Yesterday, in Cataloochee Valley, while I was getting some pictures of young female elk, I was approached by a young couple out backpacking. They had gotten lost and needed help getting back to their car. No problem, I got them situated and off we went for the 16 mile journey over some awesome dirt roads to Big Creek Camping area.
Here’s the point: They somehow had wandered off the trail and ended up beside me, over 23 miles OFF their trail. No map, no idea where they were. This was a disaster getting ready to happen. I was happy to help, but what if I wasn’t there? Most visitors to the Valley are tourist families. I seriously doubt if anyone would have picked them up, much less realized where they needed to be.
Please, when out hiking, always carry a map and compass, or at least a trail description from a hiking book. Be aware of where you are at all times. These mountains can be dangerous for inexperienced or experienced hikers.