Port Clinton, PA-Greenville Lake, NY: Not a terribly happy update 

Total miles: 1370

Average daily miles: 20

Ok, so I’ve been waffling back and forth about whether or not to write about recent events and my disintegrating outlook on AT thru-hikers. I want to keep the attitude upbeat and positive, but I have been steadily becoming more discouraged, and Hare, Silent Bob, and myself just left the trail a day early for meeting Rocky’s parents. I couldn’t handle being out there anymore, and I have never been so close to just quitting.

Somehow we wound up in a cluster of hikers who gave me a bad feeling. One hiker (fresh out of high school) gives an unappreciated running commentary about my relationship with Hare, informing me about how unfair I am to Hare. There’s a constant slew of corrections and snide comments when I engage in conversation, so I’ve found myself speaking up less. Silent Bob hiked long days to catch Hare and I, winding up at a shelter with a few sort-of familiar hikers who picked on his dinner choice, his lightweight gear, and his quiet demeanor until he packed up and hiked four extra miles.

I’ve lost my cool at a few people, including a hiker who yelled at a server because the cafe didn’t offer eggs to his specific liking. I also tried to bite my tongue, instead of snapping at a hiker who picked on me similarly, including about where I hung my bear bag, why I kept the insulator on my mug, and where Hare and I chose to stake our rain fly. I was mostly successful… Hare gets embarrassed when I flip so I (mostly) try to consider his feelings.

So that’s been tough, plus the sense of isolation has started to burrow deeper. I was surprised to be the only girl around for hundreds of miles, then it started to really get to me. I’ve never been so surrounded by people but felt so lonely, like there’s a club I’m not part of.

Then there’s the people who challenge my faith in humanity. Many people in towns react negatively to hikers, which baffles me for a while until I started seeing hikers leaving hotel rooms wrecked, not tipping servers, and bragging about not donating at honor-system church hostels.

There are hikers who ignore any and all LNT guidelines, building fires at shelters in high-risk fire zones, in front of signs saying No Campfires Please. Hikers burn foil-lined wrappers, leaving the remains in the fire pit. Graffiti all over new shelters and new privies, all of it just makes me so sad.

I’ve  heard of “the 3%,” referring to the small percentage of hikers who give other hikers a bad name, but wow. It’s looking like more than 3% to me.

But really the absolute worst episode I’ve witnessed happened last week, when we caught up to a hiker, “Blueberry,” who was talking about trying to kill a rabbit with a rock, and looking for a “big stick to kill chipmunks with.” It gave me a bad feeling, but I told myself he must be joking. It was beyond my comprehension that someone would be serious about that. We ended up at his same shelter, and I watched him pluck a caterpillar off his shirt and drop it in the fire to burn. I got uncomfortable with the conversation, which had turned back to killing the animals that I love to see on the trail, so I went to my tent to read.

The next day, Silent Bob and Hare recounted with some horror the events that continued, which I’m not going to discuss on this website.

I started sobbing and tried to scrub my brain all day, listening to music and concentrating on things like Silent Bob asking Hare to be careful, because he might accidentally hurt an inchworm crawling up the tree near us. People are good, people are good.

We hopped off the trail in the middle of our 24-mile day to grab ice cream at a nearby dairy. Blueberry was there, laughing and showing other hikers something in a garbage bag, and I spun away, trying not to throw up when I realized he had killed a groundhog that had been nibbling grass by the side of the trail. He boasted about killing it with his hiking pole, and though the other guys seemed taken aback, no one said anything opposing it. I ducked my head because I felt like I was about to cry, Blueberry saw me and laughed, saying “I don’t think Tortoise approves.” “No. Not at all,” was all I managed to respond. I stared at the table until he left, then another hiker hesitantly said, “That sort of… sort of seemed intentional,” like he couldn’t quite believe it. I nodded and gulped, but oh my gosh I love animals so much. This is beyond disturbing and horrifyingly sad to me, I’m having a really hard time dealing with it.

We hiked the last few miles towards the shelter until I burst into tears and told Hare and Silent Bob that there was no way I could stay there, not with Blueberry talking about adding the groundhog to his Knorr sides. We headed for a nearby road and got into a town a day early, hoping to lose this group for good.

Hare’s parents are here visiting. They picked us up in Greenville Lake, NY. Their visit couldn’t have come at a better time. I got a fun new pair of pink zebra-print hiking shorts, and I downloaded three David Sedaris books on my Kindle–he makes me laugh like none other. We will get back on the trail the day after tomorrow, but at this point, I really don’t want to.

Please be aware that Appalachian Trials, myself, and the morally sound hikers do not condone this behavior, and I’m not sure what there is to be done. I hope this behavior isn’t widespread? I don’t know what’s going on at other points on the trail, but I hope it’s not like the section I’m on.

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Comments 45

  • Reboot2016 : Jun 13th

    Blueberry’s trail name should be Dahmer! What a tool!

  • Lichen : Jun 13th

    I am so angry and so very sad. You warned me and I had to read it anyway, and now I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m so sorry that your hike is being tainted by this awfulness. I would stop calling Blueberry Blueberry and start calling him Ted Bundy. I’m surprised that nobody at least told him that he wasn’t being cool. I sincerely hope that a nice group of women catches up to you. You’re an inspiration for making it so far, and so quickly too. Maybe you are not really a Tortoise? Anyway, I’m not one to comment on blogs normally, but I wanted to let you know that my thoughts are with you.

    • OrionSky : Jun 29th

      Not trying to stir up trouble, but am I missing the gender connection? This guy sounds like a weirdo and not sure what that has to do with his sex…

      • Lichen : Jun 29th

        Yes, you are missing the gender connection. Tortoise writes:I was surprised to be the only girl around for hundreds of miles, then it started to really get to me.
        That’s the only reason that I mentioned women hikers. I’m sure that after this experience that pleasant people of either gender would be fine, but she was missing other women.

  • Irena : Jun 13th

    The way a person treats animals truly shows their character. You have a truly good character. Please don’t let those with bad character affect your journey. Hikers learn from each other, if all the good hikers leave, it only leaves the bad to teach others. I’m not a thru hiker, so forgive my ignorance, but is there no way to report him or a trail authority. If he was a newbie, who didn’t realize this was wrong and stopped when corrected, that would understandably, but what he is doing appears intentional and malicious.

  • Marietta Jones : Jun 13th

    I’m so so sad to hear this. I also had a rattlesnake dude, but not that terribly =( Arrrgh. I’m also really sad to hear you’re the only girl in your area of the bubble. I’m temporarily off trail, but the bubble I was in had girls everywhere! I remember times there were more girls in the shelter than dudes. Unfortunately they’re much further south =/ Ugh. I hope you figure things out and stay on the trail! You’re so badass and doing this AT thing super awesomely. I also hope some girls magically appear for you! And don’t be afraid to change your hike. You could always flip! Good luck!

  • Anne : Jun 13th

    I’m glad that you are telling everyone about the good and the bad. Unfortunately, just like all over the world, there are good and bad people with the bad ruining great things for the others. Don’t give up because then the bad one wins. Hope you get to meet some other female hikers.

  • Hiker BigTex : Jun 14th

    Seeing all and any wildlife on and around the trail was a real highlight. I even blue blazed the zoo because I didnt want to see the animals in cages having experienced them in their natural surrounds. Killing for the sake of killing is disturbing……..

  • Sookie : Jun 14th

    I think if the kid is willing to kill inoccent animals he may be working himself up to bigger game. I think he should be confronted by a group of hikers and then asked to move on if he shows up at a shelter you are at.

  • Tod : Jun 14th

    Take another zero and maybe I’ll catch up, we can reminisce about the early days on the trail and make fun of stretch 🙂

  • BigHodag : Jun 14th

    Guy from Maine killed s copperhead during my NY border day. I feel you.

  • Robert Harris : Jun 15th

    Why wouldn’t killing a groundhog with a hiking pole for the thrill of it be criminal animal cruelty? Killing for food is one thing, killing for the sake of killing is purely evil.

  • Chris McCarthy : Jun 15th

    Sounds like just another day at the OB office Maggie. Chin up.

  • Cosmo Catalano : Jun 15th

    Do not let this idiot end your hike. In addition to being a dick and borderline sociopath, he’s violating game laws in several states. Your’s is not the only complaint out there about his activities.

  • Zachary Lytle : Jun 15th

    Yeah. That’s a jackass.

  • Yogi : Jun 15th

    He should be reported to the ATC

  • ocarol500 : Jun 15th

    Contact the ATC. They & the Maintaining Clubs will address this abhorent behavior. What happened is that you have PTSD & you may need to discuss this with a trained counselor who can help you “empty & scrub” your memories and help you heal. I am so sorry you experienced this, Maggie. Blueberry has mental problems. And other hikers may be in danger if they confront him. That’s why I suggest you fill out an ATC Incident Form.

    Contact Laurie Potteiger at the ATC 304-535-6331

  • Marie : Jun 15th

    I gave Blueberry a ride back to the trail a couple of weeks ago. It was about a 45 minute drive, so we had a good amount of time to talk. He did bring up killing animals, but not just to kill, to eat. He specifically said he wanted to kill a squirrel or some other critter to cook up for dinner one night. It seems that he did just that. I’m not condoning what he did, but how is it different than fishing along the trail and eating the fish you caught for dinner? Is it because fish aren’t cute, furry creatures? I understand hunting isn’t legal along most of the AT, so more than likely what he did was wrong anyway.

    I’m not trying to stir things up, just trying to offer a different perspective.

    • maury : Jun 16th

      if someone is fishing up and down the trail without fishing licenses for the states they are in, that is also illegal. hunting (a.k.a. – killing animals) is also illegal without a hunting license. there are over 90 state and federal land management agencies up and down the AT and each one no doubt has different regulations about hunting and fishing. it is up to each person to know the regulations of the area they’re in and if someone is killing animals outside of these regulations it is illegal. Blueberry may or may not have been hunting illegally, but i have a strong feeling he gave little thought or regard to any regulations.

      • OrionSky : Jun 29th

        Well, the author’s oppinion has more to do with killing in general and while I think she was responding to Blueberry’s demeanor, I do think Marie makes a valid point that hunting/fishing that’s legal is not a big deal.

        That being said, going purely off this accounting it seems Blueberry seems to take unusual pleasure in the kill whether he intends to eat it or not. Some people really do seek out these types of situations purely for an “acceptable” chance to let out their blood lust.

        Without knowing either party involved it’s really hard to say whether the author is overreacting, but based on everything I’ve read from her I am inclined to believe her account.

  • Mary Faith : Jun 15th

    This hiker is f#@ked up and someone should have told him so.

  • Jedediah Brown : Jun 16th

    There are a-holes everywhere. Ideally, they wouldn’t be on trail, but there’s no avoiding them. Hike your hike.

  • Susan Bisbing : Jun 16th

    So sorry you were around this jerk. It’s one thing to hunt animals in order to survive this isn’t the case. I think he is enjoying the telling of hurting and killing animals.

  • Heather F-R : Jun 16th

    So that kind of behavior is typical of serial killers. If he’s killing animals just for the giggles, that is fucked up. Killing animals in horrible ways for fun is one of the attributes serial killers often have in common. This is coming from a hunter and animal lover, and former thru-hiker. Killing animals with hiking poles, then showing them off is nuts. And if he is specifically targeting you, you need to get away from him, quick. Jump up the trail, or take a few zeros. It’s not worth the risk to be in this person’s presence. And, absolutely report him to any and all authorities. If he was just trying to be a sustenance hiker, that would be one thing, but this is sick harassment.
    -Crafty, NOBO 2010

  • Harry Siegel : Jun 16th

    This is a very sad story. I’m so sorry you are going through this. I section hiked the trail from Ga – Me in the 90’s and the personalities and life styles of some of the hikers were troubling to me then. Since then I try to hike on the AT on low usage times of the year near me in the NC/TN/VA area. I don’t know what some people are thinking out there. The thought of someone killing animals along the AT goes against all LNT ethics – unbelievable! It’s not hunting, its a sick blood lust that causes a person to do that. Blueberry should be arrested.

  • John : Jun 16th

    As a 2014 thru-hiker who witnessed plenty of this on the trail, I know that it can be easy to feel helpless. As hikers, we have a responsibility to be stewards of the environment. According to the PA hunting regulations, the legal document, the killing of a woodchuck, or groundhog, for any purpose is illegal. Blueberry can be reported, fined, and potentially jailed for his actions. I am a hunter, for meat, and I harvest those animals as a way of understanding where the food I eat comes from. I hunt in season, with the proper licenses, and I do my best to respect the differing opinions of others. To forage for mushrooms and berries on the trail is one thing, to kill squirrels for food is another. Trail culture cannot extend to simply ignoring these actions. Report what you see, BECAUSE IT IS POACHING, which, more than being cruel, has a long term devastating effect on the entire ecosystem that the AT supports and protects.

    • Kate Balano : Jun 19th

      Well said.

  • Mary Trailangelmary Parry : Jun 16th

    Please join my group on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/IbelieveinLNT/?ref=bookmarks

  • Shawn Hudson : Jun 16th

    Killing a groundhog? Blech. If yer smacking a whistle-pig to death, as they’re known out West, and then bragging about it, you probably have seen some abuse and had bad role-modeling in your life. He’s not alone on that front. I don’t condone the action; I don’t excuse it, and I would’ve been equally disgusted. All that said, I wish the best for ol’ Blueberry, as the Trail has healed worse offenders and maybe given some other people a changed perspective by the end. Bad apples ain’t always bad for life.

  • Zach : Jun 16th

    It is definitely more than 3%. People who think bad hikers are a very small minority are usually unwittingly part of the problem. There are many issues regarding thru hiker behavior and culture and in my 2000+ miles on the AT I’d probably estimate at least 30% of hikers are insufferable at best. Out of the four altercations I had on the trail, a gun was pulled on me on one occasion. For the sake of your safety, I wouldn’t confront this Blueberry guy. He is clearly not going to be receptive. Your best bet in dealing with this kind of behavior is contacting the hostels and explaining not just his actions but how uncomfortable he makes you feel. Even though there aren’t a lot of women on the trail, most of the hostels are husband and wife operations, and the women running these places are generally very receptive to complaints about creeps out there hiking. If Blueberry gets blacklisted at a hostel, his name will instantly be known to every other hostel within a couple hundred miles. That’s the fastest way to get someone to throw in the towel. I would consider contacting the ATC as well. Word about this guy is getting around. His reputation will catch up with him before he makes it to Maine. There are a million good reasons to quit the trail, but it would be a shame if you had to quit because of someone else’s appalling behavior.

  • Unicoi Zoom : Jun 17th

    I am so sorry that your experiences on this hike are challenging your faith in humanity. Hiking the trail showed me the opposite, that the preponderance of people are good and want to help. I agree with those who are encouraging you to report this person’s actions to proper authorities for all of the reasons they list. Even if speaking up to someone’s face may not be the right choice for the sake of safety or the perceived breaking of social norms of the small group around you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved to change things by asking for help.

  • Winter : Jun 17th

    I saw a person on Instagram (who is currently hiking the trail) spit on the water above fish who were coming to the surface thinking it was food. This person thought is was really funny. I did not. Total disrespect for wildlife in my opinion.

  • Marcella Branniff : Jun 17th

    The thru hiker culture is changing, there’s little doubt about that. On the AT in ’02, I started late, hammock camped, and deliberately tried to avoid the burgoining ruffian/self-absorbed party culture, which worked, but now, I think a true sea change is in order. We need to stop giving these individuals any audience for their bad behavior, and shut it down if we feel safe doing so. I’m sorry you had to experience this, but try to focus on the good people, and continue your journey.

  • Pithon : Jun 18th

    While the senseless killing of animals or any other life form is completely unethical, what no one has pointed out is, Did he eat what he killed? Not saying it was right or wrong but what he did is PROBABLY highly illegal. Being as I don’t know if he had hunting licence. But my attitude is that if you kill it you eat it. Don’t let it go to waist. The little squirrels and rabbits reproduce. What I do get pissed off about is people who kill things and then brag and show it off to people who don’t have the same attitude. Don’t ride around with a deer in the back of your truck for two weeks just to show it off and don’t show other hikers things that you have mauled to death on the trail. Kill it, give thanks to God for providing, cook it, eat it, maybe even offer some cooked meat to someone else. But be respectful of the life that you have just took.

  • George Johnson : Jun 18th

    I’ve worked as ridge runner in New Jersey the last 2 years and worked as a trail builder for the ATC in the mid Atlantic. Contact the ATC mid Atlantic office, please report bad hiker behavior. Trust me they want to know what is going on in their parks. It’s simple there are people who care believe it or not. I’ve personally worked with the all 5 park super intendants in New Jersey. The park police are fantastic and will gladly help. Now as far as outdoor ethics, you have to speak up. Now be careful you are dealing with young adults all the way up to senior citizens who might have a child like understanding of outdoor ethics. You will bruise egos quickly if you are too stern. Find a common ground even if you don’t like them. You can’t through to all of them, but you will reach a few and that’s the name of the game.

  • jjtrinva : Jun 18th

    There is very little I can add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said. I am a regular reader of this website and have to say that your blog has resulted in the most follow-up comments I’ve ever seen. You’ve touched a lot of people and, I believe, have done a great service to the the community of hikers who truly care about maintaining the AT and all wilderness in as pristine a condition as possible. I sincerely hope the rest of your hike is full of more uplifting and inspiring moments.

  • Kate Balano : Jun 19th

    Two nights ago I listened to the frightened and painful cries of an animal losing his or her life near the trail. Even with knowing that this is part of life in the woods, it was still sad. To maim and kill an animal for fun is just sick. The word sociopath comes to mind

  • Scout : Jun 22nd

    It seems Blueberry had expressed an interest in killing an animal to eat (from ‘Marie’ who had posted she gave him a ride). So, I’m not surprised he killed an animal, but I would hope he did it to eat; although, to do so with a hiking pole seems very crude to the point of cruelty. And yes, he very well could be violating laws. That being said, Tortoise, you seem very naïve about human behavior or perhaps sheltered from life with others of different ideas. Trail folks are symbolic of society. There is good and bad, respectful and disrespectful. Your discussion of leaving the trail over it shows me you are a bit immature as I suspect Blueberry is as well. If he is the same one I met on the trail in New York, he was definitely under 25. Trying to grow up….isn’t that what a lot of young adults are doing on the trail? By the way, I came across quite a few young adult girls on the trail. I’m surprised you haven’t met them. If you want to, you can make that happen.

    • Susan : Jun 24th

      Lol you are just the worst, Scout. “Try growing up, the problem with so many scumbags on the trail is YOUR fault! Also, use your magical powers to conjure up more women on the trail!”

      You can’t be serious.

  • Maya : Jun 26th

    I’ve actually met Blueberry and have hiked with or around him for the majority of the trail. I would hope he wouldn’t do this. From what we’ve seen he actually cares about animals quite a bit. He told us how another hiker killed a sleeping rattlesnake and taken the rattle as a “trophy” and he was absolutely appalled by it. I can’t imagine he would turn around and kill a gopher but if he did than that makes me very sad. He does have a weird sense of humor joking a lot about dead animals but it was only ever joking. I hope he’s not like you described and that something was misunderstood but I just wanted to say something before he becomes an outcast or intentionally shunned from the trail. Btw this is Hook and Franklin! I hope you guys have a better rest of your hike than this section!

  • OrionSky : Jun 29th

    ” unappreciated running commentary about my relationship with Hare, informing me about how unfair I am to Hare.”

    Something a few have picked up on is what appears to be that your very sensitive.

    That doesn’t make other people’s behavior better, but some of the things you are talking about is just flat out typical human stuff.

    Sorry you’re having a bad experience, but I think this will be a good opportunity for you to grow and better understand people.

    good luck on the trail

  • Yisser : Jul 28th

    So this is a year late but I’m reading to prepare for my thru.

    There’s a blog post that shows the hiker being discussed, identified as Blueberry, with a dead and then skinned baby groundhog – pictures at the bottom of the page. Including a picture of the dead, skinned groundhog holding a piece of candy in its mouth. Because that’s just hilarious, right? The blog poster tells a story of how Blueberry ran off the parents and killed the slowest baby (and seems unconcerned with Blueberry’s behavior.) What an impressive man.


    Leave no trace includes don’t torture and kill baby animals for kicks.


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