Sunday, November 30, 2008

Remember M.E.

“Look, Mom, there’s your name,” my daughter said, pointing to a very small sticker in the right hand corner of the trail’s information board that read, “Remember Meredith; Remember M.E.”

We were standing at the bottom of Blood Mountain, about to hike 4,500 feet up the Appalachian Trail to the top. The sticker was a poignant reminder of someone who was already on my mind—Meredith Emerson—the 24-year-old UGA graduate who was murdered on the trail last year by a vagrant.

I recall her story vividly because not only did we share the same name, I was writing an article at the time about a hiking trip that our family took in an area only miles away. The Blood Mountain trail was extremely busy the day after Thanksgiving, as I imagine it was New Year’s Day when Meredith hiked. I could see how she would have no qualms about hiking alone with her dog, especially since she was trained in martial arts.

This was our first time hiking this particular trail, and it was quite a tough one for me. My legs were already sore from working out earlier in the week, and I wore way too many layers for the beautiful 65 degree day. But, I’m not complaining, each step up lead us closer to one of the prettiest views I’ve seen.

I must confess, however, if my kids were younger and more gullible, there were a couple of points 1,000 feet from the top where I would have declared we were at the summit. Of course, other hikers wouldn’t have allowed this, either. As we passed people making their way back down, each would offer a word of encouragement. We heard “You only have ten more minutes to the top!” so many times that my son finally declared, “That’s a long ten minutes!”

The closer we got, the faster the kids moved, causing me to believe they must be part Billy goat. Once we reached the top, we enjoyed the view, laughed at those ahead of us who had set up camp, explored a stone shelter house, robbed our Chex mix of M&M’s, and I remembered Meredith, saying a prayer for her family--and for my mine.

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