Knife attack prompts precautions on Appalachian Trail

By  | 

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) — "I mean it's definitely rare, but you still take precautions."

Stacy Hollins and Ryan Blair have spent the last three months on the Appalachian Trail. They say it's a journey where you have to be prepared for anything.

"You always have to be ready to take care of whatever happens," said Hollins.

That's one reason Blair and Hollins carry bear spray, essentially stronger pepper spray, to deter animals and anything else that might be out there. And after a knife attack in Wythe County that left one person dead and another injured Saturday, Hollins says she'll be keeping her bear spray closer to hand.

"Now I think it'll be on my hip instead of in my pack," she said.

Monday night, plenty of other hikers are wondering what they need to do to stay safe on the trail

"There's no way to keep dangerous people off," said King.

Appalachian Trail conservancy spokesperson Brian King points out the trail runs nearly 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia. That makes it nearly impossible to police, and its rugged nature makes it take hours to reach a point where communication with first responders is possible.

But despite that, King says incidents like the one in Wythe County are few and far between.

He points out that over the last 46 years, there have been just eight homicide cases. "That's how rare it is," he said.

But just because it's rare, doesn't mean it's impossible.

"You have to trust your gut, always," said King.

King recommends camping away from road crossings and heavily populated areas. Watch out for anyone who looks or acts suspicious, and always tell someone where you're going.

And maybe, said hiker Ryan Blair, think about a can of bear spray too.

"I think that's just another precaution people should take, if you're gonna be out here alone or with a loved one or someone else," he said.

Copyright 2019 WDBJ. All rights reserved.