I’ll admit it. The “Night Hatchet” story had me a little worried. As I read Tim’s blog, my anxiety level rose to monumental proportions (I have PTSD so I expect that). Anyway, as I told him, my fight or flight response kicked in just reading about this character along the Appalachian Trail. I made mental notes of how to handle the situation. I asked my son to teach me to use my trekking poles as a weapon. I thought, “my little saw would make a great ligature.” If I am stealthy enough I can ‘delete his post’. Timothy was kind enough to respond to me, and put my mind at ease. Here is his response to me:
“I thought it might be useful to give some additional feedback about the “Night Hatchet” story. The individual in question was an aberration and I have found that 99.9 percent of those encountered during a through hike are wonderful and safe people to be around.
Personally, I feel the A.T. is one of the safest places for hiking. Fellow hikers look after each other, and local folks are more than willing to be helpful when you’re in need. There was only one time I did not accept a ride into town while hitch-hiking — I had a “strange feeling” about the man who offered the ride so politely refused and walked away. It’s important to hitch-hike in a group or at least with one other person you trust. Either way, most people offering a ride are doing so to help out.
Insofar as weapons are concerned, I would not take a firearm. Too much weight, too much trouble. When I’m on the trail my defenses are a good hiking staff or hiking poles, and I carry a pocket knife. I have never, ever had a need to use these against another human being. I have, however, had to coax a snake off the trail or use my hiking staff to ward off a bear getting into my food in New Jersey. Seems animals were more an issue than humans.
Many woman are backpacking solo on the trail, and it’s rare to have any incidents. Some common sense guidelines include not telling others where you’re headed unless they’re fellow backpackers. Also, camping in shelters more than a mile from road crossings is advisable, since partiers on weekends are common at shelters within a mile or two and it’s not fun to try to sleep with drunk and rowdy locals.
I cannot say this enough — “trust your gut” and your “intuition” during your hike. But there is no need to hike in fear or anxiety. I have made most all my trips solo over the years, and simply take not of my surroundings when I meet day hikers or locals, and behave politely and honestly.
The “Night Hatchet” guy was disconcerting, but I was in a group of at least eight other hikers and we kept notice of him. He turned out to be a guy who was not a serious backpacker (you can spot one easily); he had no pack, tent, was drinking and carrying liquor, and begged food from hikers. He bragged about hiking the trail and would leave it periodically only to appear at other trail-heads and pester other hikers. Still, he was a rare bird.
Thanks to technology, there are things such as a SPOT locator, which can be used either to summon help during a life-threatening injury, OR can be used to send a signal at regular intervals to let folks at home know you’re “checking in” and are OK. My wife and I are discussing my using such a system when I head back out into the wild.
I hope this information is helpful and will allow you to hike with joy and confidence, relying on your information and instincts when it comes to walking any trail you choose.
Thank you Timothy. Love your blog, and the psychotic urge to kill someone on the trail has evaporated. 🙂