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  1. #1
    Registered User wolfywolfy's Avatar
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    Default Bear problem at Thomas Knob

    Listed on the ATC website "Problem Bear Activity - Mt. Rogers/Thomas Knob Shelter (05/10/2018) Problem bear activity has been reported at Thomas Knob Shelter in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in southwest Virginia, mile 498.5 from Springer Mountain, Georgia."

    In reddit found this "I did an overnight up there last night. Was camping north of the shelter near the water source at the crest trail. A guy from the ATC was going around the sites warning people about the problem bear so I made sure I had an extra good hang.

    About 1 in the morning I woke up to bear horns and people yelling "no bear, get on bear" a few campsites away. That seemed to scare it off but I did hear the horn again about an hour later. Needless to say I didn't sleep very much.

  2. #2
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    I can confirm. Camped 25 yards S of Thomas Knob shelter Sat night and saw the signs, spoke to the ridge runner. Luckily the bear did not come into our campsite, but it did get into some bags hung in the area, including making off with my campmate's Ursack forcing him off the trail to resupply. I suspect it will keep coming back nightly as it's found a consistent food supply. As popular an area as it is, it could really use some cables/poles. Good branches are very hard to come by up there as it's mostly pines and the other trees are very dry rotted. I did a less than ideal hang myself, and a determined bear could probably have made off with mine, but I guess there were even less ideal hangs than mine that night. If you plan to head up there, I'd recommend a bear can unfortunately.
    "In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks"....John Muir

  3. #3
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    I have a trip planned this coming weekend and I need to stay in the vicinity of Thomas Knob area on Saturday night. I am hiking with my four oldest children ages ranging from 17-7. I planned this weekend, thinking there will be less people on the trails because most will be at nearby Trail Days.

    I have heard about these bear issues on FB, and trying figure out my best options. Please share your opinion of my best option, and why.

    1) Try to hang anyway, even though the trees looks far less than idea for the task. Hope the bear finds a worse hang than me.
    2) Sleep with my food in tent, keep air horn handy if I hear Yogi sniffing around.
    3) Camp down the trail 0.8 at Rhododendron Gap and hope there are enough people that there is safety in numbers

  4. #4
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    2) Sleep with my food in tent, keep air horn handy if I hear Yogi sniffing around.


    i would not do this one............at all................not if there are already problem bears in the area...

    but thats just me............your safety is your safety afterall (in the style of hyoh)........

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_zavocki View Post
    I have a trip planned this coming weekend and I need to stay in the vicinity of Thomas Knob area on Saturday night. I am hiking with my four oldest children ages ranging from 17-7. I planned this weekend, thinking there will be less people on the trails because most will be at nearby Trail Days.

    I have heard about these bear issues on FB, and trying figure out my best options. Please share your opinion of my best option, and why.

    1) Try to hang anyway, even though the trees looks far less than idea for the task. Hope the bear finds a worse hang than me.
    2) Sleep with my food in tent, keep air horn handy if I hear Yogi sniffing around.
    3) Camp down the trail 0.8 at Rhododendron Gap and hope there are enough people that there is safety in numbers
    Why do you need to stay at or near Thomas Knob?
    Plenty of other places to camp in Grayson Highlands.

  6. #6
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    Starting at Beartree Gap (481.9), ending at Fox Creek (511.2). Start 3PM Friday, and hike 4.2 to Lost Mountain shelter and camp. Then 12.4 to Thomas Knob, and that leaves 12.7 for Sunday. I am hiking with my kids, and they can't do big miles. I want to make it fun for them and not a forced march.

    My 7 year old is tough and did 13.5 on the AT once in a day, but that was pushing it. There really isn't any other good option other than Rhododendron Gap which is close enough to have the same issue.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    I can confirm. Camped 25 yards S of Thomas Knob shelter Sat night and saw the signs, spoke to the ridge runner. Luckily the bear did not come into our campsite, but it did get into some bags hung in the area, including making off with my campmate's Ursack forcing him off the trail to resupply. I suspect it will keep coming back nightly as it's found a consistent food supply. As popular an area as it is, it could really use some cables/poles. Good branches are very hard to come by up there as it's mostly pines and the other trees are very dry rotted. I did a less than ideal hang myself, and a determined bear could probably have made off with mine, but I guess there were even less ideal hangs than mine that night. If you plan to head up there, I'd recommend a bear can unfortunately.
    Sunday night he made off with 4 bags, all hung PCT-style. He climbed the tree and broke off the limb. (One of the 4 was my son.) Fortunately he was able to recover all of his kitchen gear, so he just had to hike 2 miles for breakfast after cleaning up the mess.

    He said the guy at the Highlands Store hasn't been able to keep his shelf stocked because of the bear.

    I saw earlier that they're planning to trap him. The local economy is about to take a hit.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    I can confirm. Camped 25 yards S of Thomas Knob shelter Sat night and saw the signs, spoke to the ridge runner. Luckily the bear did not come into our campsite, but it did get into some bags hung in the area, including making off with my campmate's Ursack forcing him off the trail to resupply. I suspect it will keep coming back nightly as it's found a consistent food supply. As popular an area as it is, it could really use some cables/poles. Good branches are very hard to come by up there as it's mostly pines and the other trees are very dry rotted. I did a less than ideal hang myself, and a determined bear could probably have made off with mine, but I guess there were even less ideal hangs than mine that night. If you plan to head up there, I'd recommend a bear can unfortunately.
    Yeah, I've camped there several times and there is nowhere good to hang a bear bag. You're basically just advertising your food.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    I can confirm. Camped 25 yards S of Thomas Knob shelter Sat night and saw the signs, spoke to the ridge runner. Luckily the bear did not come into our campsite, but it did get into some bags hung in the area, including making off with my campmate's Ursack forcing him off the trail to resupply. I suspect it will keep coming back nightly as it's found a consistent food supply. As popular an area as it is, it could really use some cables/poles. Good branches are very hard to come by up there as it's mostly pines and the other trees are very dry rotted. I did a less than ideal hang myself, and a determined bear could probably have made off with mine, but I guess there were even less ideal hangs than mine that night. If you plan to head up there, I'd recommend a bear can unfortunately.
    Yeah, I've camped there several times and there is nowhere good to hang a bear bag. You're basically just advertising your food.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_zavocki View Post
    I have a trip planned this coming weekend and I need to stay in the vicinity of Thomas Knob area on Saturday night. I am hiking with my four oldest children ages ranging from 17-7. I planned this weekend, thinking there will be less people on the trails because most will be at nearby Trail Days.

    I have heard about these bear issues on FB, and trying figure out my best options. Please share your opinion of my best option, and why.

    1) Try to hang anyway, even though the trees looks far less than idea for the task. Hope the bear finds a worse hang than me.
    2) Sleep with my food in tent, keep air horn handy if I hear Yogi sniffing around.
    3) Camp down the trail 0.8 at Rhododendron Gap and hope there are enough people that there is safety in numbers
    4. Bring a bear cannister and quit worrying about it
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_zavocki View Post
    Starting at Beartree Gap (481.9), ending at Fox Creek (511.2). Start 3PM Friday, and hike 4.2 to Lost Mountain shelter and camp. Then 12.4 to Thomas Knob, and that leaves 12.7 for Sunday. I am hiking with my kids, and they can't do big miles. I want to make it fun for them and not a forced march.

    My 7 year old is tough and did 13.5 on the AT once in a day, but that was pushing it. There really isn't any other good option other than Rhododendron Gap which is close enough to have the same issue.
    Understood. I guess I was thinking you could do a different loop. Iíve spent 2-3 days on a 14 mike loop with my kids and wife just poking around GH and exploring every overlook.
    Anyway be safe and have fun.

  12. #12

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    I wonder if they're planning to capture and relocate it or something.

  13. #13
    MuddyWaters's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Joe View Post
    I wonder if they're planning to capture and relocate it or something.
    Probably.

    When what they should do is recognize it as a sign of overuse, close the area to camping , and institute food storage restrictions.

    Relocating Wildlife isn't the right answer, when its the people that are the problem. But that's always the easier solution, and the reason why we have so little wild lands left. Anything that is incompatible with exploitation of land gets removed. From cougars, to Grizzlies, to Native Americans, to black bears. History says it all.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 05-16-2018 at 04:13.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by KCNC View Post
    Sunday night he made off with 4 bags, all hung PCT-style. He climbed the tree and broke off the limb. (One of the 4 was my son.) Fortunately he was able to recover all of his kitchen gear, so he just had to hike 2 miles for breakfast after cleaning up the mess.

    He said the guy at the Highlands Store hasn't been able to keep his shelf stocked because of the bear.

    I saw earlier that they're planning to trap him. The local economy is about to take a hit.
    Hi KCNC,

    Can you shed light on the source where you heard this information. I would like to reach out to see if this has happened yet. I am thinking that if it is going to happen they would do it soon. After Trail Days ends, there will be a large number of hikers heading through next Monday - Wednesday.

    thanks!!!

  15. #15
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    Ok, I did some calling around. First to Grayson Highlands SP and then to the Forest Service that manages the Thomas Knob area. Both times the phone was answered on the first ring by a knowledgeable person onsite (that is not something to be taked for granted, so Kudos to both).

    Both acknowledged that the trees there are not good for hanging bear bags. The lady said that continued hanging of bear bags on trees unsuitable for the task will only encourage the bear.

    They are considering trapping the bear but my take is they are still figuring out the logistics if and how they will go about it. Nothing has been done yet.

    ***However, yesterday the forest service did go up there and left some loaner bear canisters for hikers to use. A big thanks to the forest service for their timely response to this problem for us caught in the middle, while they decide on the best long term solution for the hikers and the bear. ***

  16. #16

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    A simple bear box and better LNT principles would eliminate all of this. This place, like the smokies and Roan Mountain SP get a lot of folks on their yearly "big Backpacking trip" with their trash and glamor...they tramps around for a weekend and head home for the year. Meanwhile people that use the trails all year reap the benefits of ignorance and apathetic one timers.

  17. #17
    92.8% complete Berserker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    4. Bring a bear cannister and quit worrying about it
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_zavocki View Post
    ***However, yesterday the forest service did go up there and left some loaner bear canisters for hikers to use. A big thanks to the forest service for their timely response to this problem for us caught in the middle, while they decide on the best long term solution for the hikers and the bear. ***
    Use a bear canister if you are going to stay up there (easy for me to say because I already own one). If you don't own one then maybe you can snag one of the loaners. As other have stated there are not a lot of trees to hang off of up there, and it sounds like this particular bear has become wise to the hangs anyway.
    JMT - 2013

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    A simple bear box and better LNT principles would eliminate all of this. This place, like the smokies and Roan Mountain SP get a lot of folks on their yearly "big Backpacking trip" with their trash and glamor...they tramps around for a weekend and head home for the year. Meanwhile people that use the trails all year reap the benefits of ignorance and apathetic one timers.
    I used to go up there and base camp right in that area at least once a year, and I'm shocked there hasn't been a bear problem sooner with the amount of people that go up there. So yeah, I agree that a bear box or two installed at the shelter and near the big open areas near Rhododendron Gap would likely resolve the issue.
    JMT - 2013

  19. #19
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    this was posted on FB today via the ATC...


    "Due to an increase in bear activity near Thomas Knob Shelter — including multiple instances of campers' food being taken by a bear — two new boxes have been installed for overnight storage of hiker food. While the shelter remains open for now, hikers are highly advised to camp elsewhere if possible and to make extra effort to hang their food properly in Southwest Virginia. The entire Appalachian Trail is home to black bears, and one hiker's improperly stored food can lead to negative wildlife encounters for the hikers who follow. For more information, visit "

  20. #20
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    The ATC just posted this update on their Facebook page.

    401E8824-7AFB-4B00-8687-957E936E1841.png

    Edit: Dang it TN Hiker, you beat me by 30 seconds!
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

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