Hiking Accident Prevention: Losing The Trail In The Great Smoky Mountains

S T O R I E S   P A S T   A N D   P R E S E N T

Cautionary Tales For Back Country Hikers


Mother-Daughter Hike Ends In Grief


In October 2018, Mitzie Susan Clements, 53 and her daughter were on their way down, while hiking Clingman’s Dome – Forney Ridge Trail, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Her 20-year-old daughter, who was hiking ahead of her, lost sight of her mother.

After a week-long search, Mitzie Clements’ body was found in a rugged off-trail area, typified by very thick vegetation and a steep, very rocky hillside.  The cause of death was hypothermia.  A helicopter removed her remains. 

At the time of their hike, the weather conditions were foggy, and temperatures were in the 40s.  According to a park official, it was raining, and approaching darkness, making it difficult to miss trail intersections.  

News articles about this story are provided in the highlighted links listed below.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina,  is the most visited national park in the United States.

Online News Sources

Asheville Citizen-Times, October 4, 2018 Great Smokies hiker found dead this week is 11th death in park this year. By Karen Chavez

Asheville Citizen-Times, October 4, 2018 – Staying safe in the outdoors: Hiking death in Great Smokies a reminder of forest dangers,  By Karen Chavez

Citizen-Times.com (Citizen Times) April 3, 2019 Autopsy Reveals Cause of Death For Woman Who Went Missing in Great Smoky Mountains,  By Karen Chavez

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Trip Planning Resources For Hikers and Backpackers


Hiking Accident Prevention: Learn The Risks of Slot Canyon Flash Floods


 Monsoon Season Brings Sudden Flooding 

SLOT CANYONS are funnel-shaped rock formations, found in the American southwest. They are wide at the top, and narrow at the bottom. Slot canyon formation is caused by water rushing through sandstone or limestone rock.  Southern Utah has the most slot canyons in the world.

SLOT CANYON FLASH FLOODS are often caused by storms miles away.  Slot canyon flash floods are dangerous, and can be life threatening.

During a flash flood, the water level rises quickly, within minutes, or seconds.  A flash flood can rush down a canyon in a wall of water 12 feet high or more.  

Hikers should check the National Weather Service, for an up-to-date report, before entering a slot canyon.  If bad weather is predicted, entering a slot canyon is dangerous, and may result in your death.

O N L I N E  N E W S  S O U R C E S

NPS.gov (National Park Service) –  Zion National Park Utah: The Narrows Safety 

NPS.gov (National Park Service) Monsoon Season 

MyUtahParks.com Be Aware of Flash Flood Dangers In Utah’s Canyons,  By Carly Everett  – 6/19/19

Blogs.Scientific American.comInstant Peril: Flash Floods and How To Survive Them.  Flash Floods Kill People Worldwide  Find Out How To Survive,  By Dana Hunter – 12/28/16

LATimes.com/Associated Press Report: Hikers Were Warned Before Flood,  9/30/97

CNN.com – 7 Dead In Zion National Park Flash Flood,  By Ralph Ellis – 9/17/15

OutsideOnline.com Special Report: The Keyhole 7,  By Grayson Schaffer – 5/24/16

ChicagoTributne.comUtah Floods That Killed 19 Show Dangers Of Popular Desert Canyons,   By Tribune Wire Reports – 9/17/15

Weather.gov (US National Weather Service)Floods  

OutsideOnline.com Surviving A Flash Flood In A Slot Canyon,  By Joe Spring – 9/11/13

Backpacker.com – The Manual: How To Explore A Slot Canyon,  By Kristin Bjornsen and Rebecca Kane – 2/14/17

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Trip Planning Resources For Hikers and Backpackers

Irene Pastore, is a Certified Personal Trainer, fitness blogger, health educator, and speaker. She has 25 years experience teaching exercise in New York City.  To read her complete bio, visit the About Page.