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Posted at 6:45 PM ET, 09/11/2009

Scary Scenes on the Billy Goat Trail

By editors

By Bruce Weissgold

Regarding the Sept. 8 Metro article “Copter Aids Rescue of Bride-To-Be”:

I was hiking on the Billy Goat Trail at the C&O Canal National Historical Park with my two daughters, ages 8 and 11, just a couple of hours before this accident occurred. We saw many people hiking unsafely, including some with very young children. Some of these hikers pushed past others in tight spaces. Even my younger daughter was snickering at exhausted people who hadn’t brought any water along and those scaling rocks in sandals or other inappropriate footwear. The scariest sights we saw included men scrambling precariously over the rocks with babies in backpacks or front carriers.

As unfortunate as this accident was, it was also inevitable — maybe not for the victim, who I have no reason to think was acting irresponsibly, but certainly for one of the many unsafe hikers I saw. A volunteer ranger should be stationed at the trailhead to discourage those who are obviously ill-prepared before a more serious accident occurs.
Unfortunately, the Billy Goat Trail gets swarmed by such cavalier outdoors enthusiasts, and the National Park Service encourages it by taking so few steps to discourage them.

By editors  | September 11, 2009; 6:45 PM ET
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The Park Service has ample warning on its web site for the C&O Canal about Billy Goat Trail. It also says it has volunteer trail stewards who are both at the trail head and along the trail to offer advice and assistance. (There may not have been any the day you took your hike.) I suspect they also have a sign at the trail head with appropriate warnings. (Haven't been there in many years so I'm not sure.) Still, there will always be idiots who do stupid things and some of them will require rescue at public expense.

Posted by: reese22 | September 13, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

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