Jessie Hoover read a “National Geographic” article that inspired the 54-year-old widow to go on a journey of self-discovery. She decided she would hike the Appalachian Trail, starting in Maine.
“What had happened is that this Jessie Hoover had lost her husband and she was very depressed, so her family tells me, and she decided that she would hike the Appalachian Trail,” said David Sewall, a retired sergeant with the Maine Game Wardens who investigated the disappearance.
“Now, here is a lady who is ... obviously overweight, absolutely nothing for equipment,” he said.
“She takes a bus in from Boston to Millinocket, then she gets a taxi to take her up to Baxter,” Sewall said. “She wants to start at the top of the [Katahdin] mountain and they refuse her because they [determine] she's not equipped for it.”
“So now, she takes a taxi to get up to Abol Bridge, which is out of the park but the Appalachian Trail crosses there,” the former game warden recalls. “The gate tender remembers [her] but then she starts into the woods and that was the last anybody saw her.”
She entered the 100-Mile Wilderness on or around May 20, 1983.
“From Katahdin to Monson is a bad area,” Sewall said, describing the terrain. “She didn't have any equipment at all.”
People who saw her last said Hoover was wearing jeans, a windbreaker and a backpack, and only had beef jerky to eat.
Hoover's sister from White Settlement, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth, reported her missing on July 11, after not hearing from her.
“A few days before that we had a lost hiker right in the same place, right in and around Rainbow [trail], and we had a huge, huge search,” Sewall said. “We did a huge search right in the same area that Jessie would have been, because I don't think she went too far.”
The male hiker was found, but searchers found zero trace of Hoover, he said.
“We contacted people but nobody saw nor heard from her again,” Sewall said in a thick Maine accent.
“I think about her all the time, but I know what the result is, so it isn't something I have any questions about,” the retired game warden said. “You know, in my own mind she got lost, she wasn't prepared, didn't have proper food or tent and whatnot, so she perished in the Maine woods.”