Jessie Albertine Hoover, Disappeared May 16th, 1983, 100 mile wilderness, south of Baxter State Park, Appalachian Trail, Maine
On November 5, 1982, Jessie Hoover's husband, Eugene, was killed when he was hit by a car. The loss of her husband after 35 years of marriage was tough for her and soon after she began to talk about hiking the Appalachian Trail, from Maine to Georgia. Years before she had seen an article in the National Geographic Magazine about the famous trek.
Although her family was worried about her plans she was adamant that the trail was feasible for a woman of her age. She created a detailed itinerary of when she would arrive at major stops along the trail to pick up supplies and wire for money. She even made plans with her doctor to get refills of her epilepsy medication.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is about 2,200 miles long, though the exact length changes over time as parts are modified or rerouted. Between 2 million and 3 million people hike the Appalachian Trail every year, with around 10 percent of through-hikers starting in Maine, usually in June when the weather has improved. Only a quarter ever finish and according to a 2012 warden service search and rescue report, 1 percent of all people who go missing in the Maine woods are never found.
In May 1983, she headed out towards Maine and to the 100-Mile Wilderness, to the south of Baxter State Park. This wilderness area is so remote that hikers are warned to carry at least eight to 10 days’ worth of food on this part of the journey.
After Jessie failed to call the family to report her progress on the Trail, they reported her missing to the warden service who started a search about six weeks after she left. However, the investigation report says Jessie was woefully unprepared with light clothing and only beef jerky for sustenance.
Unlike Geraldine Largay who also went missing in the same area in 2013 and whose body was found in her tent two years later, Jessie Hoover's case got little or no media attention at the time.
Searchers found that she had tried to climb Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park on May 20, 1983, but rangers had warned her that the hike was not advisable given her lack of supplies or equipment. Mount Katahdin (pronounced "kə-TAH-dən") is the highest mountain in Maine at 5,267 feet (1,605 m). It was named by by the Penobscot Indians, and means "The Greatest Mountain".
At the time of Jessie's disappearance, hikers entering and leaving the 100-Mile Wilderness had to pass through the old Abol gatehouse on the Golden Road, a private road built by Great Northern Paper Co. in the early 1970's to carry logs to local mills. An attendant there remembered Hoover and that she had gone in the direction of the trailhead of the 100-Mile Wilderness on the other side of Abol Bridge. That was the first and last time the attendant saw her.
The potential search area was around 15 million acres and within it there were hundreds of miles of trail in which Jessie could have become lost. Because of the density of the trees, amount of vegetation and the fact that in some areas the main trail is not that well marked it is easy to lose your bearings and to become lost for days. Northbound Appalachian Trail hikers were questioned whether they'd seen her all summer, but none said they had.
Temperatures in May regularly hit lows in the 40's and 30's causing potential hypothermia and when Jessie disappeared there was light rain at times.
Park rangers never found a body, clothes or her blue knapsack despite having a large scale search operation in place for another hiker in the same area at the same time. Rangers said “We went over [the woods] with a fine-tooth comb. If she was there, we would have found her. We don’t ignore people in the woods.”
Over 30 years on since she disappeared, no trace of her has ever been found. Jessie was certainly ill-prepared to tackle the 100 mile wilderness in Maine, especially on a solo hike. Lots could have gone wrong - hypothermia, disorientation, running out of food, accident, seizure caused by epilepsy and maybe even foul play. Its a wild, rugged and remote place and the best advice would not be to tackle the Appalachian Trail as a solo hiker.