First off, let me say that for those of you that do not do much backpacking, this is in no way a common occurrence. That said, I have run into guys like this in the past, but you can be darn sure that I camped nowhere near them and slept lightly at night.
Basically, a mother is with her daughter for an overnighter on the AT and comes up to the shelter where a guy is with his dog and is drinking heavily. Things start out well enough, but he starts verbally abusing them and eventually threatens violence. They head out in the darkness, cops are called, and they find out that the guy was following them back to their car.
Again, I want to reiterate that this crap is not even remotely common. Millions of trips are taken each year without incidence, and bad experiences are not on the rise, but we do tend to hear about them way more often thanks to the Interwebz.
So, what can we learn from this? Here is what I think should be taken away from a story like this:
1. Take spare batteries and probably a spare lighting source as well. Unless you are in Alaska during the summer, it WILL get dark at night. You cannot avoid this and you never know when you may need a light of some kind.
2. Use some common sense. I like to believe in the decency of my fellow man, because the average person is a decent human being, but our instincts are there for a reason. If something does not feel right about a situation, remove yourself from it.
3. If you decide not to remove yourself from a situation, be prepared to deal with possible outcomes. I completely understand why someone would not want to carry a handgun, but at least grab a big stick and keep it near you. If you do take a weapon, get the training for it.
4. Do not be afraid to call the police. They are there for a reason. This is one of the things I think they did very well.
That’s all I have for now. I am very interested to hear what some of you might have to say about this.