A Mount Vernon man who was snowshoeing a hiking trail in Rome was found dead Thursday night after possibly succumbing to cold weather, according to the Maine Warden Service.
Brian Peters, 57, was found dead by searchers hiking a trail on Round Top Mountain after he was reported overdue by his wife, according to a news release Friday from Cpl. John McDonald of the warden service.
In a release later Friday, McDonald clarified that Peters could have died from a medical problem or because of cold weather, and the Medical Examiner’s Office would determine the cause of his death.
“Game wardens indicate that Peters was well prepared for hiking and had good communication with his family regarding his hiking trip,” McDonald said in the release.
Peters was last seen about 1 p.m. Thursday leaving a parking area to snowshoe to the top of Round Top Mountain. Searchers looked for the man on trails off Watson Pond Road, and members of the Rome Fire Department found Peters’ body just after 9 p.m. Thursday while searching with game wardens. Maine State Police and Belgrade Rescue also assisted in the effort.
The trailhead for Round Top Mountain is off Watson Pond Road, which connects from the west side of Route 27, about a mile north of the intersection of routes 27 and 225 in Rome. The trail ascends 1,133-foot-high Round Top Mountain and is marked with blue blazes and considered of moderate difficulty, according to the website for the Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance.
Charles Baeder, executive director of the Belgrade alliance, said the trail is considered moderately difficult because of its distance and slope. It’s nearly 4 miles round-trip and the slope gives you “a pretty good workout,” he said.
“Normally it’s a very easy trail to navigate,” Baeder said, but there are some steep sections where a hiker could fall and get hurt.
This week’s snowstorm could have made the trail more difficult, he said. “It’s possible, with the snow just the day before, that the trail was not as easy to follow as it tends to be,” he said.
The temperature in the Waterville area was about 26 degrees at 1 p.m. Thursday and dipped to about 19 degrees by 9 p.m., while the wind chill made it feel like the single digits by the evening, according to the website Weather Underground.
Hikers should always enter the woods prepared, Baeder said. There isn’t much information yet on what happened on Round Top Mountain, but Baeder gave some safety tips.
“Being able to communicate is pretty fundamental,” he said. “Luckily, those trails are all close enough to areas that have cell service.”
It’s also important to tell someone where you’re going and what you’re doing, Baeder said, and to take some kind of map or GPS unit along on hikes. Hikers should be able to contact someone and locate themselves on a map if they get lost, he said.
Baeder also said people should bring water to prevent dehydration in the event they get stuck somewhere after falling.
“Eating snow is better than nothing, but often consumes more energy than you get from it,” he said.
Hikers should also wear clothing that could sustain them for a few hours, he said, as well as a flashlight and a first aid kit.
“There’s always that risk (when hiking), so be as prepared as possible, especially in cold weather,” Baeder said. “That’s why all those backup plans in terms of communication, people knowing where you are, having the right clothes if you do get stuck, are so important.”
Madeline St. Amour can be contact at 861-9239 or at: