Appalachian trail hikers draw strength from story of injured Nova Scotia woman
A group of hikers on the Appalachian trail in Bastian, Virginia, on May 13, 2019. (Stephanie Klein-Davis / The Roanoke Times via AP)
A man who publishes a hiker yearbook for the Appalachian Trail says the strength and courage of a Nova Scotia woman who was stabbed on the trail is inspiring other hikers to continue their trek.
Matthew "Odie" Norman said he's in awe of the courage she showed after one man was killed and she was left for dead.
The woman, whose name has not been released, hiked 10 kilometres while badly injured to get help following the early-morning attack May 11 in Wythe County, Va.
Norman said the injured hiker has returned home to Nova Scotia to recover but told him she plans to resume her hike of the trail next year.
"I think that's absolutely incredible, and that is a real show of the strength of the Canadian heart," he said.
"It says she is someone of honour, strength, courage and commitment. It took all of these things for her to get up and walk while bleeding out on trail, knowing she was moments away from the end of her own life. But she did make it."
Her example "has encouraged the trail family to keep going," he added. "I'm in such awe of her."
James Jordan, 30, of West Yarmouth, Mass., is charged with murder and assault with intent to commit murder in the attack that injured the woman and left Ronald Sanchez Jr., 43, of Oklahoma dead.
Norman said he had heard of incidents on the trail involving Jordan in the two weeks before the attack.
"The first time he appeared on trail was near Hot Springs, North Carolina. He went to a shelter," Norman said. A shelter is a common area meant to be used by several people as a place to sleep and cook a meal.
"A couple of hikers came in and said, 'Hey, can you move your stuff out of the way so we can use the picnic table?' He picked up his knife, was very threatening and said, 'I got here first'," Norman said.
He says the hikers moved on and reported the incident by way of a phone app used by Appalachian Trail hikers.
Norman said other hikers also felt threatened by a man matching Jordan's description and filed reports with police, trail clubs and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. He said that in another incident, a woman reported a man spitting in her face but declined to press charges.
"People were becoming scared, and I became scared for him, because I heard talk on the trail of 'Oh let's just go break his ankles, and that way be he can't be on the trail anymore.' It was all out of fear," he said.
Norman said he met up with Jordan -- who went by the trail nickname "Sovereign" -- in Tennessee.
He said he bought Jordan lunch and later convinced him to accept a bus ticket home. Norman said he confirmed that Jordan got on the bus the next day.
"The following week, I heard that he was back on trail," he said. That's when the attacks occurred and Jordan was arrested.
Wythe County Chief Deputy Charles Foster said the Nova Scotia woman called 911 and told a dispatcher that she had been beaten and stabbed and played dead until her attacker left to go after his dog.
Foster said the injured woman had to hike for about 10 kilometres before she found someone to help her. She was airlifted to Bristol Regional Medical Centre, just across the state line in Tennessee.
Police hiked about eight kilometres into the Jefferson National Forest and found the suspect using the ping from the male victim's SOS call and the location given by the woman.
"A dog came off the ridge, which alerted us, and we saw a male subject right behind him in a thicket," Foster said. "We took him down at gunpoint and it ended up being our suspect." The FBI has taken over the case.
Jordan is being held in custody and results of a mental competency exam are expected by Aug. 1.
Norman said many hikers in the area took a couple of days to mourn the death of Sanchez -- whose trail name was "Stronghold" -- and erect a memorial. He says they drew strength from the injured hiker as they got back on the trail.
"She has really become our pillar of strength in our community. Because of her we are hiking on," he said.