As if the Appalachian Trail wasn’t romanticized enough, Hollywood does it again.
After the release of the movie adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling book, “Wild” (starring Reese Witherspoon) it is unsurprising that the popularity of the Appalachian Trail should spike. Strayed’s Oprah-approved heartfelt memoir recounts a time where she made a solo hike, over 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail after losing everything near and dear to her.
Despite the fact that the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is on the other coast (spanning 14 states from Georgia to Maine), there’s been a spike in the numbers of Appalachian Trail hikers. As the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, tt was already one of the most popular trails (something like 2-3 million people hike some portion of it every year). It is the belief that it will lead you to a road of self-discovery, the sense of achievement you’ll derive, and the epic adventure you’ll have forever that appeals. Understandably, a similar phenomenon occurred after the lease of Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.”
One of the issues with Hollywood glamorizing something as brutal as hiking solo is their ability to reach a very wide audience. Some of which are inexperienced hikers, easily influenced, and lacking in knowledge of the dangers of through-hiking in general.
A through-hike (a hike of the full-length variety) or even a shorter-hike is both fulfilling and rife with dangers. Certain parts of the season, after many rain and snow storms, tree limbs can become weak and die. Falling tree limbs can cause serious injury and death.
This past Sunday, a falling tree, tragically killed a hiker backpacking along the A.T. As a result of this, the National Park Service issued an emergency closure for about 20 miles north of Asheville so the hazardous trees could be removed.
Jason R. Parish, age 36, of Philadelphia, PA sustained a fatal head injury. He was a musician and avid hiker. His companions were with him and were able to notify the police immediately. A nearby National Park Service ranger performed CPR on Parish to no avail. A Maryland state medical examiner pronounced him dead at the scene. The scene being a trail 60 miles west of Baltimore.
Parish was a folk musician from Delaware who did have experience camping in various conditions. The way his friends described him, it was a part of his lifestyle. Even the more prepared hikers are vulnerable when it comes to the wild. It’s a fact of nature, and perhaps one of the reasons we admire those brave hikers, and find so much thrill and beauty in the very act of something so simple.