Hiker, interrupted: AT trip delayed a year

Just five months ago, Margaret Jackson thought her plan to hike the Appalachian Trail was a sure bet so sure that she quit her job and spent her savings on trail mix and camping supplies. Then, her $150,000 loan fell through. Undeterred, Jackson vowed to press on and planned to start her hike in June. Now, Jackson says the hike will have to wait until next year.

As was detailed in a May 29 Hook cover story "Unhappy Camper," Jackson blames the delay on her would-be benefactor Will Morrell, a local man with a taste for the finer things in life. Camped out at 917 Rugby Road in the gracious house once owned by William Faulkner, Morrell was digging himself deeper and deeper into trouble when he and Margaret crossed paths.

(Evicted in April from the house by Gibson Management Group, Morrell also had multiple civil judgments against him, and several other claims pending.)

Jackson, whose smoker-to-fitness-poster girl story is commonly used in testimonial ads for ACAC health club, says she had the full support of the club when she decided to salvage her trip with a fundraiser to benefit Habitat for Humanity.

But she says she couldn't raise the personal funds to cover her expenses, and she was uncomfortable taking donations for her personal use.

Though Jackson won her judgment against Morrell, it was for a meager $750 the amount she had actually handed him to negotiate a contract for a book about her hike. Never having seen a penny of that, and with time ticking on, Jackson decided to postpone her trip until next year.

"It was getting too late in the year to complete the whole thing," she explains. Putting it off until next year allows her to stick to the itinerary she had planned, including a mid-March departure date. Her trail mix will keep, she says, and in the meantime, she says, she's staying busy.

"I've already hiked the entire Shenandoah National Park," Jackson says. Now she's turned tour guide. She'll stay in shape by leading inexperienced hikers on overnight treks on the sections of the AT that traverse the Park.

She's also turned her sights skyward, working at a Market Street star map business called Indigo Nights. A successful graphic designer who most recently worked at Photoworks, Jackson says she helps the company complete exact representations of the night sky for a particular time and place; birthdays, she says, are especially popular. On weekends, Jackson can be found serving wine at Barboursville Vineyards.

Meanwhile, Will Morrell has also found gainful employment, selling cars at Pegasus. Although he told The Hook last month that he has every intention of paying Jackson her $750, she says she still hasn't heard from him.

Morrell did not return The Hook's calls.

Jackson, however, maintains that the money from Morrell is not the important thing.

"All he'd have to do," she claims, "is apologize."