Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is often viewed as a soul-searching journey, a test of will and fortitude with lasting personal growth. It can also be a place to hide from authorities.

James Hammes, who was arrested by the FBI in Demascus, Virginia recently, eluded law enforcement since 2009 in part by hiking the Appalachian Trail. He is accused of stealing $8.7 million since 1998 from a Pepsi bottling plant and in possible connection to his wife’s death.

Paul “Big Tex” Bunker, who met Hammes on the trail in 2014 with his son, said the man he knew as Bismark was never cross. In a blog post at AppalachianTrials.com about the encounter, he said it was common not to know the actual names of people they met along the way. 

“Bismark, along with his hiking companion, Hopper, were names we only heard mentioned in a positive light,” wrote Bunker, who met the pair while staying at a motel during a rainstorm where they had been resupplying.

Someone else who knew Hammes, Karl Hamburger, wrote on Facebook according to the BBC that he was more honest than most hikers he met. Hamburger ran a cabin in Maine where Hammes did “work for stay” for three years in the Fall.

“He helped build a garage here and was as meticulous and conscientious as any craftsman I’ve ever worked with,” he wrote.

Bunker wrote that he was shocked to see the man was listed as one of America’s Most Wanted, but not surprised that criminals could easily disguise themselves by hiking the Appalachian Trail. Males with beards, wearing scruffy clothes, carrying a backpack who smell bad describe just about everyone. Paying for items in cash is not unusual. Not having a job or carrying cell phone and moving around a lot are not uncommon either.

If you do choose to hike Appalachian Trail here are some tips for taking on the journey.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons