4 stars. Each chapter of Lost!: A Ranger’s Journal of Search and Rescue details a disappearance in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and subsequent rescue effort as told by ranger Dwight McCarter. The introductory text describes the circumstances that necessitated the search and rescue effort. McCarter’s journal entries outline his role once he joins the search, and he details the terrain, weather, evidence found by the searchers, and most interestingly, his impression of the decisions and actions of the lost party.
The writing is clear and direct, favoring the factual over the dramatic, yet doesn’t miss McCarter’s love for the land, appreciation of its beauty, and emotional involvement with each search and rescue. The stories are memorable, sometimes tragic and sometimes happy. The willingness of the searchers to trek through the treacherous backcountry and “laurel hells” of the Smokies in any weather, day and night, is inspiring even when the outcome is sad.
As an avid hiker and frequent visitor to the Smokies, I found this book to be very interesting for several reasons. I’m familiar enough with many of the trails and areas described that I can very easily relate to the rescues. I appreciated reading about the park from the point of view of someone whose intimate knowledge of its terrain gave me extra insight into the park; even walking GSMNP’s trails doesn’t give more than a hint at how rugged and wild a place it is. The line between finding a lost person and recovery of a body often comes down to pre-hike preparation combined with sound decisions, and this book highlights how both are essential when conditions worsen or the unexpected occurs. I also found it very interesting that there are a number of airplane crash sites in the Smokies (McCarter often checked those to see if lost parties took refuge in the wreckage).
A quick and interesting read, Dwight McCarter’s Lost! is a great addition for anyone who loves the outdoors.