View Full Version : Bears, bears, bears....SNP overnight 8/26,27

08-31-2010, 08:12
Had the chance to sneak away for a night last week and wow - saw more bears in a 36 hr stretch than I have in 15 years of hiking in the park. Hiked from Thornton Gap to the 4H Center (with help from MV Shuttle) and I wasnt 100 yds into the park when I saw 2 huge bears sitting up in a tree. But as with most all bears I've seen in SNP they scrambled down and took off at first hearing me. And damn, there is a reason they say dont run from bears, they are FAST! Saw another one just South of Elkwallow and there are at least two if not more that seem to live in the clearing next to the Gravel Springs Hut.

Made good time to Elkwallow and took an hour for lunch and a blackberry shake. Met a SOBO hiker there who had flipflopped and seemed to be enjoying a nap under a tree. Got into GSH @ 430 or so. Left early and was at the 4H Center by 1p Friday.

Trail seemed in good shape overall. There are a few spots in that area where IMO it could be better marked but nothing major.

Springs seemed to be hit or miss. A couple I visited were barely running or not usable at all. Stayed at Gravel Springs and that one was fine. So I thought initially I would be carrying too much water but that turned out to be a good idea.

GSH was in good shape. There was a sign there that I'd not seen at any of the huts before - that "all backcountry huts" are for people who are out for "3 nights or more". Two of the three of us that ended up staying there were only out for one night and we agreed not to turn ourselves in. Had set up my tent and was carrying it up to the campsite when I ran into my first bear - so threw the tent into the shelter and tried to wait him out. Also saw them that night and the next morning in the clearing. You could also hear them flipping over rocks and clawing at trees just outside the clearing.

Also heard a few coyotes howling at the full moon Thursday night. That was pretty cool.

Overall a great couple days, couldnt have asked for better weather.

09-08-2010, 09:56
Thanks for sharing! I'm planning to do Thornton Gap north to Front Royal next weekend. I'm pretty excited about the strong possibility of seeing bears. It sounds like the SNP bears are pretty used to humans and are more of a nuisance than anything else... that being said, is there any reason to bring bear-spray or similar? Is simply keeping your distance, hanging your food/trash, and understanding that bears are not to be trifled with enough in SNP?

Many Walks
09-08-2010, 10:56
Dcmidnight, I know what you're talking about. On our thru we were in the park all of 10 minutes and a very large healthy male came crashing down the hill and crossed the trail right in front of us. He looked our direction and kept on running. It sounded like someone was driving a pickup truck through the timber crashing and hitting everything along the way. We would start hiking at first light and had several single bears and moms with cubs come crashing down out of trees right next to the trail hit the ground and running away as we approached. That was always a sight to behold. It was like raining bears. One time two young bears came running down the trail and veered off when they were close to us and kept running over the hill. We saw bears in a lot of other places, but they are thick in the SNP. Glad you were able to see them. It is quite an experience.

09-08-2010, 11:05
Yeah it is *very* cool seeing bears in the wilderness in *their* environment.

IMO there is no need for bear spray unless it will make you feel better. And if it makes you feel safer than by all means bring it. On my hike there was always a good breeze going so with the spray you'd have to hope you didnt spray into the wind and paralyze yourself - which I'm guessing is more likely than an actual SNP black bear attacking you. But even then bears are so damn fast they would probably close the gap between you and them before you could actually spray them - unless you walked with the spray in your hand - which is ridiculous in SNP.

I'm not sure I can recall on instance of an unprovoked (or even provoked) bear attack along the trail in this area.Even in the morning when they were walking around near the spring where I was camped they kept their distance. They had no interest in coming anywhere near us. See the pics in my gallery for reference.

Again, IMO, I am no bear expert, but having done several trips through SNP I would not consider spray a necessity. But bring it if it means you will feel more comfortable. I did not have a bear bell but tied my ipod headphones to the outside of my pack and played music albeit not that loud because the headphones werent meant to do that. In *most* places along that stretch (@ 27 miles) I never worried about it. But there are some places you walk through where you have no visibility into the woods and/or the growth is right up to the trail. In these places I played music or clacked my poles together every few minutes.

Many Walks
09-08-2010, 11:14
BlueLabel, with all the bears we saw in the SNP we never felt threatened by them...just surprised. They were a lot more wary of people than, for example, the bears in the GSMNP where some were pretty much fearless of humans. Our thru was a while back, so hopefully someone with more recent experience in the area can tell you if there are any problem bears now inhabiting the area you plan to hike. Carrying bear spray is a personal option, so you need to carry it if you wish. I wouldn't carry it on another AT thru, but I do in some areas of CA. Your choice. Hope you have a great hike!

Many Walks
09-08-2010, 11:23
Our posts crossed on the wire. You pretty much covered it. Bears are amazingly fast and if they are intent to charge they'll close the gap pretty fast. Making noise to alert them of your presence is probably the best option in that area. We just never felt threatened there.

09-08-2010, 17:35
Did part of this section from Thornton Gap to Compton Gap and back this past weekend and saw 2 bear on Monday. The first bear literally ran across the trail only 20 feet ahead of me at a place where the AT dogleggs and visibility is nil. It was running from hikers coming down the trail from the opposite direction. Way cool though !

Second bear was walking the trail about a 100 feet ahead of me... not sure if he was a section bear or a SoBo bear. :D
He must of heard me a coming ,he turned around for a split second, saw me a darted off the trail.

09-08-2010, 19:44
Thanks for the advice, all. I wasn't intending on bringing any spray... I just wanted to make sure I wouldn't be the only hiker out there without it.

09-14-2010, 13:02
Sounds like I'll be seeing some bears soon...well, I was planning on likely seeing some (I saw one earlier in the year in the southern portion.) I'll be out for 4 days this time though, so should be plenty of opportunity.

09-14-2010, 17:03
from a register entry at Pinefield Hut - a couple days ago a bear dragged a tent away (hiker was not in tent at the time) near Swift Run Gap (US33 crossing) - bear seamed to be not afraid of hiker who was trying to drive it away - the hiker finally went and got a ranger - bear was not around then - tent was recovered with three small holes in fabric and a large hole in the mesh - the food bag was not taken since it was apparently hung correctly