HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Appalachian Trail hiker Jason Parish was making one last check for belongings near an overnight shelter when a dead tree felled by strong winds crashed on top of him and killed him, one of his hiking companions said Monday.

Parish, 36, of Philadelphia, died of a fatal head injury Sunday morning at the Ed Garvey Shelter, a two-story structure on the trail near Weverton, about 60 miles west of Baltimore, the National Park Service said.

Parish was a Delaware native and folk musician who frequently camped in rugged conditions, friends said Monday. Last Friday, he drove with friends Michael Sparks and Kelly Quain to Gathland State Park for a two-night trek along a 14-mile stretch of Maryland’s section of the nearly 2,200-mile footpath, Sparks said in a telephone interview.

He said they spent a rainy Friday night in the Garvey shelter, then hiked south Saturday to Weverton Cliffs before heading back to the shelter for the night. Sparks said he had noticed the tall tree near a rear corner of the shelter because it was marked with a pink ribbon, apparently meant for cutting.

Sunday morning brought worrisome winds. Sparks said he had told Quain about an hour before the accident, “We’re just going to have to keep an eye out for trees today.”

He said he heard the tree hit the ground, ran toward the scene and spotted Parish.


“I thought he was hurt pretty bad,” Sparks said.

He yelled for help, bringing others from the shelter who helped free Parish, called 911 and began CPR.

The park service said Parish was injured about 9 a.m. First responders arrived about an hour later but were unable to revive him.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail Superintendent Wendy Janssen expressed sympathy to Parish’s family and gratitude to those who responded to the accident, including an off-duty ranger who happened to be nearby and performed CPR.

Parish released his debut album, “A Mountain and a Hill,” in January, said Ernest Tokay, owner of Little Spiders Have Big Dreams Studio, where the music was recorded.

He said Parish often went camping, even in the winter, sometimes without much notice.

“It was his thing,” Tokay said. “He seemed to enjoy what the rest of us would call very torturous conditions.”

Despite his rugged side, Parish was a kind man and a talented member of Philadelphia’s folk music scene, Tokay said. He said some the area’s top folk musicians played on the album.

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