Over a year ago, I decided to take a nature-deficient friend of mine hiking at Sweetwater Creek State Park. We were not prepared for the events that unfolded that day. Upon arrival, we both anticipated the beauty and relaxation that awaited us further down the trail, unaware that our supply of water was inadequate for a sweltering summer day.
Descending into the creek valley, a breeze gently lifted sweat from our skin. Slowly but surely, Jon’s body was beginning to dehydrate. After a short walk down the trail we came upon a casualty of Georgia’s history – a large textile mill burnt down by Sherman’s army during the Civil War. Our journey continued down the trail towards the creek bank. Sweetwater creek has a wondrous array of rapids and cascades that awakens a sense of calm and arouses a reverence of its timelessness.
Along the bank we discarded our shoes and dipped our feet into the cool, clear flowing water. The decision was spontaneous, yet the relief was sumptuous. My goal was to encourage Jon to join me in stone hopping downstream towards one of the notable falls in the park. He declined, noting his previous night of revelry and an inclination to relax. I failed to recognize the looming specter of dehydration in his demeanor and set off for adventure.
I swiftly traveled downstream. At the falls I encountered some fellow college students using the falls to take a dip, how could I resist such a tempting offer to cool off? Eventually refreshed, I bid my new friends farewell and set out to reunite with Jon.
Upon arrival, I became distressed. Jon was missing; perhaps he went to ask for water from another hiker? It quickly became apparent to me that he was dangerously dehydrated and possibly delirious. There was no time to waste. I sprinted up and down the trail hollering his name. I asked passing hikers if they had seen my friend. All said, “no”.
Finally a park ranger perched on a golf cart came rolling down the trail. The ranger said he received a call for water from a dehydrated hiker. I hopped in the cart, thankful that help had arrived. We found Jon along the trail, unconscious. The ranger woke him up and provided him with water. He quickly regained consciousness and we both took a ride back to the park headquarters, grateful of the ranger’s lifesaving deed.
The moral of the story is multi-faceted. On one hand, our state parks are beautiful and offer close to home recreation. On another, hikers must be prepared for the unexpected— such as injury and dehydration. Next, unless experienced, hikers should never separate from each other as a matter of safety. Finally, without adequate funding our parks cannot provide the services that probably saved my friend’s life.
- Jeremy Cherson
Jeremy Cherson is an Environmental Policy student at American University. He is from Norcross, Georgia and enjoys hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and playing several instruments. He is a contributor every Tuesday.