Ella’s Run 5K in Honor of Meredith Hope Emerson & Right to Hike

rth 2014 logoNew Year’s Eve 2007 was a time of celebration all over the world. Citizens of every nation looked forward to new and great things we were sure would come our way in 2008.  For many, those hopes were realized, but not for all of us. Especially for the friends and loved ones of Meredith Hope Emerson.

On January 1, 2008, Meredith went for a hike on the Appalachian Trail’s Blood Mountain, a popular spot in North Georgia where my children, friends and I have hiked, along with multitudes of others who love the outdoors.  The only complaint most folks have about the trek to the top is that it’s too crowded, not a place to be alone with nature and/or one’s own thoughts.

Meredith was last seen with a man she met on the Trail that day.  Their dogs were playing together.  Meredith didn’t return home and didn’t call.  Undeniable signs she was in trouble.

No one, except for one exceptionally evil man, knew where Meredith was or what had happened to her.

Search and rescue teams set up a command post in Vogel State Park, below Blood Mountain.  Days later, strangers — hundreds of them — arrived in bitter cold weather to help authorities search for Meredith.  Arguments ensued because untrained volunteers were told they might actually hinder the search by trained professionals.  There were too many people who cared for a woman whom they never met face to face.

Search and rescue personnel worked their regular jobs, then hit the mountain on profoundly frigid, dark nights to walk on and off trails — using no lights of their own, lest they miss a dim, fading flashlight — making no noise themselves, lest they miss a whimper of a wounded woman.

I was there.  I met the heroes.  Men and women who could not be persuaded to have a second cup of coffee or more chili in the middle of the night to warm their bones before they returned to look for a stranger … a stranger whom we all came to love: Meredith Hope Emerson.

Meredith was found, murdered a few days later.  A hideous end to the search for our now-beloved friend.

Her killer was captured after an intense search.  A serial killer took Meredith’s life.  At least he was stopped from taking the lives of additional innocents.  No more to haunt the forest or trails of North Georgia, the Carolinas or anywhere else.  Insufficient consolation for friends and family.

Julia Karrenbauer and Brent Seyler, co-founders of Right to Hike, Inc. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland
Julia Karrenbauer and Brent Seyler, co-founders of Right to Hike, Inc. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

After trying to process the loss of Meredith — who only wanted to go for a walk in the woods — Julia Karrenbaur, Meredith’s roommate, formed Right to Hike, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to the memory of Meredith Hope Emerson and to defend our right to hike by making trails more safe.  Several trails now have safer lighting or emergency call boxes provided by Right to Hike, Inc.

Right to Hike raises money for those causes, and others, primarily from their annual 5K, named for Meredith’s dog, Ella, who provided a key clue in cracking the case.

Ella’s Run will take place, once again, at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center in Buford.  Registration opens at 7:30 AM.  The race begins at 9 AM and it’s pretty much over by noon.

You’re encouraged to take your dog along with you on this fun mixed road and trail course.  After the run/walk be sure to stick around for the festival featuring vendors, music, food, kid’s activities and much more!

Yummy hot food from Carrabba’s Italian Grill and cold beer in the beer garden will soothe your tired feet (not really) after the event.  Runners will get a dandy goody bag, and they’re eligible to win race awards and raffle prizes.

Exercise your ability to run and your right to hike by supporting Right to Hike, Inc. at Ella’s Run on Saturday, October 18th.


Click Here to Pre-Register Through 10-15-14

Click Here for Right to Hike’s Facebook Page

The Mission of Right to Hike

In celebrating the life of Meredith Hope Emerson, friends and family have founded Right to Hike, Inc., a non-profit organization that plans to support causes that were close to Meredith’s heart, including hiking safety.  Funds will be donated to purchase emergency solar/wireless phones for greenways, parks and trailheads, as well as the support of humane societies and others.  Meredith had a love for the outdoors and we hope to continue this message, while encouraging safe travels.


About Author

Robert J. Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life in Gainesville, GA.
Robert has two adult daughters, seven practically perfect grandchildren and a zippy Kawasaki. Contact Robert at [email protected].

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