that if he and his son descended at a steady pace and did not stop, they should have enough battery power to make it down.
At 11:30 p.m., MacDonell called 911 again with only 15 percent battery life. When his GPS location was plotted, he was still nearly a mile from the Base Station parking lot. At this point, the decision was made to go get the hikers.
The responding Conservation Officer arrived at the Base Station at 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning, and after hiking for approximately 24 minutes made contact with MacDonell and his son at 12:54 a.m. They were provided with headlamps and a flashlight, given water, and guided down the trail arriving at the parking lot at 1:55 a.m.
Once they were safely down it was learned that MacDonell and his son hiked up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to the summit of Mt. Washington. From there they hiked down Gulfside Trail to the Jewell Trail. MacDonell carried small packs with some food, little water, and extra clothing, but did not possess the “Ten Essentials” recommended by Hike Safe, namely a light source. If the pair had a flashlight or headlamp, this rescue response would not have been necessary.
In addition, they departed from the trailhead at 11:30 a.m., which is much too late to start an ambitious 9-mile loop without being prepared with the essential gear.
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department Conservation Officers would like to remind anyone enjoying the outdoors to plan ahead, make safe decisions, and carry essential equipment to be ready not just for the intended hike, but for other issues that could arise. For more information please visit http://www.hikesafe.com.