Trouble on the Trail

Published Apr 14, 2016

The AT throws curves. ~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

The AT throws curves. ~ Photo by Robert Sutherland

There was trouble on the Trail last week. A precious Trail Angel -- a lady who devotes seasons of her life to making Appalachian Trail hikers' lives better -- had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Someone hiking the Trail (a man whom I have not met) violently shattered the windshield on our beloved friend's van ... scaring her off the Trail temporarily. An arrest followed. Then a release. And a new windshield.

Our friend could have made a career out of making the perp's life almost as miserable as he made a few days of her week. Facebook blew up with hundreds of responses to the story. Hostile messages ranged from vague threats to "knee-capping" the man responsible. Like something akin to a virtual lynch mob.

The sympathetic among us provided reminders about those with mental or emotional illnesses who take to the Trail to try to leave troubles behind. Not to justify to violence, but to say reacting with violence is perpetuation of hostility, not resolution.

My purpose is not to condemn or justify the hiker's hostile actions or to solve the perplexing riddles about why it happened. Those who report the news are compelled to unscrew the inscrutable ... to gain clicks, paychecks and/or fame. To make craziness make sense.

To quote a line from The Princess Bride, "There's not much money in revenge." In our Trail Angel's case, the opposite was true. Our precious Trail Angel's many Facebook friends offered to send her cash, protection at rural cabins, the best dang windshield money could buy, or Go Fund Me provision. She declined, graciously.

She wanted no profit or revenge. In fact, she quietly chose to "make amends" with the person who violated her trust and van. Her Facebook post has been taken down. The hiker -- "they say" -- is NoBo once again.

Forgiveness is a breath of life to those who extend it. Even if those who are forgiven are arrested or fined or jailed or punished within the law. I thank God for our dear Trail Angel and how she handled such trouble on the Trail.

Trouble on the Trail takes different forms. Unwanted "pink blazing." Stolen packs. "Missing" money. Misplaced trust. We have the right and the obligation to defend ourselves, our friends and strangers on the Trail.

The Appalachian Trail is not the last frontier of America's lost wilderness. As of last week, it might be the last frontier of a godly response to an offensive, hostile act.

Tags: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Safety, Hikers, Hiking Safety, Information, appalachian trail hikers, appalachian trail angels, and trouble on the appalachian trail

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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jeffjapan055 on Apr 7, 2016
Where, when? Such behavior shoud get you kicked off trail, in my view. Released, wtf? Should be fined, restitution, sentenced to clean trails? U left us hanging, very unclear.
Stuart Johnston on Apr 12, 2016
As a former journalist, I must tell you this: The article is horrible! Why? Because it serves no purpose. You report an incident and in extremely vague terms. Where did this occur? How long has the man "whom I have never met" been free to hike the trail? Was it a lover's spat that turned violent? Should he be identified? Now, before you get upset with anyone, what do you think you have done to raise the paranoia factor when someone meets that lone hiker on the trail? I hike alone. With the information provided within the article, nothing good will result. I also held an editor position for three years. So, give it back to me when you rewrite the silly thing. You can do better.