Powder River’s Appalachian Trail Journey from Georgia to Maine 2008

Meredith Emerson


As I’m sure you all know by now a hiker was kidnapped on new year’s day near the A.T. at Blood Mountain, Georgia. She was kept alive for 3 days in the back of a van before she was killed and then decapitated. Meredith Emerson was her name, and she was a beautiful 24 year old from my old back yard, Colorado. There is also an elderly couple who went missing on the A.T. in October, in North Carolina. The body of Irene Bryant has been found while her husband John is still missing. Finally, there is Cheryl Dunlap who was also a hiker murdered in Florida just before the holidays. It appears that they are going to charge the man who killed Meredith, Gary Micheal Hilton in the Florida case as well, and he is a prime suspect in the North Carolina case.

Obviously these events have rocked the hiking community quite a bit. Particularly the Emerson case, because of all the media coverage. The Appalachian Trail goes right over Blood mountain, and being just 28 miles from the start point I will hit it on day 3 or 4 of my hike. Undoubtedly that will be a tough place to pass. It is mind blowing to think that this kind of stuff can happen in the supposed haven of the woods. My heart and prayers go out to each of those families, and I am thankful that they have found the killer.

These events have raised big questions on the whole safety thing while hiking. Suddenly everyone is asking me if I’m going to carry a gun. One person asked me if I’m still planning on going. The hiking community forums are alive with posts on how to defend yourself when attacked, and one guy even asked what kind of sword would be best to carry. (The best, of course would be a cane sword like that guy in the movie Blind Fury. Duh.) In short, there are a lot of people freaking out.

This all has a very familiar ring to it. It seems there is a pattern in society, that whenever something bad happens we must overreact. However, it is important to keep reality in view here. These murders were likely done by just one person, who is now behind bars. Carrying a two pound gun is not going to protect you from Gary Micheal Hilton, because you won’t be seeing him on the trail any time soon. Besides, there is a lot of debate on just how to carry a gun on the trail. Since anybody you meet who wants to do you harm will probably attack you unawares, how in the world would you reach for your hidden piece in the bottom of your pack? It seems the only other option is to actually draw the gun on EVERY person you meet, just in case. Now that sounds like the safest way.

Buried somewhere in all of this nonsense and hysteria is probably some good, sound steps every one can take to stay safe. Like letting people know where you are going, how long you will be gone and so on. But unfortunately, we live in a world that is not completely safe. There have been something like 7 murders in the entire history of the A.T., before these. Considering the A.T. stretches for 2,175 miles and has millions of users each year, it seems that the Appalachian Trail is a lot safer than any city. The bottom line is, stuff can happen to you just as easy at the grocery store or at the movie theater. When something does happen to you, carrying that concealed pistol under the seat of your car or in the bottom of your pack probably isn’t going to help you a whole lot. Hikers have a lot more dangerous things to worry about, like hypothermia.

My prayers go to the families of the victims, and I hope they find peace.




  Karl Pogue wrote @

I cant agree with your comments on the concealed weapon issue. With a little research, you would know that Meredith Emerson broke free from her attacker and had ample opportunity to defend herself if she had a weapon. Sadly, this is true in numerous attacks on women. It is important for women to know, the most dangerous animal on Earth is a human male, and they can be found everywhere. It is best to never let your guard down and to always be prepared, even on a remote mountain trail. I believe Meredith would agree with that, in hindsight.
Rest in Peace Meredith..

  Wolfscratch wrote @

Legacy guestbook ‘Meredith Hope Emerson’


Although Meredith Hope Emerson’s life was short , she touched hearts from all over the US and beyond. She gives us all Strength, Faith, and most of all Hope…

Meredith Hope Emerson was a kindred spirit and a fighter.

A decade old murder was solved in GA due to Meredith’s DNA Law. A Felon’s DNA was matched. He was ruled out due to prison confinement.
‘It was his twin brother’…

~ glenn adams, dawsonville, Georgia

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: