Friction at Deep Gap

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Friday, August 9th, 2019

There’s a few areas named Deep Gap on various trails in the southeast. The Appalachian Trail has one in Georgia and one in North Carolina. There’s a few within the Pisgah National Forest.

This story occurs at Deep Gap campsite, off of the Deep Gap Trail, which extends from Mt. Mitchell. Primitive camping is not permitted without reservations within Mt. Mitchell State Park, located just north of Asheville, NC. Deep Gap campsite is just inside Pisgah National Forest, where primitive camping is permitted.

It’s a small campsite. A group of four had arrived just minutes ahead of us. Our brief anxiety was relieved when we learned they were using hammocks. This left plenty of room for our four tents. The hammock group consisted of a mom, her two young daughters, and her father.

Our tents in the foreground, our neighbors with their hammocks in the background

All was well until just after I finished hanging our bear bags. The lady’s father approached me and stated, “Your bear bag is upwind and only 50 feet from the campsite. You are endangering all of us.”

Our group wanted me to ignore him. Problem is, he was correct. I had spent a good hour trying to find a suitable spot. The one I settled on was indeed right around 50 feet from the campsite. I did the right thing and began removing the bear bags. I would now have to backtrack up the trail.

As I was unhitching our rope I happened to glance over my shoulder and noticed their food bags. They were slung over a tree branch. Resting against the trunk. Within arms reach. In other words, raccoon bait. Bear bait. Whichever critter arrives first.

While walking back through the campsite with our food bag, to find another place further on, I commented to the lady, “Hey ma’am, just so you know. Your bear bags were right next to ours.”

Though the father was abrupt in how he approached me, I felt as if he had been put up to the task by his daughter. Before I could tell her the manner in which their bear bags were hanging, which I’m certain was done by him, she tersely remarked, “whatever.”

I considered an attempt to calmly placate her so I could continue my explanation of how their bear bags were positioned. She had turned her back to me after her comment. I decided to walk on. I found a tree well over 100 feet away in the opposite direction, back uphill on the trail, which I should have done in the first place.

We found laughter out of this soon after. I wasn’t going to allow a grumpy person to ruin a great camping experience. Just beyond sunset they provided us with some material. We overheard the gentleman declare with authority, “there’s no sign of bears around here. I think we’ll be okay.”

I whispered to one of the hikers in our group, “it’s not as if the bears are gonna announce their presence.”

Out came the Yogi Bear impressions. The more impressions we did the harder we laughed. There’s no way they didn’t hear us.

“Hey hey, Boo Boo! Want to have a pic-a-nic under my bear bag?”

When I finally nestled in my sleeping bag it was with a smile on my face.


The next morning I checked their tree to see if karma had paid a visit. Not that I was rooting for bears or raccoons to come near our campsite. Their bags were gone. I’m certain the lady told her father to hang them in a better place.

Throughout the course of the evening we overheard the vitriol with which she treated her father. This gave us perspective. I will not judge her. I don’t know her life. But on this evening she was simply an unpleasant person. Each of us felt sympathy for her father, and it was he who we primarily addressed when parting ways the next morning.

The lessons for all four of us were simple. First, don’t allow anyone to ruin your fun. Second, when you’ve been made aware you are wrong, fix your mistake.

#backpacking #camping #hiking #bearbags #pisgah

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