Appalachian Trail murder ‘reverberates still’ after 25 years

In September 1990, a couple hiking the Appalachian Trail planned to celebrate a birthday at the Thelma Marks Shelter on the trail on the mountain overlooking Duncannon, Pennsylvania.

However, when Biff and Cindi Bowen arrived at the shelter on Sept. 13 after a meal in Duncannon, they immediately turned around and headed back into town. The couple had discovered the bodies of Geoff Hood and Molly LaRue – known on the trail as Clevis and Nalgene. Sept. 13, 2015, marks the 25th anniversary of their gruesome murders.

It is a quiet, restorative place, this clearing high on a Pennsylvania ridge. Ferns and wildflowers carpet its floor. Sassafras and tulip trees, tall oak and hickory stand tight at its sides, their leaves hissing in breezes that sweep from the valley below. Cloistered from civilization by a steep 900-foot climb over loose and jutting rock, the glade goes unseen by most everyone but a straggle of hikers on the Appalachian Trail, the 2,180-mile footpath carved into the roofs of 14 eastern states.

What a stranger did to Hood and LaRue left wounds that didn’t close neatly. It prompted outdoorsmen and trail officials to rethink conventional wisdom long held dear: that safety lies in numbers, that the wilds offer escape from senseless violence, and that when trouble does visit, it’s always near some nexus with civilization—a road, a park, the fringe of a town.

And it reverberates still, all these years later, because what befell Geoff Hood and Molly LaRue at the Thelma Marks shelter is a cautionary tale without lesson.

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