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Exercising Outdoors Alone: Should I Skate with a Gun? The Meredith Emerson Case

eebee's picture

Great - now I have another excuse aside from exhaustion or the weather as to why I shouldn't skate in the evenings after work...the danger in skating, walking, running alone on a park trail.

Since the brutal murder last Friday of 24 year old Meredith Emerson, who disappeared on New Year's Day whilst hiking with her dog in the North Georgia mountains, many of us outdoorsy types in the Metro Atlanta area have been thinking twice about our exercise strategies. It gives me chills when I remember being particularly disgruntled with life about 8 years ago and hauling myself off in a huff up to Toccoa Falls, alone, to achieve a bit of inner peace. I didn't know then that there was a very sick and dangerous man on the loose in North GA., and the flip side of that one is that there are other sick individuals out there right now, possibly at my park where I skate alone, that nobody is aware of yet.

Thankfully (if you can use that word in the context of what he did) Meredith Emerson's murderer is behind bars and unable to prey on innocent citizens any more. This means he is also safe from the grips of the local vigilante mob gathering on the 11alive.com comments section. Does it make me naive or just an idiot to believe it's safer out there with him locked up?! Probably both, and it's no more safe out there now than it was two weeks ago.

I prefer to skate with others, but I'm not going to sacrifice a training plan if nobody else shows up. Last Summer I skated predictably alone at the same relatively secluded park, on the same weekdays, at the same time in the evening. I changed my route up a bit depending on how strong I felt, or how hot it was. There was always at least one police officer on duty at the park until it closed, and I had the chance to talk to a few of them separately. However, one single police officer can't be everywhere in the park at once.

Occasionally when I parked my car and got out to don skates and skate gear, I'd give a fleeting thought to taking my ancient pepper-spray with me. Sometimes I took it, sometimes I didn't. I was mostly aware of being within the sight of joggers, cyclists, or hikers. To take my mind off thigh pain, I would formulate mugging bail-out plans A, B and C in my mind, especially if I found myself isolated on a steep uphill (i.e., not going very fast).

Sadly when she was simply missing, the newspapers reported some jinxing statements from Meredith's friends, like "She's petite, but she's pure tough!", and "If anybody can defend themselves, Meredith can - I've seen her take down men twice her size". Come to find out she had a martial-arts blue belt. I think I even had one of those a few years back but if I managed to take somebody out with a round-house kick it'd have to be some sort of goofball accident. Defending yourself, or having an escape plan is all very fine if some freako's giving you a warning like "I'm going to attack you now". But if you befriend a stranger and turn your back, you could find yourself in a situation where you don't know what hit you.

Authorities are also looking for connections into other unsolved and brutal murders in the area, which may have been committed by Emerson's murderer, Hilton. Personally I'd love for the family of slain 11 year old Levi Frady to find closure if they find out Hilton was responsible for that too, not to mention the elderly couple killed last fall in the Pisgah Nat'l Forest in NC. As the mother of teenagers, it's a lot nicer to think there was only one scumbag nutjob committing these atrocities than the reality that there are multiple sleazeball murderers walking around free. May the victims' loved ones find peace again in their lifetimes.

This past week's terrifying daily headlines have had me considering skating with a gun. But what if I fell on it and shot myself in some bizarre accident like the hunting dog who shot and killed his master ("... the gun was covered with the chocolate Labrador Retriever's muddy paw prints")? Is skating with a knife and bear-spray better?

This is part of my reasoning for getting my son a bike, so there'd be two of us instead of one.

Obviously, there are dangers to life, even if you are holed-up, hermit-like in your residence. And yes, I know it's more dangerous to drive my car than to go skating on a trail or to take a transatlantic flight. I might get cancer, Alzheimer's or MS, but skating alone and being armed are choices that I have some control over.


roadskater's picture

Guns, Dogs, Karate, Judo, Pepper Spray...Luck, Caution, Wisdom

Yes to caution and care about predictability and safety. 

I don't know. I guess this is one of those issues you just have a gut feeling about. Mine is that wariness and caution and communication might be just as well as most tools of self-defense.

Of course, up on the Appalachian Trail a lot of tech won't work, or not in time to help perhaps. There are countless times I could have been dispatched up around Boone at midnight or later on Rich Mountain fire tower, Howard's knob (many a snow-blanketed night), Moses Cone Bass Lake, or later, up at Hanging Rock in winter.

The right sicko at the wrong time with whatever triggers the excessively violent reaction, and you're done.

I remember when a guy came by saying he'd be hiking through the next morning with his bow and arrow to get to his tree stand before dawn to try to get a "barr" just outside the boundaries of Mount Mitchell State Park in North Carolina, and how that may have been meant to help my sense of safety but honestly it didn't.

Sadly, those who seek to be alone are going to be at risk. And often, those who seek to be alone are in grief already, or otherwise preoccupied mentally. I know many days on the trails from Black Mountain Campground at the river up to and around Mt. Mitchell, I have been entirely lost in either misery or joy...seldom in the middle...not often really watching out for danger nearly as much as for yellow flowers, and not listening for footsteps as much as for the sounds of those sweet tiny birds that live above six thousand feet elevation, and the summertime Christmas tree smells of the fir tree needles stepped upon while traveling through. (Except at night mostly when black bears are a real concern, especially if there's food anywhere near your site.)

Even when we aren't seeking to be alone, sometimes we find ourselves suddenly so, and even at Country Park, I've had one or two situations with a particular seemingly troubled guy where I was happy to just move on and get out of that particular dark and isolated lap and quit for the day. No matter how compassionate I feel, and I do, for troubled people, I'd still rather not go as a result of someone else's decision!

As for toting a gun, having a dog, knowing martial arts, and those things, I think they may be just as likely to escalate a situation in the wrong way for my safety as to prove in my favor, and I may be wrong but that's my sense of it with bears, snakes, crazy people and so on. Unless you're the type to strike first, and it seems i'm not, these implements may be of no use or may be harmful in the long run.

Having a cel phone is great where it works and having a one-button 911 programmed in is perhaps not bad. Calling a friend when you feel a bit uneasy is a great idea I think. At least there's a record of what's going on. Pretending to be on the phone might be useful even when the phone isn't really in use.

Having a GPS or other data logger might help find your way to safety (or grimly, might help explain things to others afterward). I was thinking how cool it would have been if the dog had a GPS data logger in his collar and if this had somehow been able to save her (I was thinking this Friday I guess it was, before I knew some of the evidence that had been found, when I was still hoping they'd try to see if the dog could lead them somewhere useful...I wonder what that dog saw.)

In any case, I'm glad the family knows as much as they do so they can deal with the grief, and I hope other families may get some new knowledge as well out of this sorrow.

Wishing peace within and love all around to all who read this (and those who don't).


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