One of the things I wrestled with as an author of a thriller was how to keep the Appalachian Trail in a positive light. As I mention in my novel's Afterword, my thru-hike of the A.T. was a wonderful experience, and I did not encounter any problem characters. But I urge my readers to always stay alert in the wilds. Nothing in this world surprises me anymore. And there have been eleven documented murders along, or close to, the Appalachian Trail.
I think it is best to hike with a partner. Women on an extended hike should definitely hike with a partner. First of all, if you become injured, you will have someone to help you. Second, if you are together or in a pack of hikers, anyone, even a wild animal will think twice. Safety in numbers. Be prudent. Pay attention to your surroundings. Always.
I'd asked the opinion of fellow hikers and thru-hikers. No one had an issue with my plot in The Trail. Yet, I hereby apologize to anyone, in particular women, who may be alarmed and think the natural beauty of forest and stream should remain unblemished.
Fellow writers listened to my concerns about the perceived purity of hiking and of getting healthy exercise in forest and woods. I asked them if anyone could become relaxed in a forest and enjoy moments of nature, and peace and quiet after reading my novel. The best advice I received was from a professional writer who told me: When you have this type of plot as you do in your thriller, you can't do it half-way. Don't try to mute it. Commit! So, I did.
After that advice, I no longer held back. Although my tale is not just another walk in the woods, I'm happy with my story. If I've opened the eyes and ears of fellow hikers in the wild, and they remain alert, all the better.