The day was not over. When we arrived to my car parked in front of the Stone Mountain Visitor Center, I found a hand-written note from Edward Farr, Superintendent of Stone Mountain State Park on my dashboard. It said:
Overnight parking is prohibited in state parks. Each vehicle must be accounted for each night to prevent leaving a visitor that may be injured or lost on a trail. A search involving on duty and off duty staff had begun for you but was ended when we spoke to a family member. Had we not been able to contact a family member the search would have continued through the night and only ended when we found you.
It was signed Edward Farr Park Superintendent and accompanied by a warning notice containing my vehicle registration.
I was mortified. A search for me while I was safely tucked up in a Sparta motel? Why? Why would they search for someone who was not declared missing?
I went up to the Visitor Center to look for Ed Farr but he wasn’t in his office. I talked to one of his subordinates, also a ranger, who explained that they had to look for people unless they registered their car and parked in the backcountry lot. But we had passed that parking area five miles away. It would have messed up our whole day.
When I got home, I found out from Lenny that Superintendent Farr had called our home a little after 8 P.M. The park gates close at 8 P.M. so he got concerned about my car on his last sweep of the park.
It just happened that I talked to Lenny a little before 8 P.M. Lenny told Farr that he had just talked to me and that I was hiking to my car tomorrow.
I sent Farr an email explaining that we placed the car after the visitor center closed. I used the word “mortified” again at the thought of anyone searching for me – Sharon and I were experienced hikers.
I told him that “I know that these are North Carolina State Park procedures but I’m truly surprised that you are required to start a search if no one has reported a missing person.”
It will be a long time until we reach another state park on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.