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  1. #1
    Registered User Skye15's Avatar
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    Default Advice on Staying Anonymous on the Trail

    Hello, I didn't see a post like this so I figured I'd pose my question. I may have a bit of a stalker issue when I leave for the trail.

    There is someone from my past that knows I am doing the trail, I can't be certain he knows my exact leave date - but I assume he might. He has the potential to be a threat towards me. He has done a good majority of the AT and knows the trail pretty well. I know a lot of people will be on the trail at once, safety in numbers, but I am still nervous that he could follow/find me via the trail journals, my blog, social media, word of mouth (and find me alone or get me alone). I've started thinking about things I could do to be safe. But I am curious, how possible is it really for someone to find a thru-hiker? To know where they'll be at? And besides the obvious, posting different locations and dates on my blog and mixing up my leave date, anyone have advice on things I can do? And the big question - should I still even attempt the AT? I really do not want to have to give up doing the trail because of this guy. I am hoping I can still do it, but just be smart about it.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    You might consider an alternate itinerary, starting at Harpers Ferry and going SOBO, or NOBO from Damascus, or any of several other options.
    If you want to have a blog, perhaps you could send info to a trusted friend who could post it under an alias with bogus stuff for age, hometown, occupation, etc.
    As to your "big question" whether it's unsafe for you to attempt the AT, I assume this guy knows where you are now, right? If so, and he's not currently threatening you, is he really so motivated to stalk you that he would spend the time, effort, and money to walk/drive/fly up and down the AT corridor, backtracking as needed, asking everybody he meets, in hopes of finding you?
    If he is currently threatening you, you need to discuss with law enforcement or someone with similar knowledge and skill.

  3. #3
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Just how dangerous is he? Has he made any threats? Current restraining order? History of violence? Weapons? Potential to physically harm you and/or others? If any of these, you need to talk to law enforcement. Realistically if he has, or can get, any idea of your start date, all he has to do is sit somewhere north of where you start, or are at any given point in time (that's where social media by you or even other hikers or even a single pic sucks), and wait for you to come to him. And you say he knows the trail very well, which means he will likely be able to figure out where you are even if you don't post anything but someone you run across or hike with gives up info either in a blog or if he asks them at a trailhead. You probably should completely avoid all social media, blogs, and any public mention of your itinerary, and warn others not to post any info regarding your presence. Even posting here on WB is giving away some information. I think you should definitely not hike or camp alone. And preferably try to always stay around as many "sheepdog" type people as you can, be they men or women.

    Good luck. Stay safe. I can't imagine trying to enjoy hiking while looking over my shoulder.
    I was self employed once, but it proved too stressful. My boss was a jerk and my employee was a slacker - I didn't know whether to quit or fire myself.

  4. #4
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    I second Illabelle's suggestions. You should consider discontinuing the social media updates and possibly doing something like email updates to trusted friends and family if you want to keep them informed with your progress. There is a nice contingent of "mature" hikers starting a flip-flop from Harper's Ferry in late April and early May so you might want to consider an alternate and less-publicized agenda.
    Remote for detachment, narrow for chosen company, winding for leisure, lonely for contemplation, the Trail beckons not merely north and south, but upward to the body, mind, and soul of man.


  5. #5
    Registered User Gray Bear's Avatar
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    I say go for the preemptive strike. Break both his legs before you leave and enjoy your trip Too much?
    The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn't even know to ask.

  6. #6
    Registered User Walkintom's Avatar
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    +1 to Illabelle's suggestions.

    I think that you should take all appropriate cautions in regards to your situation. Hope for the best and plan for the worst.

    At the very least, file a police report and get the information on record that you have a reason to fear this person. Something that can be referenced if you do have contact with this individual and need to get law enforcement involved. If you have an encounter and that record exists and gets pulled it puts things in a whole different light for law enforcement.

    I have often found that my blog postings were about a week behind actual events and I would get offers of help from friends/family relating events that were long solved, but they were casual followers, not people who were actually trying to locate me from those posts. It would have been EASY to extrapolate where I was, or more importantly, where I was not yet, by reading my blog and social posts.

    Road crossings are an excellent place to find someone who is hiking the AT. I am confident that I could easily track someone down if they took no particular care regarding their AT blogging/social posts. Even with no such indicators I could even do so without appearing to be stalkerish by acting as a trail angel and not asking after any particular person, just asking about who's on the trail that might come by my particular location. Depending on how resourceful and patient of a predator your worrisome individual is, you could be found.

    The thing about hunting someone is that they have to get away from you every time. You only have to catch them once.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skye15 View Post
    And the big question - should I still even attempt the AT? I really do not want to have to give up doing the trail because of this guy. I am hoping I can still do it, but just be smart about it.
    First of all, I hate hearing that this is happening to you ... and happens to so many women in America. I hope you can solve the problem by removing the threat.

    Having said that, if you don't attempt the AT, does that mean the problem goes away? I'm just trying to compare apples to apples, in other words.

    As far as finding someone on the AT, I'll relay a story I know of personally. I was to drive to Maine to pick up my daughter when she finished her AT hike in '04. Before the days of every single person having a cell phone and cell towers being every where. She did not carry a cell phone. The details of our plans were not worked out and she was in the 100-Mile Wilderness when I left Nashville. I posted my ETA here on WB and hit the road. Within 24 hours someone had read my post AND happened to meet her in the middle of the 100-Mile Wilderness, and realized who she was, and told her exactly when I'd be meeting her and where. That was shocking, ... though a pleasant shock in that case, I admit.

    In other words, it goes both ways. The trail is a small, tight-knit community, and will help look out for you if it knows to do so.

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skye15 View Post
    Hello, I didn't see a post like this so I figured I'd pose my question. I may have a bit of a stalker issue when I leave for the trail.

    There is someone from my past that knows I am doing the trail, I can't be certain he knows my exact leave date - but I assume he might. He has the potential to be a threat towards me. He has done a good majority of the AT and knows the trail pretty well. I know a lot of people will be on the trail at once, safety in numbers, but I am still nervous that he could follow/find me via the trail journals, my blog, social media, word of mouth (and find me alone or get me alone). I've started thinking about things I could do to be safe. But I am curious, how possible is it really for someone to find a thru-hiker? To know where they'll be at? And besides the obvious, posting different locations and dates on my blog and mixing up my leave date, anyone have advice on things I can do? And the big question - should I still even attempt the AT? I really do not want to have to give up doing the trail because of this guy. I am hoping I can still do it, but just be smart about it.

    Thanks!
    pretty simple. leave your Ithingy/smarty phone whatever at home. do not sign registers. write a real journal. even then it's real easy to find someone

  9. #9
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Hikers tend not to hesitate sharing information about another's whereabouts.

    There is no reason you need to be known on the trail as brain surgeon from Atlanta, when you could just as easily I troduce yourself to everyone as student from Michigan State-- or whatever. For some of us white lies don't come easy, but what's the harm?c

    If you have a picture of him, you might to carry it or just have it where it could be easily accessed on your phone-- for all sorts of reasons.

  10. #10

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    Everyday I am convinced that our society has gone to....
    Why on earth would someone want to either stalk or frighten another person is beyond me.

    I have no real advice, just be careful out there and don't let this clown bring you or your hike down.

    I do like the idea of having a picture of him that you can show your bubble/family.

  11. #11
    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    I think the best advice given is to avoid public social media. Keep it to email only among close friends and family. The idea of an alternate itinerary is also a very good one. HF-ME and then HF - GA is a well known one and is relatively easy logistically.
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  12. #12
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    The advice to forgo social media during your trip is obvious, LW is right, keep a real journal, save your online postings until after the trip is complete. However, you also need to be aware of all the other hikers that will be posting their blogs and photos. Stay out of group photos, do not let anyone associate your real name with a trail name, do not go by Skye. It is amazing how easy it is to track a hiker, even if they are not the ones posting the informations.

    Also, reconsider doing a traditional NOBO. If he knows you are doing a NOBO it is easy enough to hike SOBO through the heard until he finds you. If he has a picture to show other chatty hikers it would be easy for him to determine how many days ahead or behind you might be from a location. SOBO or an alternative might be safer, but do note let your plans be known outside of your trusted family members.

    I would seriously consider telling everyone that I was going to hike the AT, and then go hike the PCT, the CT, or the Camino de Santiago. This should be fun, the trip of a lifetime, who needs that kind of stress?

    And sorry to say, you need to beware that he might be reading this thread.

    I wish you safe travels and peace.

  13. #13
    CDT - 2013, PCT - 2009, AT - 1300 miles done burger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
    Hikers tend not to hesitate sharing information about another's whereabouts.
    This is what I was thinking, and I think this is the OP's biggest problem even if they disguise their identity otherwise. If someone who didn't seem obviously crazy came up to me on the trail and said they were looking for such-and-such person (with a physical description but not trail name), in the past at least, I would've probably told them, assuming that the person was a relative or friend. You see those sorts of people all the time waiting for people at trail crossings. Nowadays, I would be more careful, but I suspect a lot of other hikers would assume the best and be more free with information about another hiker's whereabouts.

    Here's a cautionary tale that ended without violence but ended a thru-hiker's hike early: http://trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=208485

  14. #14
    Registered User Old Hiker's Avatar
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    I'd go the opposite with social media: ooooops, job problems, severe illness, whatever. Have to postpone my thru until 20xx.

    Update your media every now and then with false stories, have TRUSTED friends post "Oh, so sorry" stories, glad I could see you for a few minutes, etc.

    Dye/cut your hair. Then all of the above advice, maybe.

    Not asking - NEVER ask a lady her age, but for some of the "younger" folk, giving up social media is pretty hard.

    If it's 2016, you have ONE (1) elderly ex-military SAC trained killer (inside joke) / 6th grade teacher (even worse) guy who will be more than happy to help on the Trail. I'll bet there will be more than a few.

    Good luck.
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  15. #15
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    Do the PCT
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  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skye15 View Post
    Hello, I didn't see a post like this so I figured I'd pose my question. I may have a bit of a stalker issue when I leave for the trail.

    There is someone from my past that knows I am doing the trail, I can't be certain he knows my exact leave date - but I assume he might. He has the potential to be a threat towards me. He has done a good majority of the AT and knows the trail pretty well. I know a lot of people will be on the trail at once, safety in numbers, but I am still nervous that he could follow/find me via the trail journals, my blog, social media, word of mouth (and find me alone or get me alone). I've started thinking about things I could do to be safe. But I am curious, how possible is it really for someone to find a thru-hiker? To know where they'll be at? And besides the obvious, posting different locations and dates on my blog and mixing up my leave date, anyone have advice on things I can do? And the big question - should I still even attempt the AT? I really do not want to have to give up doing the trail because of this guy. I am hoping I can still do it, but just be smart about it.

    Thanks!
    This would make a good movie. First thing I would do is let the local police and the courts know of the threats. and then set the sucker up. Have him walk into a trap. When they hall him off to the pokee he may get six months and then you are free to hike.
    If you wanna put your whole life out there for the world to see that's up too you. I would not even put a gear list out there.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skye15 View Post
    Hello, I didn't see a post like this so I figured I'd pose my question. I may have a bit of a stalker issue when I leave for the trail.

    There is someone from my past that knows I am doing the trail, I can't be certain he knows my exact leave date - but I assume he might. He has the potential to be a threat towards me. He has done a good majority of the AT and knows the trail pretty well. I know a lot of people will be on the trail at once, safety in numbers, but I am still nervous that he could follow/find me via the trail journals, my blog, social media, word of mouth (and find me alone or get me alone). I've started thinking about things I could do to be safe. But I am curious, how possible is it really for someone to find a thru-hiker? To know where they'll be at? And besides the obvious, posting different locations and dates on my blog and mixing up my leave date, anyone have advice on things I can do? And the big question - should I still even attempt the AT? I really do not want to have to give up doing the trail because of this guy. I am hoping I can still do it, but just be smart about it.

    Thanks!
    Maybe not keep a blog or online journal at all; go only by a new trail name. Hike with others as much as possible. I would think he could find you more easily off trail than on trail if you do these things.
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  18. #18

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    It's a little uncanny how well people know who is ahead/behind them, even many days walking.
    We dropped a digital camera in the Roan Highlands and figured it was gone, but one the same day before we had even eaten dinner the finder showed up at Uncle Johnny's hostel in a car with our camera. He knew us by our description, direction of travel, etc. In our case this was great, but it could also work in a negative way if someone is stalking you for example. Sounds like time for the PCT/CDT/Nepal trek/El Camino use your imagination, there's a lot more to do than just the AT.

  19. #19
    Registered User evyck da fleet's Avatar
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    if you are really worried, stay off social media, keep a written journal, bring your phone and call/email your friends with updates when you stop to resupply in town. It shouldn't be too difficult to find others to hike with.

    That being said you may hike with someone who describes you in their journal which could give away your location. It's not to difficult to find a hiker on the trail with some basic info. There's only one path, you're headed in the same direction the whole way and if you can be pinned down to a location on a certain date it's not too difficult to extrapolate about where you'll reach another point.

  20. #20
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QiWiz View Post
    Maybe not keep a blog or online journal at all; go only by a new trail name. Hike with others as much as possible. I would think he could find you more easily off trail than on trail if you do these things.
    Yeah, this is a great summary, IMHO. Very sorry you have to worry about this, and I hope this worry

    Quote Originally Posted by swisscross View Post
    Everyday I am convinced that our society has gone to....
    This belief is surely a result of our wonderful, informative, Sensationalistic Media. In fact, crime in the USA has drastically dropped steadily since about 1990. Check it out. Rape down from 42 per 100,000 population to 25. Assault down from 441 to 229. Overall crime down from almost 6000 to just over 3000. Yet the perception of crime increasing is with about 2/3rd of us in the USA. Here are the crime stats:

    http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

    The bottom half of the page shows the rate/100,000 population. Individual states are shown too. There are other sources for the same data.

    Sure, still too much crime out there, but really, it is at least improving, despite the common perceptions.

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