Wow...it's hard to write about topics like this when we seek fellowship with the wilderness but instead still find evil lurking about. I blogged last year on Hiker Safety after a hiker on the Appalachian Trail was found murdered near Cow Camp Gap Shelter.
Yesterday, right on the Appalachian Trail, there was a report of multiple cars vandalized at Rt 522, Chester Gap near Front Royal, Virginia. Windows were smashed in and a trunk was forced open. I have used this trailhead myself several times and was shocked not only at the crime but at the sheer audacity of the ones who committed the acts in broad daylight along a major US route.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy posts on its website trouble spots with parking. Be sure to find out where there have been incidents and avoid parking there. But in all honestly, one does park at their own risk, no matter where you are at.
Some things to keep in mind to avoid possible theft and car damage -
- Take your oldest, beat-up vehicle to leave at the parking lot. Or get a ride to and from the trailhead (better to pay someone for the ride then to pay lots of money for a broken window or lose money to stolen items). Another option is to look for alternative parking near to the trail and get a ride up or walk to the trailhead. A place of business, for example.
- Consider leaving the car unlocked to avoid windows being broken (though most safety sites advocate locking it). But with that said, if you do choose to leave it unlocked, leave NOTHING valuable in the car! Take ALL ID, loose change (conceal change under a rock at the trailhead if you forget to take it out at home), and take wallet, cell phone, IPOD, etc with you. Better yet, leave everything at home you can't carry with you in your backpack or day pack. Locking items in the trunk doesn't mean the thieves can't force the trunk open or break a window to get at it.
- Leave some unsavory items on the seat and / or back window to discourage thieves. Underwear. Dirty socks. Grungy clothes, etc.
- If you see vandalism or are a victim of vandalism, report it immediately to the local authorities and to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Part II - I'll talk about your backpack and personal items while on the trail and in towns