Missing hiker found in Mayview Gorge

Missing hiker found in Mayview Gorge
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By David Rogers. February 10, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — He’s not out of the woods yet, so to speak, but a missing hiker from Charlotte who wandered off of the China Creek Trail below Mayview — and missing since Saturday — was found alive and uninjured approximately 11:30 am on Sunday.

Because of the rugged terrain and adverse weather conditions, extraction by helicopter is not possible, so fire & rescue personnel are guiding Frank Sanady, 67, of Charlotte to safety.

Multiple agencies from at least three counties — Watauga, Caldwell, and Avery — responded to the emergency call for help in a search that began at 6:36 pm on Saturday.

The China Creek Trail (red line) twists and turns for approximately 3 miles from its Laurel Lane trailhead in Blowing Rock

Sanady reportedly went out for a day hike, entering China Creek Trail at its trailhead on Saturday about noon, near the northern end of Laurel Lane, across from the L.M. Tate Horse Show Grounds on the outskirts of Blowing Rock. The emergency call by his wife to report him missing was received at approximately 6:30 pm on Saturday.

Among the responding agencies are Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue, Blowing Rock Police Department, Caldwell Emergency Management, Caldwell Administration, Collettsville Fire & Rescue, Granite Falls Fire & Rescue, Linville Rescue, Boone Police, and the U.S. Park Ranger. Linville Rescue provide a K9 team and Granite Falls Fire Department provided a drone equipped with thermal imaging capabilities.

Sgt. Shane Robbins of Boone Police is serving as public information officer (PIO) for what has been dubbed by rescuers as the “China Creek Search.” He advised Blowing Rock News on Sunday afternoon during the extraction was taking place that Sanady was uninjured, but obviously very tired after more than 15 hours, including an overnight stay in frigid temperatures.

According to Robbins, while the main body of rescuers assembled near the Laurel Lane trailhead, other emergency personnel started up the China Creek Trail searching from its intersection with Globe Road far below Blowing Rock. Still other rescuers were inserted, Robbins said, at different points in-between.

A “hasty team” of emergency personnel that included members of the Blowing Rock Fire Department and Blowing Rock Police Department, as well as possible representatives from Caldwell County-based emergency service agencies, inserted themselves into the search area through the Mayview Condominiums development, the former site of the historic Mayview Manor. Robbins believed that it was this team that made initial contact with Sanady, who had wandered well off the trail. “They made voice contact,” Robbins reported.

AllTrails.com, a San Francisco, California-based company that provides more than 10 million outdoors enthusiasts with tools and information needed for hiking and other outdoor adventures, describes China Creek Trail as “…a 3-mile, moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Blowing Rock, NC, that features a great forest setting. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking and trail running. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.”

According to this Hiking Project.com photo, the trail environment is “heavily forested,” although there would not be an abundance of foilage this time of year.

A variation of the hike shown by another Web-facilitated service, HikingProject.com, suggests that the China Creek Trail can be integrated with the Thunderhole Trail and a short stretch alongside U.S. 221 to form a 6.7 mile trek. The average grade is 11%, with a maximum grade of 42%. The change in elevation is roughly 1,922. The China Creek Trail portion is a much sharper descent, while the Thunderhole Trail climbing up from Globe Rd. to Ansley Heights is slightly more moderate.

Robbins was unable to provide an estimate for when the extraction would be completed.

“He was located shortly before lunch (on Sunday),” Robbins explained. “The rescuers first had to get to him, then conduct an examination to determine the man’s medical condition and assess whether he could walk out on his own or if there was a need to carry him out. From the reports we have received, he is in pretty good shape, was fairly well equipped, but obviously tired. Because of the weather and terrain, we cannot bring him out by helicopter so they will be walking out. The shortest route, maybe three-quarters of a mile, is to get him back out to the trail and then back up to the Laurel Lane trailhead. But that is a tough climb, especially in these wet conditions. It is probably a mile and a half to two miles down to Globe Rd., so a longer path, but you get to let gravity do some of the work because it is mostly downhill.

“We are all very thankful,” Robbins said, “for the rapid response of so many agencies and that this rescue will apparently have a happy ending.”

About The Author

As Editor and Publisher of Blowing Rock News, David Rogers has chosen a second professional career instead of retirement. For more than 35 years, he served in the financial services industry, principally in institutional equity research. He grew up in the oilfields north of Bakersfield, California and was a high school English major and honors student. From an economically disadvantaged family background, he worked his way through college (on grounds crew and in dining hall, as well as advertising sales for college newspapers), attending Johnston College at the University of Redlands, Claremont McKenna College, and California State University, Bakersfield. Other jobs to pay for college included a Teamsters Union job in South Central Los Angeles, a roustabout in the central California oilfields, and moving sprinkler pipe and hoeing weeds in the cotton fields west of Bakersfield. Rogers' financial services industry career took him from Bakersfield to La Jolla and San Diego, then to Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Newport Beach and Charlotte before arriving in the High Country in 2000 to take a volunteer position coaching the rugby team at Appalachian State University and write independent stock market research. He spent three years as a senior financial writer for a global financial PR firm with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai, Beijing, Tel Aviv, and Frankfort (Germany). Rogers is the author of "The 90% Solution: Higher Returns, Less Risk" (2006, John Wiley & Co., New York). He is married to wife Kim (Jenkins Realtors), and shares in the joy provided by her three grown children and five grandchildren.

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