A bear was encountered at Double Springs Shelter. While it showed no signs of aggression, when hikers arrived it did not immediately leave the area. As always, use common sense when you encounter a bear. Most importantly, just because you think you’re a safe distance away, it doesn’t mean that the bear agrees.
Three reports have been recently received of bear activity along the TEHCC section. On June 13th, hikers were disturbed by a bear at Low Gap on Unaka Mountain who would not leave their campsite. Next day (June 14th), a juvenile bear was encountered around Cherry Gap Shelter, who again did not want to leave. The leader used bear spray in an attempt to negatively reinforce the bear, which returned that evening to take pack. The pack did not contain food, which was properly hung. On June 15th, a third report was made for three miles south of the Mountaineer Falls Shelter. Along the trail it was apparent there was a lot of bear activity. Necessary precautions to limit risk of encountering a bear were taken including hanging bear bags 50 feet or more from the campsite.
ATC and USFS have been notified or provided information on all of these incidents. Warning signs were posted on Monday at trailheads and in the shelter at Cherry Gap. Camping at Low Gap or Cherry Gap Shelter is presently not recommended.
US 321 to Wilbur Dam Rd. (approx. 4 miles) – All activities except hiking along the Appalachian Trail are prohibited due to recent bear activity.
Hikers are asked to walk through the area without stopping. Preparation or consumption of food, lingering, and camping are prohibited in the area known locally as “Oliver Hollow” by a U.S. Forest Service closure order.
The Watauga Lake Shelter in this stretch is also closed. Even though a “closure order” has been issued to restrict usage of the area, the A.T. is not closed to hiking. These orders are in effect for an 18-month period from June 3, 2014 until December 1, 2015. The official U.S. Forest Service poster can be found here. (June 17, 2014)
On some signs the Forest Service is now using definition of closure area as “Shook Branch Rec area/Oliver Hollow Rd. to Wilbur Dam including Watauga Lake Shelter- Closed”
The National Forest Service lands are closed to most recreation from north of Shook Branch to a half mile north of Wilbur Dam Rd. Bears are active in this area. Individuals are only permitted to hike through this area. Please continue hiking through this area without stopping. Watauga Lake Shelter is closed. No preparation or consumption of food or overnight stays allowed. This closure is effective until December 1, 2015.