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Eight nights later, a southbound couple I’d befriended early in my hike followed me into Thelma Marks. What he did to them left wounds that didn’t close as neatly as that fading rectangle in the forest floor.
It prompted outdoorsmen and trail officials to rethink conventional wisdom long held dear: that safety lies in numbers, that the wilds offer escape from senseless violence, and that when trouble does visit, it’s always near some nexus with civilization—a road, a park, the fringe of a town.
My pack weighed nearly half as much as I did, and every pound hurt. Greg, trail name Animal, was easygoing and smart, and together we pushed into the windswept mountains of western Maine.
Along the way, the hikers ahead of us came into focus, none more so than Nalgene and her partner, who called himself Clevis. They thanked the volunteers who maintained the trail. By the time I left Monson, I’d gained three days on them, and I was no speedster. As Molly predicted in one log entry: “If you’re behind us you will pass us.”Their glacial pace was no accident.
Those travelers have rested here for more than half a century.And so, on June 4, 1990, having climbed the day before to the AT’s northern terminus on the peak of mile-high Mount Katahdin, they set off on their long walk—and found it surprisingly arduous.“We reminded one another before we started this ordeal that there would be tough days: Days we would ask ourselves, ‘Why are we doing this?And it reverberates still, all these years later, because what befell Geoff Hood and Molly La Rue at the Thelma Marks shelter is a cautionary tale without lesson. And near as anyone can tell, they did everything right.It's no surprise, what with the millions who use the path each year, that the AT had seen violence before the early morning of September 13, 1990. Still, none drew the attention, or generated the angst, of the incident here.