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

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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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    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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    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.

  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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  10. #10

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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.

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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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    Quote Originally Posted by The Weasel View Post
    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
    Yeah, similar to all those who do GSMNP with 'necessary' emotional support dogs, cats, and ferrets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Yeah, similar to all those who do GSMNP with 'necessary' emotional support dogs, cats, and ferrets.
    While you might be able to get on a plane with an "emotional support dog", you're not going to be able to legally take an emotional support dog in the GSMNP back country.

    Rewind a few years ago and the park service didn't allow animals of any kind to be taken into the back country. But then word came down from Washington that the park service was to comply with ADA rules and regulations.
    But the ADA only applies to "service animals". That means the animal has to be able to perform a task for the disabled individual... emotional support animals to NOT fall under the ADA.

    I started to question why emotional support animals are even allowed on planes since they are not covered by ADA. But I googled the subject and apparently there was a law passed known as ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) that specifically includes emotional support animals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    While you might be able to get on a plane with an "emotional support dog", you're not going to be able to legally take an emotional support dog in the GSMNP back country.

    Rewind a few years ago and the park service didn't allow animals of any kind to be taken into the back country. But then word came down from Washington that the park service was to comply with ADA rules and regulations.
    But the ADA only applies to "service animals". That means the animal has to be able to perform a task for the disabled individual... emotional support animals to NOT fall under the ADA.

    I started to question why emotional support animals are even allowed on planes since they are not covered by ADA. But I googled the subject and apparently there was a law passed known as ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) that specifically includes emotional support animals.
    As an attorney with a 100% disability (deaf, but largely corrected by cochlear implants) who has litigated major handicap/animal cases, this is pretty much gospel: (1) ONLY trained (and recognized) dogs are "service animals" under ADA and similar laws, and ONLY for blind and deaf handicappers. (2) "Assistance animals" such as untrained dogs, cats and the rest are not generally covered by any specific law. (3) Airlines only are required to recognize these principles, and allow other animals only to minimize confrontations.

    While exceptions exist, it's not as "free and easy" as people think.

    TW
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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?
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
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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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    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.
    He said nothing about how to skirt the rules. He simply stated there may be a fine if you get caught. You are being hyper sensitive. I donít know why this always has to come up when someone wants to legally avoid shelters in the smokies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    He said nothing about how to skirt the rules. He simply stated there may be a fine if you get caught. You are being hyper sensitive. I donít know why this always has to come up when someone wants to legally avoid shelters in the smokies.




    by saying " you take your chances on getting caught and potentially pay whatever fine there is."
    it's implying that one breaks the rules/laws...
    after all, nobody is getting caught and paying a fine for something that is done legally......


    and there's a reason to be "hyper sensitive"-----the more people that break the law or go against the rules in the Park only lead to one thing-----more rules and regulations in the Park...

    perfect example was the change in the backcountry reservation system....

    people were bending the backcountry rules and what happened-----more rules came down as a result...........

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    by saying " you take your chances on getting caught and potentially pay whatever fine there is."
    it's implying that one breaks the rules/laws...
    after all, nobody is getting caught and paying a fine for something that is done legally......


    and there's a reason to be "hyper sensitive"-----the more people that break the law or go against the rules in the Park only lead to one thing-----more rules and regulations in the Park...

    perfect example was the change in the backcountry reservation system....

    people were bending the backcountry rules and what happened-----more rules came down as a result...........
    The whiteblaze policy references discussion on HOW to break the rules. The poster did not discuss anything about HOW to skirt rules. I honestly canít comprehend why this is hard to understand.

    If someone wants to enjoy the trail but has a legitimate medical issue that prevents them from sleeping on a wooden platform, you guys lack empathy in a way that boggles the mind. We are not hoodlums looking for ways to rebel and break rules.

    When I hang my hammock nothing touches the ground except my shoes. My implementation of LNT surpasses many shelter dwellers I have seen out here. The camping rules in the smokies could be far more efficient. But they are like taking a sledge hammer to the problem. They lack detailed thought and common sense. Thatís fine. Iíll work within the rules. But please stop acting like we are criminals for making this effort.

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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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