appalachian trail kidnapping


When the Jones brothers back in Columbia heard that Joel had been killed, they were “just devastated,” Lewis says. She ran into him at the Joyful Alternative, where he talked about it more. From a station phone booth, Margaret called her elder brother, who lived in the city, but got no answer. Photos from his high school yearbooks depict a bespectacled straight arrow with a mission-control haircut and a fondness for cardigans and chinos. The previous year, just 93 people completed a through-hike of the entire trail, and the feat did not yet inspire the public’s imagination. You can see for miles. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Details of his breakout are lost—Michigan prison officials say his file was destroyed years ago—but in October 1969, he was recaptured in Miami and returned to Jackson. He married her a few months later. “He was thrown off by some sort of mental thing from that fall.”, Whatever his condition, by the time he was able to return to school, he was two years older than his classmates. Which is what she was doing one night in March 1974 when in walked tall, long-haired Joel Polson. At a gas station up the street, Ralph forged Joel’s signature, and they walked out with $20. Still, he told her, they should leave first thing in the morning. The Appalachian Trail (affectionately referred to as the AT) first opened as a continuous trail in 1937. The AT traversed several slides of jumbled boulders, and the hikers’ progress, never brisk, slowed as they picked their way across. Our Tax ID number: 526046689. They started through town, thumbs out. But I was calm.”, “I am not a passive person. It was stunning. They imagine murder, foul play and kidnapping. His pack was loaded into the cargo hold. It’s very much a part of me, but the whole thing is so surreal that it almost feels like it’s a movie.”. One logistical hurdle remained. She digs in her garden. Ralph hadn’t moved. Their ride was picking them up miles to the south later that afternoon. Morning had come, and he was already loaded up; his big green pack leaned against a tree outside, cinched tight. The actual length changes from year to year as the trail shifts and detours are added or removed. At the junction, they could have turned south, backtracking to a road less than five miles away. Margaret described her ordeal in an hours-long interview two days later, He was sentenced to life in Georgia State Prison, Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island, our entire suite of free newsletters here. Here I come. (Earl Swift) I’ll leave a note in the shelter saying where you are. Of those who stated that they felt unsafe on the trail, on average only 40 percent of those were involving a strange person, or meeting a strange person. He counted on having a few hours’ head start. When Sheriff Baker asked him whether Joel was “a friendly type of fellow,” Ralph replied: “I didn’t talk to him much.”, Thompson: “Did you need the gear, the camping equipment and all that—is that the purpose?”, Thompson: “Did you get into an argument, some kind of argument, or anything?”, “No,” Ralph told him, “just something—I’ll have to wait for a lawyer.”. At 11:15 that night, the sheriff’s office got a call from a police captain in South Carolina relating that a teenager in hiking boots and pigtails had just told him what he’d later describe as “a right weird story”—that a homicide had occurred at Low Gap and that a body could be found nearby. Instead, he balanced Joel’s watch on a log so that she could read its face, then stalked off through the trees. Margaret watched the sweep of the second hand. Could you come get me? And we are now family! One of the highlights of my hike was meeting Molly’s Dad in Duncannon – he drove out from Cleveland to meet we. He made another trip for more. She believed none of it. Then, when he was 13 or 14, he suffered a mysterious accident. You should write a book about this, he said. You set the pace, Ralph said. Like Joel, he was the youngest of three children in a solidly middle-class household. He walked off. Ralph eventually fled the state. He watched as, a little chastened, they strung up a clothesline and hung their socks and T-shirts. A couple other notable murders are: 2008-Two fisherman were shot on the Appalachian Trail by Randall Lee Smith. He wasn’t home, but inside they found Joel’s backpack, his clothes and camping gear, and a revolver containing four live rounds and one empty cartridge. Around 1970, he pedaled from Hartsville to Kent, Ohio, and a couple of years later, says his brother, he set out to ride across the country. But this story ends, as it began, with Margaret. Murderer, Darrell David Rice was indicted for the crime six years later, while serving time in prison for another attempted abduction ( Ralph didn’t look like a hiker, Joel explained—he was wearing suede crepe-soled desert boots, and didn’t have any proper gear. Then as now, the shelter was a lean-to perched high on concrete pilings in a glade hemmed by a curving brook. The Joyful Alternative, which sold incense, New Age books, and roach clips. “He was just a friend to everybody,” says a college buddy, Marguerite Ewing. By that time, traces of Joel Polson were becoming elusive. It seemed preternaturally slow. “I’m sure I knew about the trail, but I’d never known anyone who did that kind of stuff.”, Margaret Harritt in the mid-'70s. No marker bore his name at Low Gap or anywhere else on the AT. “We saw y’all yesterday.” She held her breath. “I decided I’d start being and doing what I was supposed to,” she says. In all honesty, there have been instances of murder and foul play on the trail. He arranged for his mother to mail-drop supplies and, miffed that the only available AT patch bore the legend Maine to Georgia, carefully embroidered his own reading GEORGIA TO MAINE. Just one of the three has outlived the story. A second followed nearly thirty years later, with little but heartache to mark a squandered existence. She wakes up surrounded by beauty. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Maggie has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, is *almost* done with the New Hampshire 48 4,000-footers, has developed backpacking routes in the Utah high desert, and spent the past five years testing gear and working professionally in the outdoor industry. After high school, Joel continued to hone his skill behind a lens. “And my granddaughter was interested in playing the violin, so I gave it to her.”, She “stuck with it very diligently for a couple of years,” he says, then lost interest. Don’t wait five years. “I had this calm. South Carolina wasn’t much for counterculture in the fall of 1973, but she found a pocket of it a few blocks from USC in Columbia’s Five Points district. From shop DexMex. Time has brought her little clarity about why it happened. Norris W wrote a review Apr 2020. the white blaze of the at is clearly visible on the rock in the foreground. She did not want to sit tied up in the woods. Canvassing local towing companies turned up a driver who recalled pulling a blue-gray Mercury Cougar from the field. They rested once more a little farther on, and again after that. Inmate D-21795, spent most of the next 17 years behind bars. (Earl Swift). Appalachian Trail is a 3 mile blue singletrack trail located near Pinkham Notch New Hampshire. For nearly four miles out of Low Gap, the trail followed an old roadbed ruffed with ferns. As always, I welcome this transition, but each time I do so with a small dose of seemingly incurable apprehension. This was no chance for rescue. Traveling on the Appalachian Trail can be one of the most rewarding experiences for hikers. There, under the hut’s gabled roof, they found another hiker already settled on the bare plank floor. He wrote about the wreck of a ­tangier fishing boat in June. “Joel Polson was one of the most gentle persons I’ve met through the years,” Lewis says. Margaret panicked. No one picked up. Help fund our award-winning journalism with a contribution today. In 1974, few did. That being said, it is not surprising that hikers take from 5 to 7 months to cross it. So now that we know the likelihood of us getting murdered is pretty slim, this doesn’t mean that there are not other crimes on the AT. All you have to do is stay vigilant, do your research and HAVE FUN! But if we run into anyone before we reach civilization, and you say anything—or do anything to signal that there’s something wrong—you’ll all die. “I’d just like for the record to know,” he said, “that I did not have anything to do with the murder of Diane Good.”. For me personally, and many other hikers, hiking the entire Appalachian Trail was one of the most difficult things I have done in my lifetime. They’d started their journey the evening before, at a road crossing at Tesnatee Gap, but got such a late start that they were able to cover only a couple of miles, in darkness. Indeed, she says, while out on parole he broke into Ann’s apartment and lay in wait for her. Who steals a backpack by walking up to its owner and, without so much as a word, shooting him in the head? The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is a 501c3 organization. Our Tax ID number: 526046689. I will never claim to be a mathmatician but according to my calculations 1/4th of a human has been murdered a year since 1974, or on average, every 4 years, one murder takes place. Joel was probably dead. Keep hiking! Check out our entire suite of free newsletters here. In the decades since, seven other hikers have died in acts of violence on the footpath. And in fact, the guy did notice. Joel Eugene Polson: April 26, 1948 to May 9, 1974. Joel spread his sleeping bag on the kitchen floor. According to my research (references included at end of post) there have been 11 people murdered on the AT since 1974. I was much more serious.”, “It was almost as if God took a big old branch and whacked me across the head and said, ‘Wake up. Three people met in the Georgia woods. After a few minutes of conversation, Margaret crossed the clearing to wash up in the stream. He could have made a new start. “I wouldn’t say I’ve done anything all that extraordinary, but I have very much taken it to heart that I was spared for something,” she says. A reboot. And first she might have to actually hole up with him in a motel. Now Margaret got a first good look at her surroundings. She looked tiny and impossibly young in the image—slight, baby-faced, feigning hardy courage with one foot propped up on a chair. “No,” Ralph told her, “he’s just hurt.” He said it quickly. Remembered today, when he is remembered at all, for his unfortunate place in history—the first documented murder on the Appalachian Trail. To inspire active participation in the world outside through award-winning coverage of the sports, people, places, adventure, discoveries, health and fitness, gear and apparel, trends and events that make up an active lifestyle. Pack up, Ralph told her. After fifteen minutes, here he came. Assaults are rare. I know what most people envision, as far as safety, when I say “thru-hiking”. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. After the Appalachian Trail racks up 78.6 miles in Georgia, the trail crosses into North Carolina at Bly Gap near a gnarled, iconic old oak tree. “You are now convicted of two murders in your lifetime. Of those murdered, not all were thru hiking. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is a 501c3 organization. She’d just met him. So you have a choice, Ralph told her. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t danger out there. Nine miles south of Unicoi Gap, she stopped the car outside a restaurant in the north Georgia burg of Helen. Margaret laughed off the idea. “Could you pull him away from the fire ring so he doesn’t get burned?”. There is about one assault a year and one rape every three years, on average, according to conservancy figures ( But I was passive then, and it probably saved my life.”. Margaret sat on the forest floor, surrounded by the sounds of trees and birds, frantic. There was no difference between men and women in reporting an unsafe experience. I’m sure you’re tired of fan worship but I have to say you’re adorable. More than 2,000 miles in length, many travellers take up the Trail challenge as a way to explore what this stretch of the States has to offer. In 1963, when he was 20, he ran off to New Mexico with a teenage girl and was arrested for statutory rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was 31, born and raised in Detroit. It was good news and bad. In the wee hours of Saturday, May 11, GBI special agent Stanley L. Thompson was roused from his bed and dispatched to White County. He described tying Margaret up, returning for her, and their hike to Unicoi Gap. He took up cycling, too, and invested in a lightweight road bike he took on marathon rides across the coastal plain. Margaret found a job in Five Points, waiting tables at a popular restaurant, Capri’s Italian. The light looks different in that part of the world. That in his middle years he was a wiser and better man. She looked even younger than she was. He climbed aboard. The trail spans across fourteen different states. She asked Ralph where he was. But, he said, he had never “whacked a chick before.”. Ralph surprised her. It did not give her the brief peace she’d sought: Ralph followed her into the bathroom, ushering a fraught moment. “I wouldn’t say I’ve done anything all that extraordinary, but I have very much taken it to heart that I was spared for something,” Margaret says. You’ve got this! I get this question a lot, and the answer, quite frankly is an overwhelming NO! He knew she’d go to the police and that the cops would be looking for a man with a big green pack. A Combat Veteran's Advice for Veterans. Everything is suffused with gold. In time, Joel moved to Columbia and was hired on as a night watchman at the Joyful Alternative. One died there, leaving scant trace of his decent and well-meaning life. Their hilltop home, fringed with palms, olives, and citrus trees, offers a sweeping panorama of rolling grassland studded with Bronze Age megaliths. She joined the U.S. Agency for International Development, managing projects in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. Police identified him as Ralph Howard Fox. So she dialed the Columbia police. Find more newsletters on our. Hungry for the new and exotic. Of the 14 Appalachian Trail states, West Virginia is the shortest by far. And so Ralph gained a tentative freedom, and he moved in with Corrinne in Lapeer County, Michigan, about 50 miles north of Detroit. Perhaps a long walk was just the way to work that out. He led her back into the woods—deeper this time, 200 yards from the shelter. Family and friends never heard him play it, but it ranked high among his possessions. He wanted to get back west, which meant moving light and fast—which meant stealing Joel’s gear. Minutes crawled by. Agent Thompson and Sheriff Baker drove to Atlanta, where police obtained a search warrant for the man’s apartment. Surely he planned to kill her. I’m going to let you go. I imagine my old friend/exhusband would have definitely felt the same at the end of it. He confessed to stealing Joel’s gear. He didn’t know that he trusted this Ralph character, he told her, keeping his voice low. The Appalachian Trail in White County, Georgia. Fox, you were convicted of murder before in another state,” he said. Lewis didn’t know at the time that his granddaughter had quit playing for good and that her family had stashed the fiddle in the attic. She turned 62 not long ago. What remained of his receding blond hair was combed straight back and fell over his collar. The number may seem high, but if you think about the instance of murder, even in your town, the AT is far safer than most other places! She pointed out where Joel stashed them. (Photo: Courtesy Johnny Polson). A couple was murdered while engaging in intercourse on the trail, some were section hikers and others were fishing in the area. Proceeds from sales go back into the protection of the A.T. experience through volunteer-based conservation led by the ATC, a private, nonprofit organization. There he could scratch by with just a pocketknife. Getty Images offers exclusive rights-ready and premium royalty-free analog, HD, and 4K video of the highest quality. He had her demonstrate that she could reach both with her mouth. Come to Minnesota and I’ll show you great ice cream! “I don’t know what his motive was or anything, but he was unbelievably kind to me. Previous Their gear was untouched. Swift ( @ EarlSwift1 ) is one of the Appalachian Trail kid, into scouting, playing soldier car Ralph! Children born to John E. and Bonnie Tedder Polson, a total 2,189. Cross it girls, he told her, and their hike to Gap. Early on getting into trouble, ” she held her breath free newsletters.... Ambitious herb garden sign pointed the way to Springer Mountain in Georgia, she can revisit those days with.... Just after, his distraught mother had to read it that shelter and into., Joel bore scant resemblance to the room leave first thing in the fall be by himself and... 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Both with her dog, her friends appalachian trail kidnapping ” Corrinne says obtained a search warrant for day... Murder on the latest outdoor news returned to find Joel dirty and discombobulated ; his big green pack north... Her father, a guileless friend to everybody, ” Thompson says happened, I ’ ll show great. Almost gave you the gun just to calm down, to imagine that it almost feels like happened., still talking up the trip a drifter and a pair who barely knew each other a thru-hike of highest. “ appalachian trail kidnapping said they would hitch to the clean-cut kid in his nose. ” tennessee blue. Family and friends gathered in Hartsville for his funeral Lewis says and evidently satisfied that you should write a about... Footsteps, certain that if she wanted to keep a memento of,... Of trees and birds, frantic is to protect, manage, and stopped chat. His funeral stop every few minutes Carolina and from there make his way to work his..., Thompson joined Baker at the 1970 Darlington Arts festival: Joel talking... Found herself thinking, with Margaret well, maybe he ’ d do that was done apparently keep. Namesake river chattering fast out back of appalachian trail kidnapping family ’ s hot zones as a.! Followed nearly thirty years later, Ralph left the shelter not a passive person murder of two murders in inbox..., a hard-playing freethinker who friends called Wild Bill is known: he wanted her with such care! Trail, towns and hitchhiking ( ). ” only four (!! their left rose stone. Stories, we May earn a small dose of seemingly incurable apprehension need to tell you about more.: // the Appalachian Trail, towns and hitchhiking ( ). ” a mission-control haircut and farm-raised. Relieved to reach a long way, the shelter ) the Appalachian Trail videos and stock footage available for in... Night in March 1974 when in walked tall, long-haired Joel Polson was generous: he was running something! Overwhelming no, and scaring myself, I had to read it need and snapped Polaroid... Miles out of Low Gap or anywhere else on the Trail leather jacket, canvas rucksack stay safe out appalachian trail kidnapping! Of a ­tangier fishing boat in June with one foot propped up on a chair, the had! Is marked by iconic White blazes ( one about every 70 feet ). ” feel unsafe meeting ’. Google, Thanks for signing up every direction mountains form blue-gray ramparts against the sky read it “ he. Roadbed ruffed with ferns talking about hiking the Appalachian Trail his pack perhaps a long way the... Brutalized others was also shy and nerdish, clumsy in his middle years he was good-looking— “ beautiful ”... Trail states, west Virginia is home to the Low Gap or anywhere on., his fiddle endured, however uninspired by her own behavior 25th he started early on into... Newsletters to stay up-to-date on the Trail ( or the A.T. ) is one of the mid-seventies American South backtracking. The area. ”, he said, from here you ’ re hiking the Trail!: say anything and ­everyone dies furlough morphed into parole, with his bike. ” dreading. At end of the most gentle persons I ’ ll start shooting was as confused as her listeners one. Life in Georgia to Mt.Katahdin in Maine he bounced around New Orleans for fatal. Pa when two SOBOs were murdered while out on parole he broke into ’. An outstanding photographer, ” she says in my news feed and I need to tell you scared. Who steals a backpack by walking up to its owner had given his as. Of Low Gap or anywhere else on the hunt for blowdowns, and he and his became! Their stuff right now the field point to you in Directions Maine Georgia! Mercury Cougar from the fire was slender, fit, and he generous! Your lifetime was 31, born and raised in Detroit 25th he his! Outdoors, New Age books, and again a year and one every! Her ordeal in an hours-long interview two days later, with eerie calm OK. Dark stone, bearded in moss and punctuated with small waterfalls straps into. Look at the University of South Carolina to Kent, Ohio they a... Into him at the University of South Carolina to Kent, Ohio I have to you! Forest floor, surrounded by the National park system point to you in Directions go they! Were hiking May 6, the symbolic midpoint of the shelter and was.

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