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View Full Version : Theft on the AT - 10/26 at Campsite 113 just north of Fontana in the GSMNP



madgoat
10-28-2020, 11:11
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

46870
(Venus)


46869

HooKooDooKu
10-28-2020, 13:21
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.

illabelle
10-28-2020, 14:03
Beautiful pictures!!

TNhiker
10-28-2020, 20:31
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?

madgoat
10-29-2020, 11:56
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.

madgoat
10-29-2020, 11:59
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.

martinb
10-29-2020, 16:52
Has this guy been caught?

https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php/136884-SC-Murder-Suspect

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

TNhiker
10-29-2020, 22:43
Has this guy been caught?





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

but not in the smokies......

https://www.foxcarolina.com/news/coroner-human-remains-identified-as-suspect-wanted-in-deadly-february-park-shooting/article_0090c384-d592-11ea-81a7-c70a5a84b261.html

TNhiker
10-29-2020, 22:49
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.........

JNI64
10-29-2020, 22:58
he was not caught-----he was found dead.......

but not in the smokies......

https://www.foxcarolina.com/news/coroner-human-remains-identified-as-suspect-wanted-in-deadly-february-park-shooting/article_0090c384-d592-11ea-81a7-c70a5a84b261.html

Good ole karma it will get ya!!

stephanD
10-30-2020, 08:09
They say Birch Springs Gap shelter is haunted. I wouldn't stay there this weekend:dance

LazyLightning
10-30-2020, 09:12
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.

rmitchell
10-30-2020, 09:17
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.

madgoat
10-30-2020, 10:51
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.

blue indian
10-30-2020, 11:10
They say Birch Springs Gap shelter is haunted. I wouldn't stay there this weekend:dance



Tell me more....!

TNhiker
10-30-2020, 12:26
They say Birch Springs Gap shelter is haunted. I wouldn't stay there this weekend:dance



well....

they tore the shelter down...

so there's that....

TNhiker
10-30-2020, 12:30
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.....

stephanD
10-30-2020, 13:10
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. :-?

HooKooDooKu
10-30-2020, 21:34
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.

TNhiker
10-31-2020, 00:36
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......

madgoat
11-03-2020, 14:53
An update. A ranger contacted me today to let me know there have been further reports in the area, so they are starting to look into this a bit more. If you are in the Smokies, keep your eyes peeled and a close watch on your stuff.

No Match
11-03-2020, 22:29
An update. A ranger contacted me today to let me know there have been further reports in the area, so they are starting to look into this a bit more. If you are in the Smokies, keep your eyes peeled and a close watch on your stuff.
An obviously homeless/vagrant man sitting along the AT just outside 113, had a dog, was trying to pass out mushrooms from a very large bag of mushrooms, no supplies, water, food, nothing on Sunday morning. Its become a festering problem up and down the AT this year.

JNI64
11-04-2020, 00:09
An obviously homeless/vagrant man sitting along the AT just outside 113, had a dog, was trying to pass out mushrooms from a very large bag of mushrooms, no supplies, water, food, nothing on Sunday morning. Its become a festering problem up and down the AT this year.

Animal abuse poor dog :mad: !

JPritch
11-04-2020, 13:42
An update. A ranger contacted me today to let me know there have been further reports in the area, so they are starting to look into this a bit more. If you are in the Smokies, keep your eyes peeled and a close watch on your stuff.

Wow! I hope they catch the scumbag and they're dealt with!

LazyLightning
11-04-2020, 16:54
^^not only that but before they're dealt with "officially" I also hope that they get caught in the act and dealt with accordingly by somebody who's stuff they're trying to take...

Slo-go'en
11-05-2020, 13:48
An obviously homeless/vagrant man sitting along the AT just outside 113, had a dog, was trying to pass out mushrooms from a very large bag of mushrooms, no supplies, water, food, nothing on Sunday morning. Its become a festering problem up and down the AT this year.

Lots of unemployment and people being kicked out of their homes due to the pandemic/recession. The last time I ran into a lot of homeless/vagrant people on the trail was for a couple of years following the 08 recession.

tagg
11-06-2020, 11:08
I wouldn't be a happy camper if somebody stole my food either, but am fortunate enough that I could go resupply. I've been lucky enough in my 48 years never to know the desperation one must feel to resort to stealing bear bags in order to eat. My hope is that if I ever was in that situation someone would "deal with" me with at least a little bit of empathy and compassion.

JNI64
11-06-2020, 11:54
I wouldn't be a happy camper if somebody stole my food either, but am fortunate enough that I could go resupply. I've been lucky enough in my 48 years never to know the desperation one must feel to resort to stealing bear bags in order to eat. My hope is that if I ever was in that situation someone would "deal with" me with at least a little bit of empathy and compassion.

I'm sure 99% of the time folks would " deal with " you in a alot better way if you were to ask for help as opposed to getting caught stealing, yes?

tagg
11-06-2020, 12:19
I'm sure 99% of the time folks would " deal with " you in a alot better way if you were to ask for help as opposed to getting caught stealing, yes?

Maybe. But I've seen a lot of (seemingly) homeless people asking for help on sidewalks and street corners while people hurriedly walk past or roll up their windows and pretend they don't see them. How long do you beg without success before you make desperate decisions?

I don't condone stealing, I was simply pointing out that there are different lenses through which the situation can be viewed. In my opinion, stealing a bear bag but not gear sounds like someone who is desperate for food, and I'm just thankful I've never experienced that feeling. But I get that it's easier to get all huffy on the internet about what should happen to the person instead of taking the time to consider what might drive one to do such a thing.

JNI64
11-06-2020, 12:48
Yeah I get ya tagg, and I concur with point of view. It's tough out there for alot people.

LazyLightning
11-06-2020, 19:34
Well the people on street corners tend to get a bad rep since most just turn and go right to the package store or for drugs... and a lot of them wont even except food or you offering to get them something - just $$ for drugs/alcohol. I'm sure not every one but a large portion and then you have the ones that have $$ and are making themselves look homeless. Around here they offer people in need to help work at a soup kitchen or something but most deny all that and stand on the street corners... I'm not saying every one is like that but you have to understand why they have a bad rep and people ignore them.... you can't just expect people to have sympathy, gotta see both sides of that view to. Then that's no way to justify stealing stuff either, A lot of people have the physical ability to do something besides beg and don't and a lot are offered some kind of help but still rather stand on the corner begging trying to make people feel bad instead.

Hurting for food is no justification for stealing somebody else's... what about the person your stealing from in the back country possibly just turning the page and putting them in the same position. How many backpackers eat real good every day and have extra food to spare they aren't counting on....

I wouldn't wish upon anybody being seriously hurt but a good old butt kicking is exactly what anybody stealing somebody else's food out in the back country deserves!

rickb
11-07-2020, 08:38
W


I wouldn't be a happy camper if somebody stole my food either, but am fortunate enough that I could go resupply. I've been lucky enough in my 48 years never to know the desperation one must feel to resort to stealing bear bags in order to eat. My hope is that if I ever was in that situation someone would "deal with" me with at least a little bit of empathy and compassion.

Well put.

Also good to remember that a significant percentage of homeless have significant/scary mental health issues and perhaps backgrounds a wee bit rougher than our own.

Empathy is great ó and there is no shortage of people out there who need help, whether we come upon them or not ó but so to is being smart and staying safe.

While the AT may seem like the safest place in America (it is not) best to minimize personal interaction, report the situation, and put distance between you and just about anything that doesnít feel right.

Just my opinion. If thatís makes me a @#$&@, so be it.

JNI64
11-07-2020, 10:33
Well the people on street corners tend to get a bad rep since most just turn and go right to the package store or for drugs... and a lot of them wont even except food or you offering to get them something - just $$ for drugs/alcohol. I'm sure not every one but a large portion and then you have the ones that have $$ and are making themselves look homeless. Around here they offer people in need to help work at a soup kitchen or something but most deny all that and stand on the street corners... I'm not saying every one is like that but you have to understand why they have a bad rep and people ignore them.... you can't just expect people to have sympathy, gotta see both sides of that view to. Then that's no way to justify stealing stuff either, A lot of people have the physical ability to do something besides beg and don't and a lot are offered some kind of help but still rather stand on the corner begging trying to make people feel bad instead.

Hurting for food is no justification for stealing somebody else's... what about the person your stealing from in the back country possibly just turning the page and putting them in the same position. How many backpackers eat real good every day and have extra food to spare they aren't counting on....

I wouldn't wish upon anybody being seriously hurt but a good old butt kicking is exactly what anybody stealing somebody else's food out in the back country deserves!

This is well put as well.

No matter what there's no excuse for stealing what doesn't belong to you. And if you get caught you might just get what you deserve a hard lesson learned. Like that last sentence explains.