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Tears for a Hiker
About North Georgia

Waking up on the second day of a new year is always interesting, but after saying goodbye to 2007, January 2, 2008 brought with it news of a missing hiker in the North Georgia mountains. Meredith Emerson, however, was an experienced hiker who had told friends where she was going, the route she would take and when to expect her back. It would have been possible for the hiker to survive the below freezing weather that New Years night, but friends wanted to find her before the next night so she wouldn't have to suffer again.

All day they combed the North Georgia mountains looking for any sign of the hiker. They walked the Appalachian Trail and her return route, the Freeman Trail over Blood Mountain, returning to the parking lot at Byron Herbert Reese parking lot, where her car had been found. The search continue for days into January. Her dog, a Lab-mix, and her constant companion, was found in a parking lot in Cumming, but there was no sign of Meredith.

News stations across the country began reporting the story, and soon missing Meredith Emerson gained international attention. Other hikers who had gone missing in the last couple of years in the Southeast received very little coverage even from local papers so its funny that Meredith attracted such attention. There was something about this story that flipped the editor's switches to on.

A man came forward telling the story of seeing a woman matching Emerson's general description on Freeman Trail with an older hiker - both had dogs. A picture circulated on TV and in the papers and lo and behold the man was spotted in Dekalb County, 4 days after Emerson had gone missing. The Georgia Attorney General agreed to take the death sentence off the table if Gary Hilton (the man seen walking with her) would reveal the location of her body. Hilton took officers to a place most of them knew, a location less than a mile from the site where 10-year-old Levi Frady's body was dumped in 1997.

Meredith's murder will long affect the hiking community in North Georgia and around the world. I have always felt an affinity to other hikers, especially when we engage in one of those unique 5 minute "trail friendships," chatting with a kindred spirit while sitting on a log. Now I look at other hikers with a slight question in my mind about possible ulterior motives.


Randy's Corner
Notes from our publisher, Randy Golden

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Dekalb County
Levi Frady

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