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  1. #1
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    Default Theft on the AT - 10/26 at Campsite 113 just north of Fontana in the GSMNP

    Heads up to all in the area.

    We were finishing up a 5 day loop in the GSMNP. Our last night of the trip was Monday 10/26 and we were staying at Backcountry Campsite 113 (Birch Springs Gap) on the AT. This is about 5 miles northbound from Fontana Dam. When we broke camp at 5am (to get to Shuckstack for sunrise, which was flipping awesome) we noticed all 4 of our food bags were gone from the bear cables. We always use a carabiner to clip our food to the cables instead of using the hooks because some bears have learned to shake the cables until the treats drop. As we were leaving the campsite around 6am, we noticed 2 of our food bags placed neatly by a log on the trail. However, the thief made off with a blue DCF roll top zpacks food bag, a soto windmaster stove, 50' of yellow bear bag line, an orange sea to summit spoon (which I love dearly), a white lexan spoon, a stainless steel mug, a green gsi infinity mug, some trail mix, 9 breakfast bars, and sundry toothbrushes, toothpaste, loose tea, instant coffee packets, fire starters, and drink mixes. We didn't notice any noises or lights through the night, but due to the nature of the campsite, we were camped a good ways uphill from the bear bag lines and the entry to the campsite. We were in our tents from ~10pm-5am.

    There were 2 other people staying in the campsite, and their packs were undisturbed.

    If you are hiking in the same general area, keep on the lookout. Most likely this person was just after food, and they got very little from us since all we had left was a small bag of target sweet cajun trail mix and 9 breakfast bars, because the two bags he left behind had some really nice titanium pots and mugs in them. Probably a homeless person, or somebody pilfering their way along the trail. Doubtful that it was somebody who parked down at Fontana just to climb uphill for 5 miles to steal a couple food bags.

    I reported this to the GSMNP backcountry office this morning. GSMNP said they had no similar reports in the area yet, but that they usually see a pattern that helps them track down the person.

    Perhaps somebody who was hiking norhtbound from 113 may have found some of our gear left along the trail. If so, please send me a message. Not a big deal, because its just stuff. But it would be good to get it back. More important that others be on the lookout.

    Takeaway #1 - We have been backpacking in the GSMNP for 23+ years and have never had anything like this happen.
    Takeaway #2 - Super happy that we were on our last night of our trip, so we could finish out what we had planned. Would have been a bummer to have to cut a trip short due to someone stealing our food.
    Takeaway #3 - Great views from High Rocks and Rocky Top. Truly blessed to see such a clear magnificent display of stars and sunrise on Tuesday morning at Shuckstack. "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Psalms 19:1

    IMG_20201027_071755095.jpg
    (Venus)


    IMG_20201027_075617095.jpg
    Last edited by madgoat; 10-28-2020 at 11:37.

  2. #2
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    Homeless person? I doubt. That's a pretty good ways into the park in an area that is pretty remote.
    Ginseng poacher? Now is harvest time... and I've run into a poacher at the bottom of that hill along Twenty Mile trail before.

  3. #3
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    Beautiful pictures!!

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    Probably a homeless person, or somebody pilfering their way along the trail. Doubtful that it was somebody who parked down at Fontana just to climb uphill for 5 miles to steal a couple food bags


    these two sentences kinda contradict themselves.....



    there's no way that a homeless person would go to a remote place like the dam and then
    hike a few miles just to get what 20-30 dollars worth of food.....

    that would just not make sense.....

    you even realize this in the second sentence......


    and for the most part----the smokies doesnt have many homeless people that go to it.........

    the Park is patrolled fairly frequent and one cannot camp (both front and back country) for that long of a time.....

    and i would gather that the tourists that come would make complaints if there were homeless people around....

    the national forests that surround the Park are more subject to homeless people.....

    one can stay there longer and not patrolled as much.......



    besides that---how did you like 113?

    i found it to be one of the best campsites in the Park...

    love the way it's laid out...

    and it's been years since i stayed up there----but aren't there bear cables in the camping pad areas?

    or are they just where the shelter foundation is at?

  5. #5
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    My reasoning may not have been fully explained in my wording above. Bear with me. I doubt it was a person who parked down at Fontana and hiked up a strenuous trail in the middle of the night with the intent to score some food bags. The fact they left an expensive titanium pot and mug behind in favor of food suggests it wasn't a person who was after monetary value. Further, they didn't bother the two packs on the other bear lines, which would have been much easier to carry out. There are far too many campsites that are closer to roads that allow for easier access if the thief had a car.

    On the other hand, I have ran into a couple of folks on the AT in Virginia that were definitely not your traditional hikers. They appeared to be squatting at shelters and mooching/pilfering all they needed to stay on the trail. One in particular told me straight up that he was homeless. I have read Trail Journals that have had a few accounts of similar folk. So maybe my wording didn't express what I meant, but I have a feeling that the person who took my stuff probably was homeless and was using the AT as their home, or a vagrant "hiker" with very limited financial means. They probably have a good deal of knowledge about the AT that allows them to mooch and steal from unsuspecting hikers, and then move on before they get caught or those around them wise up to the scam.

    The GSMNP person I spoke with said that it was probably a homeless person or a vagrant, after I told him just the facts of what happened without me telling him my theory. Anyway, I just hope nobody has to cut a hike short because this person steals their food on the first day of a trip.

    Illabelle, thank you. I took them on a cheapo cell phone. What an absolutely beautiful sunrise we got to witness. It seems so rare to have a really clear morning. But if we weren't up on the tower, we would have probably been in thick mist. Just spectacular. It really changed the mood of our day. At 6am, we were greatly annoyed that our stuff was stolen. From 7am on though, we were gapemouthed at the constellations changing to a spectacular misty sunrise. A rare opportunity.

    TNhikier, I loved the layout of the campsite. I remember staying at Birch Springs Gap Shelter back some 23 years ago and it felt like a dank dark hole. The fire pit area was a muddy mess and seemed to merge with the spring out front. This is the first time I have stayed at the campsite, and I liked the layout of the dispersed campsites along the hillsides because they were separated from each other. I was thankful that it wasn't raining though, because the two tent areas we set up on in the south side of the camp had dished tent areas that look like they would hold water in a shower. Otherwise, a very pleasant arrangement for privacy and a neat feeling of being perched on the side of the slope.

  6. #6
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    TNhiker, there were 3 sets of bear cables all down around where the old shelter was. 1 set was just up the south path leading to the campsites on the south side of the gap. This is the one our stuff was on. 2 sets of lines are a bit closer to the campsites on the north side of the gap, and those are a bit closer to the campsite locations on the north side.

  7. #7

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    Has this guy been caught?

    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthr...Murder-Suspect

    Never had a problem is GSMNP backcountry, except for the odd camp bear.

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    Has this guy been caught?




    he was not caught-----he was found dead.......

    but not in the smokies......

    https://www.foxcarolina.com/news/cor...a5a84b261.html

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    I remember staying at Birch Springs Gap Shelter back some 23 years ago and it felt like a dank dark hole.


    that's why they tore it down....

    since it got so dank, the roof got a pretty thick layer of dirt on it.....

    and things were growing outta it pretty good........

    and yeah, that's what i like about the place-----i dont like the pads (but see that it's needed for the AT) but
    the way it's space out is great....

    and views of gregory's can be seen (at least in winter)....

    and i like how the shelter foundation can be used for a central place to have campfire and what not.....

    i was the only one that was up there one winter, so i had the run of the mill...

    i set up on the pads that were past the foundation but checked them all out
    and picked the one as it had a view of gregory's when i opened my tent door...

    and then i used foundation area for my fire and hanging out.........

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    he was not caught-----he was found dead.......

    but not in the smokies......

    https://www.foxcarolina.com/news/cor...a5a84b261.html
    Good ole karma it will get ya!!
    Last edited by JNI64; 10-29-2020 at 23:56.

  11. #11

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    They say Birch Springs Gap shelter is haunted. I wouldn't stay there this weekend

  12. #12
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    This is the first campsite on the AT heading north right?

    Me and another guy spent a good half hour chasing a bear away that just kept keeping his distance and coming back when we left it alone. I finally chased it up over the ridge. A couple people came in after dark and said they just saw a bear up there that made some noise when they passed. A few days later I heard they closed the site cause of a bear problem. It was late march 2018 when I stayed, never forget that night. My first bear sighting ever was a mother and 3 cubs 1-2 hours before I got to the campsite.
    NoDoz
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    I'm just one too many mornings and 1,000 miles behind

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by madgoat View Post
    Heads up to all in the area.
    .



    I reported this to the GSMNP backcountry office this morning. GSMNP said they had no similar reports in the area yet, but that they usually see a pattern that helps them track down the person.


    Takeaway #1 - We have been backpacking in the GSMNP for 23+ years and have never had anything like this happen.


    Very unusual!

    Typically the problem is just the opposite...food and equipment left behind by some not willing to pack it out.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by rmitchell View Post
    Very unusual!

    Typically the problem is just the opposite...food and equipment left behind by some not willing to pack it out.
    Funny you should say that. We were at Spence Field Shelter on Monday night. Somebody had left a pack on the bear lines, a heavy inflatable mat, some green coleman propane canisters, and miscellaneous other gear. Saw somebody had left an old tent at Russel Field when we passed by. And campsite 83 had a couple cotton shirts and some tacticool camo shorts laying about.

    In the past, we found an entire (illegal) campsite abandoned at the intersection of Forney Ridge and Springhouse Branch Trails, complete with pitched tent and various clothing and gear littered about. Not sure what that one was about, but it was reported to the rangers.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by stephanD View Post
    They say Birch Springs Gap shelter is haunted. I wouldn't stay there this weekend


    Tell me more....!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by stephanD View Post
    They say Birch Springs Gap shelter is haunted. I wouldn't stay there this weekend


    well....

    they tore the shelter down...

    so there's that....

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    Typically the problem is just the opposite...food and equipment left behind by some not willing to pack it out



    or a day hiker sees stuff hanging from the cables and think's someone has abandoned it so they take it out thinking it's trash or what not....

    when in reality, it could have been hung because owner was out on a day hike and didnt want to carry full pack....


    but, that shouldn't of happened at the that time in the morning which madgoat said they realized it was gone....


    that's a big fear of mine in the Park----especially when the Park has become increasingly more busy with people-------leaving my stuff
    at a campsite to go on a dayhike or fish or what not, just to come back to find bag and maybe even tent that i left up gone.....

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by blue indian View Post
    Tell me more....!
    Apologies for straying from the original thread but, in the spirit of Halloween, a fellow hiker told me about a shelter in the Smokies where a hiker was killed by a bear years ago and since it is thought to be hunted. I think it was actually Icewater Spring shelter.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    that's a big fear of mine in the Park----especially when the Park has become increasingly more busy with people-------leaving my stuff
    at a campsite to go on a dayhike or fish or what not, just to come back to find bag and maybe even tent that i left up gone.....
    Agreed.
    A hike I've done is to park at the Cataloochee entrance and hike the Divide trail to #41. Then stay at #41 for two or three night doing loops on Hemphill, Rough Fork, and Big Fork. Even though I was going to be at the same campsite at the start and the end of the day, I was unwilling to leave any gear behind while I was off on a 10 to 13 mile hike.

  20. #20
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    Then stay at #41 for two or three night doing loops on Hemphill, Rough Fork, and Big Fork. Even though I was going to be at the same campsite at the start and the end of the day, I was unwilling to leave any gear behind while I was off on a 10 to 13 mile hike.



    yeah......

    no way would i leave stuff there.....

    too easy to get to and too much foot traffic going by it......

    it wasn't too bad before the elk came in but that valley really changed after that....

    i would go down there back in the late 90's on holiday weekends and see maybe ten cars not counting
    the ones in the campground.......

    now...........

    shoot.....

    it's cades cove junior......

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