Every once in a while, a little BACKPACKER back-patting is in order. Such is the case this week, as BACKPACKER's writer-at-large Steve Friedman took the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism 2008 Gold Medal in the Travel News/Investigative reporting category for his April 2007 story "The Long Trail to Jail."
"The Long Trail to Jail" follows the strange saga of David "Saved" Lescoe, a convicted criminal who either found a spiritual awakening on the Appalachian Trail or used wilderness as refuge from the law. From the story:
Is Lescoe a good man who fell on bad times, or a bad man who preyed on the goodness of others? Was he drawn to the Lizella Baptist Church because he needed to confess his sins, or because he wanted to hide from those he had sinned against? Did the AT provide a weary and beleaguered man the bracing tonic of the wild, or a leafy hideout? For his entire life, Lescoe seems to have provoked troubling questions in the people who knew him. During the summer and fall of 2004, Lescoe provoked love, too. And burning anger. Men and women from New Jersey to Georgia sought his capture. Others prayed for his soul. Some did both.
He left Woonsocket, Rhode Island, on July 14, 2004, drove his Chevy Cavalier to a patch of dirt north of New York City, and started hiking. He says he was "possessed," that he had been recently plagued by nightmares, "two actual demons coming through a mirror reaching out to grab me."
You can read "The Long Trail to Jail" in its entirety by clicking the link. Once again, congrats, Steve!