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  1. #1
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    Default Quarry Gap shelter - disturbed person alert

    Here's a quick story and I want folks in Southern PA to be on alert for this person (for his and possibly your safety ) and also want your advice on what i did right and wrong in this instance.

    Sunday, Sept 9, 2018 - I entered Quarry gap shelter area around 1pm (near Fayettesville hiking SOBO . i needed to shelter for an hour for lunch rest. The shelter initially appeared empty but as I entered I saw a person working on his laptop in one of the two sleeping areas. I was solo and entered quietly ion the other side. I removed my pack and gently shook off my rain gear making a noise. This dude immediately emerged from that shelter with wild - bugged out eyes with his body and hands tense - I immediately thought to myself "this person is not right" but I considered maybe I freaked him out with him thinking I was a bear. He continued to glare at me threateningly for a long while as if I were disturbing him and had no right to be there. I broke the tension with "Hi, good day to rest a bit or take a zero huh?" He reached out extended both hands forward with his fingers contorted and in an agitated voice rambled "the other hikers poisoned me - poisoned my food - vaso-contrictors or beta blockers from blood pressure meds. My hands are too cold not to have been poisoned. I dont have a jacket" and more. I calmly and concernedly began to say "that it was unlikely that hikers poisoned him with blood pressure meds and just maybe...". He cut me off visibly enraged "DONT TELL ME WHAT I KNOW, I was married to a Dr for 6 years and I WAS poisoned" - he d repeated "I dont want to talk to you - I dont want to talk to you".

    Whoa...I was actually scared for my safety at this point as this dude was completely off the rails and raging at a stranger, that being me.. I backed away and said "dude
    you brought this up - not me - this is a shelter and should be a place of welcoming -not hostility". Unfortunately due to heavy rain I had to stay only a few feet away next to where he was - but I popped opened the sheath to my knife and bear spray on my pack- just in case. As I guardedly ate my food, I became less concerned of him and considered he was just mental and in some distress, but not a physical threat. I was wickedly soaked and pretty cold myself, so I pulled out my emergency fleece hoodie from my dry bag and was about to put it on as I packed up, but I instead thought better of it and instead offered it to him to keep since he didnt have a jacket and was caught by the unexpected weather. He decline with an emphatic NO, I'm fine. I put on my gear and left without another word or glance his way. I did think of alerting any hikers I passed, but there were none that day as the weather was bad. I briefly considered contacting the authorities to get him help, but I considered that too extreme for someone who was just socially off kilter, riding out the weather.

    So here I am a day or so later..Did I handle this correct or not? And what should have I done differently? Should I have alerted the authorities? The logic is - if he was poisoned he was a victim of a crime, and if he wasn't (which is most likely isnt it?) he was having a complete psychotic break and a potential threat to hikers or himself.

  2. #2

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    If the person is not a threat to themselves or others
    You mind your own business

    No law against being crazy, not liking other people , or having a laptop.
    Dude might have just missed some meds... Can lead to freak outs.

  3. #3

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    Hard call. I meet more then a few very odd characters in PA on my last hike through there.

    Hypothermia can make you do some strange things too. Sort of sounds like he might have been hypothermic. Cold hands and no jacket on a rainy day. Was he otherwise dry? Did he have any gear other then the laptop? (and why would he have a laptop at Quarry Gap shelter?)
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    GSMNP 900 Miler HooKooDooKu's Avatar
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    I don't see anything wrong with contacting authorities. Simply inform them of your experience and let them decide if anything needs to be done.
    Otherwise, the only thing I might have don't differently was to move on the moment I realized something wasn't right with this person. I wouldn't want to start any sort of possible confrontation in the back country... especially when by yourself.

  5. #5

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    Because you mentioned it... That sounds exactly like a guy I met on the approach trail this spring. I was coming up behind him and he jerked to look back at me several times. He screamed about other hikers that stole his food the night before. He screamed about walking home because his girlfriend stole everything he had. He screamed about having no water and asked where water was. He had a wild look in his eyes and was clearly not properly equipped for a long hike. I was careful not to argue or mention that raccoons may be the thieves. I offered him my water bottle and he declined twice. Several hundred feet ahead on the trail he threw everything down in frustration. I put the water on the ground in front of him and hiked on. I made sure to move fast enough to not have to see him again.

    It seems unlikely it would be the same guy, but it was a bit scary. He was very angry and seemed as if he would have enjoyed hurting someone in that moment.

  6. #6
    Registered User somers515's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    I don't see anything wrong with contacting authorities. Simply inform them of your experience and let them decide if anything needs to be done.
    Otherwise, the only thing I might have don't differently was to move on the moment I realized something wasn't right with this person. I wouldn't want to start any sort of possible confrontation in the back country... especially when by yourself.
    I completely agree.

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    Default Quarry Gap shelter - disturbed person alert

    I would have called it in. He could have been a danger to himself or others, or could have needed help of some kind.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Hard call. I meet more then a few very odd characters in PA on my last hike through there.

    Hypothermia can make you do some strange things too. Sort of sounds like he might have been hypothermic. Cold hands and no jacket on a rainy day. Was he otherwise dry? Did he have any gear other then the laptop? (and why would he have a laptop at Quarry Gap shelter?)
    He was wrapped in a sheet, not a sleeping bad and did not seem to have normal hiker gear. fyi - I stayed at trail of hope hostel the night before and I now remember my host there seemed concerned about just throwing someone out the night before for acting crazy but he didnt elaborate why - my host was Robert Freeman, an incredibly solid person and AT alumni of '97.
    Quarry gap shelter is the closest shelter to trail of hope hostel. So maybe these events are connected IDK

    Based on the input here, if someone comes across the same person and feels unsafe, immediately call authorities. The trail shelters are not the place for the homeless, we are sympathetic that they may need help off the trail.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    I don't see anything wrong with contacting authorities. Simply inform them of your experience and let them decide if anything needs to be done.
    Otherwise, the only thing I might have don't differently was to move on the moment I realized something wasn't right with this person. I wouldn't want to start any sort of possible confrontation in the back country... especially when by yourself.
    Agree 100%.

    At this point, I would recommend you send some version of you post to the ATC Here:

    incident@appalachiantrail.org

    I am not 100% sure, but I believe that address is monitored by the NPS ranger you could ask for an email back confirming that. What you experienced may be part of a larger story playing out over time. I guarantee you that the NPS Ranger would wish to be made aware.

    For context, it is important to note 100% of the most serious crimes on the AT (5 or 6 thru hikers and one long distance section hiker murdered) were perpetrated by a lone male after an interaction at an otherwise empty shelter 100% outside of the modern nobo bubble.

    While I am in no way suggesting that you necessarily were in that kind of danger at all, I do believe that thru hikers take such an ownership of shelters and have such a high comfort level in staying at them, that judgement gets clouded at the time. That you felt a need to ready your knife but still stuck around is understandable, but sort of makes my point.

  10. #10

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    Homeless people, many with mental problems, setting up shop at shelters on the AT in PA seems to be a common and on going problem. Once the FS gets a few complaints, they will go and evict them, but they have no where to go. It really is sad. I ran into a few the last time I went through PA. Basically harmless, but they can make you uncomfortable.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    If the person is not a threat to themselves or others
    You mind your own business

    No law against being crazy, not liking other people , or having a laptop.
    Dude might have just missed some meds... Can lead to freak outs.
    Contacting the authorities wouldn't be to have him arrested, but to see if this person belonged out on his own. Its completely reasonable to think that someone having the same experience the OP had would wonder if indeed he wasn't a threat to himself in those conditions. He was obviously not real prepared for the conditions and its probably a reasonable assessment by the OP that he was having psychotic episodes that were probably preventing him from making the best decisions out there - that he had no control because others had done this to him, which is a common decision making tree for those that have this condition. If so, he's really incapable of making logical decisions which in that environment could become life threatening.

    I've been on both sides of this, normally siding with you on the mind your own business philosophy. However, I'm having to take guardianship of my mom now because she was having psychotic episodes - things that seemed to be not that big a deal, and were too easy to let her mind her own business because that's the way she wanted it. But some good friends stepped in to report her to authorities which led to her being removed from her home. Truly, it can be a lot more empathetic for those with this condition to get reported for questionable behavior so that those who know more than I do can determine the threat to themselves or others.
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
    - Kate Chopin

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    Follow up.. I read this today about a recent killing on the AT. A psychotic lone male. Not the same guy as my situation. https://www.yahoo.com/gma/massachuse...opstories.html It reinforces the need to get away and call for assistance (if possible) ASAP if any individual at a shelter is CLEARLY disturbed or threatening.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chembrew View Post
    Follow up.. I read this today about a recent killing on the AT. A psychotic lone male. Not the same guy as my situation. https://www.yahoo.com/gma/massachuse...opstories.html It reinforces the need to get away and call for assistance (if possible) ASAP if any individual at a shelter is CLEARLY disturbed or threatening.
    wow. i hadn't heard anything about that one.

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    There are a few AT shelters in PA that have had suspicious people in the past. Usually in the fall and early winter months. They are scary individuals who are clearly not hikers.

  15. #15
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    Pennsylvania law is very specific about who can camp on State Game Lands. Crazy or psycho is OK--as long as you spend no more than one night at a site and exit the trail someplace else than your start. As it turns out, most crazies and psychos can't follow these two simple rules. Call us and let us know, 610-926-3136.

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