The search began around 9 p.m. the previous evening and was hampered by inclement weather conditions that moved in overnight. The family was located Tuesday afternoon thanks in part to a whistle they brought with them and were able to use effectively to help searchers zero in on their location.
The Kleinbrahm family were suffering from fatigue, mild dehydration, and some bumps and bruises from their night in the woods but were otherwise unharmed.
Apparently, they followed Ivestor Gap Trail from the Black Balsam parking area for a few miles and at some point during their day hike, left the trail to explore a waterfall and got turned around trying to return to the trail. Upon realizing they were lost the family was able to contact a relative and let them know of their situation. The family member called 911 for assistance. Shortly thereafter the hikers’ cell phone batteries died and they had no further communication.
Several local agencies were instrumental in this successful search and rescue effort including the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, Haywood County Emergency Services, Haywood County Search and Rescue, Cruso Fire and Rescue, Lake Logan Fire Department, Haywood County Rescue Squad, Henderson County Rescue Squad, Reynolds Fire Department, National Park Service, and the United States Forest Service.
Important takeaways are that even in summer conditions hypothermia is a real threat, especially if you get wet and cannot dry off. Always bring adequate rain gear for everyone in your party and emergency shelter, even on short day hikes. It is also important to take note of signage at the trailhead and prepare accordingly for the trail conditions ahead.
Many trails in the Pisgah National Forest run through wilderness areas in which the trails are unmarked and minimally maintained. Cell phone service is limited in the mountains and should not be relied upon. Alternate signaling devices like whistles and mirrors are highly recommended.
Finally, always travel with extra food, water, and light sources, in case your hike lasts longer than planned.