Appalachian Trail Histories

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The Appalachian Trail occasionally suffers from incidents of crime both on the trail and in the surrounding areas. The majority of crimes are considered petty and within the misdemeanor classification. Marijuana use, alcohol consumption, and firearms possession all fit into this category and often go unreported. Because the trail lies secluded from nearby townships and police forces, it is often impossible for authorities to respond to the lesser incidents. If police are notified of such an incident, often times the perpetrator has long since moved on to another section of the trail by the time law enforcement has a chance to respond.

Other types of crime, however, are more serious and have lasting effects on the trail. Most notably, vandalism has been on the rise since the late 1970s. The most common form of vandalism on the trail is graffiti, which litters certain areas of the trail in abundance. Graffiti has often been considered acceptable by hikers as long as it remained within moderation, but recent snowballing effects have produced an increase of spray painting and wood carving near scenic locations. Local trail clubs and hikers are becoming increasingly upset at the ongoing defacement of natural locations, prompting restoration and cleaning efforts along the most popular sections of the trail.

Though not historically a commonly-reported crime, incidents of arson along the Appalachian Trail have spiked recently. From the southern range of the trail in northern Georgia to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, individuals are deliberately setting fire to the national forests. Arson suspects are very difficult to identify but several arrests have been made in the 2016 cases.

Other types of crime are more unorthodox and include individuals on the run from the law as well as those with strange concepts of personal conduct. Public acts of lewdness (nudity) as well as the occasional fugitive can sometimes be encountered, and though while these incidents are generally non-violent in nature, they can post a threat to the well-being of children and adults alike.

The most famous crimes along the Appalachian Trail are murder, and there have been several high-profile cases throughout the years including the 1996 double murders of Julianne Williams and Lolli Winans and the 1988 double murders of Robert Mountford Jr. and Laura Ramsay. Because of the trail's seclusion in certain remote areas, several murder cases are still unsolved.

Please browse through this exhibit to learn more about these interesting criminal acts, and always hike with a buddy.

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For the most part, hiking on the Appalachian Trail is a safe activity.  In fact, for the 2016 Hiking year there is only one recorded case of an actual bear attack.  According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, approximately three million people visited the trail this year (2016). Taking the numbers in hand, the chances of a bear attack are roughly one in three million. 

However, along with bears there are several other dangers that come into play.  Some of which many overlook when planning to visit the Appalachian Trail. Many dangers, very easy to avoid but also just as easy to overlook and become a serrious problem. Before embarking on a hike, whether it be for a day, a week, or the full through-hike.  One should learn about what potential dangers there are and keep an open eye to their surroundings.