“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Another hiker vanishes on the trail.

My wife and I went into town today.  We needed to stop by the post office, have a little breakfast at a cafe we like, and make a supply run to Home Depot and Walmart.

I picked up a paper, and saw that another rite of summer has begun.  That's the "Vanishing Hiker on the Trail."

The Appalachian Trail winds it's way through North Georgia.  Much of it runs through the vast Chattahoochee National Forest.  People have this idea that the trail is well maintained, easy to follow, and dotted with rest areas and little hostels.

Maybe it is, elsewhere.  But down here,  it's not like that. First, it's more like the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It's not one trail, it's a network of them, crisscrossing, overlapping and merging with one another.  There are a few small camping hostels where it crosses paved roads, but VERY few.

The trail is used by bears, red wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats and other forest residents for the same reason people use it, it's easier than pushing through the brush.  But, of far great moment to hikers, the trail draws people with mental illness.  All up and down the length of the Appalachian Trail there have been ghastly incidents where people disappeared, including one particularly unpleasant incident in North Georgia that changed Georgia gun laws to allow carry on the Georgia parts of the trail.

The story in this weeks paper is about some man in his twenties, from up Wisconsin way.  He has not checked in with his family for a week now.  Some college kids day hiking on a spur found his backpack, tent, and his wallet by the trail, in the county NE of us.  No sign of violence, no sign of robbery. The cash, a substantial amount, was still in his wallet. He's just gone.  The Forestas have looked for him with a helicopter, but unless he's in shape to build a fire and make smoke, that's useless as the canopy is too thick.   If this instance ends up as these usually do, he'll either never be found, or they'll find his animal scavenged skeleton out there three or four years from now.

Georgia law allows all concealed carry permit holders to carry in State Parks and on the Appalachian Trail within Georgia. This came about after a concealed carry permit holder was murdered on the trail. She was unarmed because the law of the day precluded firearms in State Parks or on the Trail.

The last time this happened here, it was a young woman who went missing. Everybody turned out to search, but she had been kidnapped, assaulted and beheaded by a crazy man from Florida. Our state made a deal with him not to ask for the death penalty in exchange for his telling where he buried her body. Once they recovered her body, Georgia turned him over to Florida, where he was wanted for murdering a forest ranger. Florida will fry the monster and good riddance to him. He won't be out in 10 years to do it again, as is the style up North.


  1. Lack of experience in my opinion. We went to northern Wisconsin to my cousins
    cabin. We went for a walk and took whistles with us in case we got lost. We stayed within a mile or two of the cabin.

    1. It's easy to get lost out in that forest. The mountains all look the same, the trails wind and twist. Low clouds come in and it's like standing in a fog (that's why they are called the Smoky Mountains.) If you get out in the national forest, there are no buildings, roads, power lines, nothing. It's just forest. I'm sure that experienced hikers fare better than neophytes, but it's dangerous country. Believe it or not, there are people who go out there in winter.

  2. Although I have a healthy respect for the wildlife, I think I would be more concerned about the human factor. It is a rare thing to see an insane animal.

    The northern part of our state deals with nut cases during fall deer season, when the macho city boys fill the woods trying to shoot Bambi, so they can tie the carcass onto their vehicle, haul it south, impress their friends and then haul it to the dump. That time of year I kept the dogs in the house, the cow in the shed and the kids in the yard, for these fools would shoot at anything that moved. I guess I'm really not fond of most people!

    1. A few years ago, a hunter fired at what he thought was a white tail flashing, and hit his buddy , who was lighting a cigarette, right between the eyes. It's kind of like drivers licenses. There are people out there driving 2 1/2 ton trucks who don't have sense enough to pour sand out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel.

  3. Replies
    1. Yep. Dates to the 1950's, tried and true. That's a good gun. Goes with my Jackass Leather Company shoulder rig.

  4. Hey Harry,


    Yeah' I like the idea of a mule on your previous post.

    As per wildlife. In Texas you can open carry long guns almost anywhere. The only time I would actually do this is out on trails that are other than National Parks. In fact I just assume not go onto a National Park, period.
    If I do carry a long gun, its on a sling. Round chambered with safety on and I am not dressed as if I was going to storm Afghanistan. No sense in alarming people.

    I'm not a pistol man. I use a pistol to get to my rifle. If I ever have to use a rifle (which I hope I never have to do in the first place) I want my shots to be accurate, and I want to have ample fire power for any kind of predator (some of the predators down here carry AK's near the border) That's another reason I prefer to stay away from border regions in Texas.
    The only area I would go to is isolated West Texas in South Brewster County, and the Davis Mountains. The drug lords even stay away from that region its so isolated and harsh.

    1. I like pistols. I have a rifle about me if I'm working on the place, but in the truck or going around town I always have my pistol.

      The National Forest is just woods and mountains. Nobody out there to speak of, it's primeval. If you get off the trail you can find places that are about as isolated and lonely as any place on the planet.

  5. That's creepy! It may someday show up on the show 48 Hours.

    1. It was very creepy. The girl had a black belt in karate, and apparently tried to fight him but he beat her up with a baton. He kept her alive for three days before he killed her. She was a young college girl and was just day hiking. What really infuriated people was that she had a concealed carry permit, had been well trained with a pistol, but obeyed the law and did not carry it with her on the trail. The law was immediately changed but too late to benefit her. I make it a practice not to obey any laws written by moronic politicians to suit their own political agendas if doing so would put me or my family at risk. She's dead and the people who wrote the law that got her killed are still prancing around in Atlanta.

  6. There's a 25 mile hiking trail down the road from me maybe five miles to the trail head. Like the one you mention it has a series of different trails people can follow to tailor their length of hike from five miles up to the full twenty five. Anyway I will still get people wandering up the gravel road to my place lost beyond belief asking how to get back to the start point at times. Used to happen almost every weekend twenty years ago now there are a lot more houses to stop at before they get to my place so it's become more rare. Still if people can get that lost with marked gravel roads crossing the trail every few miles I can only imagine what you get down there.

    1. It's a problem. GPS is not a panacea for lack of skill with a map and compass. When I worked at the state park, morons were always going out on a 14 mile loop trail that started and ended at the park. They would go out with no water, no map, no gear at all, because it was called a "day hike." And for young people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, in top condition, it was. But for desk jockeys from the city in mid life, it was not one you could do in a day. So, out they would go, then some hiker would come in and say someone had collapsed out on the trail. If it was a savvy hiker, again, usually a vet or active duty type, they could tell us where the guy was with some clarity. But all too often, they would say "he is at the foot of two tall trees where you can see the mountains". This in the Chattahoochee national forest. Or, people would get lost and call in on cell phones, whining piteously, "I'm lost, help me" but no idea where they were. This was before you could get a read on a cell phone. So the volunteer fire department would have to go look for them on the trail, and if they were down, the same guys had to carry them out. For which they received largess from the state to the sum of fifteen dollars per man. Then when these people finally got back to the park, they would come into the office and start ranting and blaming the park and the rangers. I got two letters written to DNR bitching about me being rude because I told them to stay at the mall as they were obviously too stupid to navigate across their own backyards, let alone through the forest. I never took any abuse off the "customers" and I am sure it was a great relief to the long suffering park ranger when the "senior employment summer program" got over and I didn't' work there anymore. All this was just on a 14 mile loop, so you can imagine what happens on the Appalachian Trail.

  7. talking to a u. s. army cap't. and hunter today about politicians and gun control.
    i've looked down twice in my life to see a huge copperhead just gliding past [berry patches].
    that'll cause a certain dampness in the britches.
    those damned pols need to be turned loose in the parts regular people inhabit.
    he was telling me about some of the wolf packs further north. whew!!

    when the pols come up on a rabid coyote or a [fill in the blank] and are experiencing their own wet britches, or worse, they may have a different view of 'gun control'....if they survive.
    deb h.

  8. Your 3 best friends on the trail are a topo map, a compass, and knowing how to use them both. Always keep a running tab of where you are on the map, since a map is completely useless if you don't know where you actually are on that map. My dad showed me this when I was in my early teens, and I've showed my wife and daughter.

    Sorry, I told myself I wouldn't comment until I had reached the present day in your blog, but I couldn't help myself this time. (or last time or the time before that...)

    (or probably the next time either... sigh)

    - Charlie

    1. Charlie, I'm a land navigation guy myself. GPS is nice but I'm not staking my life on it.

      No problem commenting whenever you want to. What happens is that I get an email with a link to comment, so it's not hard to go back and answer it.