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  1. #1
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    Default GSMNP avoiding shelters?

    I've done all of the NC & TN portion of the trail except for the park. I have hip issues that makes sleeping on the ground impossible. The pain is unbearable even with a good pad. I thought my backpacking days were over until I discovered hammocks. So, is it possible to do the park hammock camping and stay out of the shelters?
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    Quote Originally Posted by DownYonder View Post
    I've done all of the NC & TN portion of the trail except for the park. I have hip issues that makes sleeping on the ground impossible. The pain is unbearable even with a good pad. I thought my backpacking days were over until I discovered hammocks. So, is it possible to do the park hammock camping and stay out of the shelters?


    not really...

    unless you drop off the AT down to another campsite that permit it...

    or if you are hiking 50 miles prior and 50 miles afterwards all continuous...........and the shelter happens to be full....

    hammocks cannot be hung inside shelters...............they can be used at shelter sites only if shelter is full and one is a thru hiker....

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    not really...

    unless you drop off the AT down to another campsite that permit it...

    or if you are hiking 50 miles prior and 50 miles afterwards all continuous...........and the shelter happens to be full....

    hammocks cannot be hung inside shelters...............they can be used at shelter sites only if shelter is full and one is a thru hiker....
    What he said. Never thought about a disability or "doctor's note," though. Might ask the Backcountry Ranger Office?
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    Never thought about a disability or "doctor's note," though. Might ask the Backcountry Ranger Office?


    i would tend to say that they would also say no go....

    after all, hiking is an option....

    they could just say "well, if you're that way, stay at home then".....

    i can't really see them bending the rules because it would just start the pandora's box of people getting excuses...

    there's already enough people trying to skirt the issue as it is.....

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    but, what do i know......

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    People hike all 800 miles on the park without camping in the backcountry .

    By doing some long days you could exit and start back at Cosby, Tremont and Cades Cove.

    Your total miles would be over 100 as opposed to 70 but you could sleep in a hammock at a campground or in a motel room.
    Last edited by rmitchell; 07-21-2019 at 00:00.

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    Speaking as a disability lawyer, I would get a letter from a licensed MD confirming this, and then contact the Park HQ. Direct the letter/call to the Handicap Accommodation office. I suggest providing assurances that you will have non-destructive collars to tie to trees and get exact locations set out. They will have very appropriate safety concerns about scavenging animals where you set up, including bears, so you should address those concerns up front. Frankly, speaking as a backpacker, I have some problems with it: (1) It's a dumb idea; if your bones are so bad that you can't pad yourself, it raises medical questions about whether you should be out there in the first place. (2) It sets a poor example with others in the shelters, some of whom will resent you even if they shouldn't, since you're basically getting a guaranteed spot at the shelter. (3) It's potentially dangerous, as noted. But, legally, the Park has to provide a reasonable accommodation, if you can establish medical necessity.

    TW
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  8. #8

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    I'm currently doing a flip-flop thru hike from HF. Just finished the North half st Katahdin. Will be starting from HF to Springer soon. I have not slept in a shelter yet due to hip issues, peeing too much at night, and simply being a restless sleeper when hiking. I will get through the Smokies. Here are some ideas:

    1) Don't expect to sleep. Sit there and read on your phone, take a short catnap maybe. Rest. The problem is other people in the shelter will hate that you aren't laying still.

    2) slackpack it. Hardest section is Clingman's Dome to Fontana Dam. 32 miles I can get done, but the 12,000 feet of total decline here is a knee killer. Might be at my limit on that one.

    3) Create an itinerary that gets you done another trail and either off the trail or to a legal campsite. If someone has figured out the most efficient solution and can post it here I would be appreciative.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rmitchell View Post
    People hike all 800 miles on the park without camping in the backcountry .

    By doing some long days you could exit and start back at Cosby, Tremont and Cades Cove.

    Your total miles would be over 100 as opposed to 70 but you could sleep in a hammock at a campground or in a motel room.
    This would be my preferred tactic. I have no desire to have special privileges or skirt the rules. If anyone has done the alternate route, I would love to see the exact route!! Thanks
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
    What he said. Never thought about a disability or "doctor's note," though. Might ask the Backcountry Ranger Office?
    Interestingly, the privy at Ice Water Spring shelter has handicapped accessible seat, hand holds and signage in it.
    But I never noticed a 3 mile ramp from Newfound Gap.

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    An anti-shelter friend of mine was telling me of his Smokies AT trips, all done at peak thru hiker season in order to avoid having to stay in the shelters. Its a calculated crapshoot, but probably your best shot. Worked for him. My guess is that if there are one or two nights where it doesn't work, you take your chances on getting caught and potentially pay whatever fine there is. Price you pay for comfort and completing the hike you want, right?
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  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by DownYonder View Post
    I have hip issues that makes sleeping on the ground impossible. The pain is unbearable even with a good pad.
    Have you tried any of the thicker (> 4") inflatable pads available? I sleep rather well on a 2.5" pad, but a thicker pad (Big Agnes makes a couple of lines rated at 4.25") is even more comfortable, and it makes the difference between a restless night and a good night's sleep for my wife.


    Quote Originally Posted by DownYonder View Post
    If anyone has done the alternate route, I would love to see the exact route!! Thanks
    If you're not insisting on hiking a continuous footpath, on consecutive days, and always getting a good night's sleep, it's not too difficult to finish the route with minimal (or even no) overnights. Plan your trip for long summer days with a full or nearly-full moon. Pick days like Monday or Tuesday, when there are fewer hikers at the shelters. Factor in rest days between longer hikes.

    Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap is ~31 miles (Tricorner Knob shelter is about half way), and could even be done in one long day. Dropping off-trail to a backcountry campsite isn't really feasible on this section.

    Clingmans Dome to Newfound Gap (~8 miles) is never far from the road.

    Clingmans Dome to Fontana Dam is ~33 miles (Spence or Russell Field shelter are both about half way), and can also be done as a long one-day hike. Dropping down to a backcountry campsite (e.g. 9 or 10) is feasible, but not really necessary.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by scope View Post
    ... Its a calculated crapshoot, but probably your best shot. ... you take your chances on getting caught and potentially pay whatever fine there is. Price you pay for comfort and completing the hike you want, right?
    From the WhiteBlaze User Agreement: "4. Discussions involving how to commit illegal acts ... are forbidden."

    The OP has said he doesn't even intend to skirt the rules. Good for him.
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    I grew up in Waynesville and have hiked the entire stretch in segments multiple times. But that was 50 years ago, so doing the Park is something that I would like to do again. I would never break the rules!! Unfortunately, even 2 good pads does not help. I've been in PT for several months and I no longer have pain while hiking. But the minute I lay down, the pain is extreme.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
    From the WhiteBlaze User Agreement: "4. Discussions involving how to commit illegal acts ... are forbidden."

    The OP has said he doesn't even intend to skirt the rules. Good for him.
    So, first of all, the idea of hiking in prime thru hiker season (nobo) to avoid staying in shelters isn't a legal issue - let's just clarify that for future ref. I presume, the "apologize later" notion of paying a fine if nec. is the reason for your response. Please consider that this person has a potentially legit reason for avoiding use of the shelter and may or may not be qualified to do so by a ranger in the moment. Hopefully beforehand, but if not, and if attempting an AT thru during said season, and given the somewhat unlikely possibility that the shelter might not be full, it may very well be construed by said ranger that the OP made a reasonable attempt to hike the AT through GSMNP when he had the best chance of not having to use a shelter. If the shelter is half full, maybe not, and that is the major risk. In the likelihood that the shelter is mostly full, the ranger may give him a pass being that in spirit of regulation and allowance, he attempted to hike the AT through the smokies at the best opportunity to avoid hard-floored shelters due to health reasons. Of course, this being that presence of said ranger is presumed.

    While I couldn't disagree if you said the OP would have to stay in a shelter if room and if enforced to do so by ranger, my guess is that the ranger also gives the option of not staying in the shelter and paying a fine if indeed that is his/her/they're decision. As worst case scenario. Ultimately, the rangers don't want folks regularly staying outside the shelters due mostly to bear reasons, but of course, this circumstance happens routinely during that particular season. So at the end of the day, a ranger allowing this to happen during a period of time when it mostly does happen is not unfathomable. Therefore, my post is not about doing something illegal, but rather, taking advantage of allowances during peak season and knowing the potential for various outlier circumstances. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. You're welcome to advise the OP differently, but no need to quote me. I don't see this as advisement of how to flaunt the rules, but rather the best way to accommodate needs given both the rules and allowances in place.
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  16. #16
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    Given the crowds I've seen at GSMNP shelters during the spring time bubble, it shouldn't be too difficult to find yourself at full shelters every night and there for be able to legally hang a hammock as rules treat hammock hangers the same at tents.
    However, the only ones that can legally tent/hammock near the shelters are those on a thru permit. But to qualify for a thru permit, you must start and end your hike 50 miles beyond the park boundaries.
    So if you are ONLY trying to hike the GSMNP section of the AT, there is no legal way to hammock at shelters as your permit requires a reservation for each shelters you plan to stay at, and therefore you have a reservation in the shelter.

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    Again, as speaking as an attorney, many may not realize that a citation from a Ranger is a written CRIMINAL notice of a violation of Title 18 of the United States (Criminal) Code that must be responded to IN PERSON before a Magistrate Judge at a United States District Court (found only in major cities that are rarely near parks), or by hiring an attorney (my fees for Federal Court land cases, and I've had several, start at $500). Sometimes even with an attorney a personal appearance is required on a set hearing date weeks later that you have no control over. These are also criminal cases, prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys and fines are not trivial, usually exceeding $250. If you are visiting the US (e.g. from Canada), you may be later denied re-entry to the US, and such a violation can constitute grounds for an order for removal from the US, i.e. deportation. Your violation will be logged into PACER, the federal court case registry, and found by anyone (including employers, colleges or pretty much anyone who wants to) easily.

    These aren't traffic tickets, folks, or parking citations. Like it or not, violation of NPS camping regulations (including "stealth camping") can have lifelong and serious implications. Don't take your chances on a "sympathetic" Ranger who will ignore non-compliance. LEO Rangers don't keep their jobs by ignoring the law. You shouldn't either.

    TW
    Last edited by The Weasel; 07-21-2019 at 14:28.
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    Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap is ~31 miles (Tricorner Knob shelter is about half way), and could even be done in one long day. Dropping off-trail to a backcountry campsite isn't really feasible on this section.


    actually this stretch is one that does lend to dropping down to another campsite that is not located on the AT...

    its the easiest one---just drop down to CS 29....

    its not that steep and not that far....

    still going to be adding miles on but this is the shortest way to get from the AT to a non AT campsite...

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    let's just clarify that for future ref. I presume, the "apologize later" notion of paying a fine if nec. is the reason for your response.


    thats the part that violates the user agreement....

    you are suggesting that one breaks the law but is ok with the consequences....


    also, keep in mind---say this does happen and a ranger comes along---not only can a ranger write a ticket--they could also escort the person out....

    would kinda suck to hike all day---get comfortable illegally---then escorted off the trail maybe at nighttime...

    and walk away with a ticket...

  20. #20

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    Hikers tend to hit the sack early. Wait just a bit, most will be sound asleep. Then walk over to the overflow area and set up for the night.
    I did the northern end of GSMNP 2 weeks ago. One shelter had at least 3 tents set up around and it looked like plenty of room in the shelter when I walked past. That evening I tried to sleep in the next shelter but could not (severe sleep apnea) so I set up in the overflow area 25 yds away. One gentlemen came out and looked at me funny so I explained to him if I sleep in the shelter no one else will. He nodded and said I was doing them a favor. I responded I was doing it for all of us. He wished me a good evening and went back inside.
    I did wonder what would happen if a Ranger wandered by in the middle of the night. Would he force me back in? Would he accept the medical and social reasoning I would explain to him, Would I be arrested, handcuffed and marched out? Amazingly most LEOs are human and do understand sometimes things are different and need to be dealt with differently.
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