BLANCHARD TOWNSHIP, Maine — Three stranded hikers were airlifted from a flooded portion of the Appalachian Trail on Thursday morning, according to the Maine Warden Service.
Through-hikers Amy McConaughy, 27, from Belair, Maryland, and Kelly Wood, 25, from Nokesville, Virginia, became stranded on a portion of the trail near Blanchard due to flooding of the East Branch of the Piscataquis River. They had been reported missing Wednesday.
Several Maine game wardens and two searchers with Mount Desert Island Search and Rescue located the two missing women at about 9 a.m. near the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the East Branch of the river.
Searchers also located another stranded hiker named Gabriel Grace, 26, from Baltimore, Maryland. All three were cold and wet but did have additional supplies.
A Maine Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter responded with an air rescue basket and extracted the three hikers from the area, lifting them to safety at a nearby field, according to the Warden Service.
The women had been dropped off Monday morning in Caratunk by Kelly Wood’s father. They had planned to be out Tuesday evening in Monson. When they did not arrive, the father called the Maine Warden Service at 2 p.m. Wednesday. A northbound through hiker named Billy Lehman was identified in Monson, who saw the two women at around 7 p.m. on Tuesday. At that point he indicated they were about a mile southwest of the Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to. The hiker said the women were camped and fine. He stayed at the lean-to until Wednesday morning when he continued on. He crossed the East Branch of the Piscataquis River and said it was over his waist and flowing heavily. It quickly became evident that the two hikers likely became stranded near the lean-to due to the fast-flowing river crossing. A search soon focused on that area.
Both women were through-hikers who started their trek in Georgia. McConaughy began her hike on April 1 and Wood started two days later. The women did not know each other prior to the hike but became friends while hiking.
Gabriel Grace began his hike on March 9 in Georgia.
The Maine Warden Service advises all hikers of Maine’s AT that rivers are currently very high and dangerous. People hiking should bring with them good communication devices to aid in unforeseen mishaps such as this.