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Kayaker Rescued after day on river

By Patricia Stephens
patti@stephensprop.com

Michael and Crystal Taylor’s trip down the Big South Fork River gave both kayakers more adventure than they expected. What began as a leisurely paddle down river quickly turned into a fight for survival when the kayak Michael was in turned over in a stretch of rapids. With one kayak salvaged, Crystal paddled downstream with Michael, wearing a life vest, holding onto the back of her kayak. With dark approaching, the couple found a place to spend the night on shore. Cell phones in this area do not receive a signal so they couldn’t call for help.
The Burnside couple had planned to put in at Station Camp in Scott County Tennessee, camp for the night and finish at Blue Heron the following day. The trip started as planned on Saturday afternoon, camping for the night then resuming their trip Sunday morning. Sunday morning started with Crystal’s kayak filling with water in a rapid, which they managed to save. A large, wild dog with strange markings swam into the river and began following them. Michael Taylor had a gun with him and fired several times at it to scare it away, but the dog was not phased. Coming to another stretch of rapids, Michael’s kayak got into trouble and filled up with water, they were not able to save his kayak and lost everything in it.

The Taylors continued down river with Crystal paddling her kayak and Michael floating behind, holding on. Unable to go very fast and with evening approaching, they made camp on a big rock and built a fire. Luckily, Crystal had a bag of food in her kayak, but no water. The large, wild dog was still trailing them and made noises throughout the night. Monday morning the couple resumed their journey, hoping to see Blue Heron soon. By around 11:00 am Crystal said, “I was so tired, I couldn’t paddle anymore.” They decided to leave Crystal on a rocky beach and let Michael go for help. He arrived at Blue Heron a few hours later, drove in their vehicle to Ranger Little’s house and reported his wife stranded on the river.

Park Rangers took four wheelers and traveled up river on horse trails and began looking for Crystal. Failing to locate her, 911 was called for search and rescue. Pine Knot Fire Department was dispatched at 5:30 pm, arriving on scene around 6:00 pm. Six PKFD personnel began trekking up river over arduous terrain. As the sun was setting, they spotted smoke in the distance. Walking toward the smoke, Crystal soon heard the PKFD’s yells and answered. The rescuers reached Crystal around 9:15 pm, as it was getting dark, and began walking her to a horse trail at Bear Creek where rangers would pick them up on four-wheelers. The group reached the rangers around 1:00 am Tuesday, the PKFD having trekked a conservative seven miles over the rugged land. EMS was standing by to check Crystal Taylor, found her to be a little dehydrated from lack of water but otherwise in good health.

“I don’t want to do it again,” Crystal stated. “When I heard the firefighters yelling, I thought ‘thank God.’ All day while I waited, the large, wild dog watched me from down river. I knew if I had to stay through the night, the dog would rip me apart.”
“The Pine Knot Firemen were a God send.”

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