[pct-l] Maintaining Anonymity on the Trail

Donna Saufley dsaufley at sprynet.com
Thu Jan 24 16:34:49 CST 2008



I love you dearly and everything you do for hikers.  I don’t want to start
the north/south trail angel battle of ’08, so I will simply tell you the
reasons why I came to NOT put hiker pictures and information on a website or
elsewhere.  Just my take on the experiences we’ve had.


The first awareness came when I had (like you) been taking pictures of all
the hikers, and getting all their info before they departed Hiker Heaven.
Back in those days, when we had far fewer hikers through here, that was much
easier to do!  As I was doing this then-routine picture/info gathering, a
solo female hiker (AT veteran) asked me why I was getting that information;
what was I going to do with it.  I told her I wanted to have a website with
that information so everyone could see who was here; the vision was that it
could prove to be a link for their family and friends who could see they’d
been or were here, and a place to store our wonderful memories for all to


The hiker was very emphatic with her response.  She told me under no
circumstances did I have her permission to put her picture or info on any
website.  She went on to explain that a hiker or hikers had been murdered on
the AT – they had been stalked by the killer through online journal entries.
I had never heard any of this before, and was stunned.  She strongly
suggested to me that it just was not a good policy to put that information
out there.  Her concerns were later affirmed for me in “Walk,” the part
where two men show up to meet Tea Tree.  They knew where she’d been and
where she was going to be because of her online journal.  They were
apparently okay guys in that case, but the fact is they had essentially
stalked her because of online info. 


I began to think, “what’s the harm in putting info up after the fact, when
the season is over?”  That answer came when post-season we started getting
calls about a 20-something hiker that was missing, and his family was
frantically looking for him and thought he might be hiking the trail.
Initially alarmed, concerned, and wanting to help, we subsequently came to
learn from law enforcement that this young man wanted to get away from his
family and it was his legal right to do so.  


We also learned of a missing hiker somewhere up north that had terminal
cancer and wanted to hike the trail before he died.  His family did not want
him to do this for their own reasons.  Determined to follow his dream and
not theirs, he set out on the trail with his family trying to stop him. They
of course wanted to keep him under care and treatment to prolong what was
left of his life.  He knew he was going to die anyway and wanted to be on
the trail before it came. I do not know the outcome of this . . . I wish I
did.  I hope he was able to achieve his dream and rest peacefully.


Because of these experiences and pieces of information, I came to understand
that some people have their reasons for not wanting to be found, for anyone
to know where they are or where they’ve been.  Those that want anonymity are
entitled to it, and I don’t want to put them in a position of either having
to explain themselves, or having to lie.  I respect that some may simply and
rightly feel it’s not safe to post their info. If any hiker ever came to
harm because of something I’d posted, I would never forgive myself.  


Another and much more personal reason for not wanting to post the history
out there are those who want to keep track of hikers like it’s a horse race,
wanting to use information to validate hiker’s claims, and just generally
use the information for fodder for their own purposes – which could even
result in financial gain.  I’ll go on record stating I have a real aversion
to that, and I don’t want to feed or nurture it.  


To me, everyone’s journey is personal to them, and if they wish to, they can
(and do) post pictures of being here.  My memories with them are personal to
me.  If you want to know who’s been here, the trail register is here for the









From: pct-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:pct-l-bounces at backcountry.net]
On Behalf Of Andrea Dinsmore
Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2008 8:44 AM
To: G. Lowe aka Wheeew
Subject: Re: [pct-l] Maintaining Anonymity on the Trail


We've been taking pics, adding names and dates and posting the pics to our
website..........everyone seems to be thrilled over it. This has been going
on for years. In all those hikers that have stayed with us no one has ever
said don't take my pic. Everyone signs our register and most seem to be
really interested in who's been here before them. So with all this
privacy....hike in secret issues on this forum......we haven't seen any of
it up here. So,  I guess I should fore warn all hikers and guests to the
Skykomish area..........if I see you....I will record your attendance to our
place. If you don't want the world to know you were at our place, in town or
even at the trailhead........you better put a bag over your head. 

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