Appalachian Trail 'Party Culture' Ruins Young Man’s Dream
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
GEORGIA - A local teen, who had just set out on his trip of a lifetime hiking the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail (AT), had his plans abruptly come to an end this Thursday.
Daniel Ridley, a 19 year old from Richmond County, GA, had dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail since he was 14 years old. “One day, my father and I were out in the woods on our Church’s Men of God Camp when we came across the AT. My old pops told me that it stretched from Georgia to Maine and well, that blew my mind,” Ridley told reporters.
Ridley had his sights set on thru hiking the AT ever since. Between church choir practice, home groups, and the local youth group band he played bass in, Ridley focused on curating the best set of hiking gear he could and sculpting his body to the likeness of Samson. Ridley put in hours on local trails in order to someday reap what he sows. Ridley credits two books for his preparedness, Bill Bryson's “A Walk In The Woods” and the Bible (NIV). “One taught me to live, laugh and love; the other taught me to be a Republican,” Ridley states.
In Spring of this year, Ridley finally got his chance. Due to being home-schooled and unvaccinated, Ridley graduated a full semester early against all odds. He realized that this was an “olive branch extended to him from the big man upstairs,” he fondly recounted.
On April 2nd, 2019, Ridley’s mother, Susan Ridley, dropped him off at Amicalola Falls State Park to begin his journey towards Maine.
Ridley told ULJ Reporters about the tears his mother wept when seeing him off. “She prayed for my safety, happiness, and for me to be a light on the trail. Our daily devotional that morning was over Matthew 4:1-25 which we rejoiced as a sign that I was fully prepared for this journey,” said Ridley.
Ridley immediately began enjoying the fruits of his labor. He had no issue hiking the approach trail which Ridley attributes to his daily hill repeats of Mt. Sinai near his hometown. He noted that he met a few wonderful people as he made his way up the trail. “Everyone was really nice. We were all just excited for what God had in store for us.”
Per his SPOT device breadcrumbs, he made great time getting to his planned destination of Hawk Mountain Shelter (16.5 miles). Ridley stated that he was excited and “a little nervous” for his first night on trail. He set up his Big Agnes Tigerwall UL2 tent and began his nightly recital of “Footprints in the Sand.”
That is when his entire journey came to a screeching halt. As he lay in his tent, he began to smell something in the air. Ridley described it as, “a slightly sweet, but rather skunky smell.” He began to fear that there may be a Skunk lurking around the nearby shelter.
Ridley put on his camp shoes and walked over to a group of hikers whom he had briefly met earlier in the day. They were all standing around a campfire telling stories about their first day on the AT. “As I got closer, I realized that the smell was coming directly from them.”, Ridley told our reporter.
Ridley asked the group of hikers if they had seen a skunk nearby as it smelled like one was very close. A man named Kyle said, “Bro, do you mean Skurka? Wouldn't that be wild.” Ridley chimed back and clarified that he meant a Skunk. The whole group began laughing, which was not the reaction Ridley had expected. One unidentified man in an Melanzana hoodie said, “it’s okay bro. We are just passing around some ganja. Want a toke?” The group laughed again.
Ridley had read about the rumored use of marijuana on the trail in a thread on whiteblaze during his research; however, he did not expect to actually meet any druggies.
This hit home for Ridley. He had been a part of his local youth outreach program and had a friend that smoked one marijuana and became a sinner. Ridley knew first hand the dangers of the wacky tobacky and was appalled that these sinners would openly admit to partaking.
Ridley told reporters that he ran back to his tent, zipped up the 15 denier rain fly and began thinking “WWJD?” In a tearful statement, Ridley recounted, “There were drugs within feet of me. I feared someone was going to overdose, or give into the temptations of the devil. While I knew those addicts knew not what they do, I knew I needed to leave immediately.”
One might say that this was Daniel, deep in the Tiger’s Den.
Ridley, fearful that he may inhale the devil’s breath, wrapped his 10D silpoly rain jacket around his nose and mouth. He found cell service and called his mother to pick him up as soon as possible. “Mom, there are kids smoking drugs,'' His voicemail stated.
Susan, as soon as she realized she missed a call from her son, listened to the message and went into “momma bear mode”, she told ULJ.
“My son was in the forest with drug addicts. I did what any mother would do - called the Police and drove as fast as the speed limit and my 2010 Toyota Sienna V6 would allow.”
Ridley and his mother reconnected later that night in a tearful and hallowed reunion. “He was shaken and scared but remained a man of God. He did the right thing,” his mother added.
Ridley was treated at Georgia Regional Hospital for minor eye irritation and measles.
In a statement made to ULJ, Ridley stated that he is organizing a trail ministry group and will be hiking the trail again in 2020. “This time, I will be armed with DARE pamphlets and formally ordained.”