Cherry-Loving Bears Lead To Closure Of Gregory Bald Area At Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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This shot was taken in Cades Cove with a telephoto lens/NPS-Jim Bennett.

Bears have a sweet tooth, too. And that's why the Gregory Bald area at Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been temporarily closed to humans. The reason is the cherry crop that has attracted black bears looking for a tasty meal.

Park officials say the temporary closure includes the Gregory Bald Trail and Wolf Ridge Trail from Parson Bald to Gregory Bald.

At least a dozen bears are concentrated on Gregory Bald feeding on ripe cherries. The situation has led to several close encounters between hikers and bears creating an unacceptable safety risk, according to park officials. Wildlife biologists are monitoring the area and expect the bears to disperse when the food source has been depleted.

“We regret the inconvenience to park visitors who were looking forward to a hike to Gregory Bald,” said acting-Superintendent Cindy MacLeod. “However, we feel this temporary closure is necessary to ensure the bears have an opportunity to feed undisturbed on natural foods and also to protect our visitors from defensive bear behavior.”


There is quite the buzz around the Smokies that actress Ashley Judd backpacked into the closed campsite and spent the night with her dog in the backcountry, which is strictly prohibited. Calls to the backcountry office confirmed that she did backpack in but stayed below the closed campsite. Park officials would not comment on whether or not she was allowed to have a dog in tow on a special use permit but her twitter feed does show her holding a dog in front of flame azaleas for which Gregory's Bald is well know. A well known guide service in the area, A Walk in the Woods owner, proclaimed that there is a special use exemption for "service animals" and insinuated that she (Judd) suffers from bipolar disorder.

And none of us here are surprised one bit that the park mgmt could or would make such an exemption, especially considering their history with well connected folks.

I thought the country was already owned and run by well connected folks. If you can afford to buy it, you can have it. Besides, she's probably incorporated the dog and corporations are people, so what's the fuss?

I thought the country was already owned and run by well connected folks.

You thought wrong.

Besides, she's probably incorporated the dog

Probably not, but then lets just cast aspersions and not address the issue. Are some people getting special privledges in the Smokies. Sure looks that way from what had been presented. Would sure like to see evidence it isn't so.

sar·casmˈsärˌkazəm/nounnoun: sarcasm; plural noun: sarcasmsthe use of irony to mock or convey contempt."his voice, hardened by sarcasm, could not hide his resentment"synonyms:derision, mockery, ridicule, scorn, sneering, scoffing;

In this case, directed toward those who use their connections to gain special privileges in GRSM (and other places as well). Sarcasm directed toward those of wealth and power in such places as business, banking, Wall Street, political parties, self-centered celebrities, and countless others who feel entitled to tromp on those of us who are not so well endowed with dollars or family or political connections. Exactly the kind of practices and people we've seen some commenters ardently defend in these very pages.

Smokiesbackpacker, I know little about this specific incident, but permits are issued for persons with disabilities, sightseeing dogs, hearing impaired, other disabling issues. Sometimes it is a judgement call, but I have issued some of these permits myself. Actually we can also issue permits for those confined to wheelchairs. I was never called to do one, but have seen wheelchairs, very rarely I might add, on park trails. Someone more up to date on the issue may perhaps respond.

Her dog definitely appears to be wearing a service animal vest in this photo

There was a notice in the Federal Register in April for comments regarding NPS updating rules on service animals(comment period closed in June). Knoxnews had a story in May about service animals in the Smokies.

"Under the American with Disabilities Act, a service animal must perform some function or task that the individual with a disability can’t perform on their own. While the park places tight restrictions on pets — dogs are only allowed in front country campgrounds, picnic areas, and roads, and must be on a leash at all times — the rules pertaining to service animals are more relaxed."

However, there are more and more pet owners who are abusing the service and support animal laws. As a result, there is a growing backlash. Much of the backlash is coming from persons who have legitimate need for SERVICE animal.


This picture seems to suggest a dog backpack, though. It will be interesting to find out if Judd had the right "papers.", huh?

And if her papers are in order, hopefully the conjecture will end.

Any reason we shouldn't be allowed to question why the rules could possibly be bent for her, Rick?

Smokies, welcome to today's world. The authorities can just make up any rule they want and not enforce the ones they dont like and the people can't question it. After all they know whats better for us and what we "need" and don't need.

I think it is a big leap to assume that the Park bent rules for Ms. Judd regarding her service animal.

From the Knox news article:

"A few years ago a park ranger encountered a hiker and a duck on a popular trail. The ranger was told the duck was a service animal, and under the park’s old guidelines, no further questions were asked."

A Smokies public affairs employee also said this toward the end of the article:

"Most of the time it’s a dog wearing a service vest and everything is legitimate, but there still are times when it’s another animal species, or there’s no indication of any special training. We are taught to respect people’s privacy. If they say it’s a service animal, we don’t push it.”


You just go ahead and wonder about any little thing you want.

I just get tired, and no doubt it is my own character flaw, but I get tired of the overlapping and merging venn diagrams of "the NPS is always wrong" and "black helicopters are conspiring to invade the heartland".

Gotta love the smokies finest ambulance chasers... They got a REAL A list celeb using THEIR mountains, that was either clueless about the rules, or potentially legally camping with it (who knows). But, this wouldn't be the first southern girl prancing her miniature poodle around the mountains, and surely won't be the last. I see that sort of thing at least twice a month in the mountains. This isn't just a mere hippie walking with his dog on the AT, or a couple from ohio taking fido for a walk along Alum Cave, or even a poacher from waynesville running dogs with radio collars while looking for bruins. THIS IS AN A LIST CELEB, so the sharks are in the water, because they smell a REAL REAL money maker on their hands. CONSPIRACY CONSPIRACY!!

So what is at most a minor infraction, could be a 20 year lawsuit, and millions to be made. Ashley's in TROUBLE now.

I do know for a fact she was camping at campsite 12, not campsite 13 and was there on June 19th. But, having a dog in the backcountry is against the rules, and that stuff does annoy me as well. But, I doubt ANYONE at the BC office would give her a pass on that, so if she never mentioned her dog then is it REALLY a conspiracy?

What if she got her permit online? Then i'm sure that's going to really upset some, because that means she's smarter than your average local yokel that finds that computer contraption system too hard and cumbersome.

I do think it's great that even an A list celebs can camp, somewhat quietly in the backcountry of the Smokies, since it is their park too. I heard she was mobbed when she was at a visitor center, and when she went to Pigeon Forge. The people around these parts are too star struck, and almost pathetic when they see anyone that's on that big TV screen. It's kind of disturbing. I saw Paula Dean while on lunch in Gatlinburg a few weeks back, and people swarmed her like flies on... well, anyway, whatever. Same goes with others like Shaq, etc. They can't get a moments worth of peace when they are just trying to be like us. Living in a western ski resort for a good portion of my life, we treated stars like everyone else, and I do miss that about that western laissez faire attitude built into it's culture. The whole star struck BS is kinda lame here in the Southeast, but hey.. whatever. But, yeah, the dog? Don't know, but at most it's a minor infraction, and many times, i've heard Rangers just walk people out when they encounter them, and just give people warnings. In Shenandoah and Congaree, dogs are allowed on most trails.

But, hey, if the smokies finest ambulance chasers are on the scene... TROUBLE is surely at hand. Conspiracy.. CONSPIRACY!

As for the bears, good! Let them have the cherries, although, when I was up there the blueberries were also almost prime time. Last year, there was a pretty lean mast crop year, so they are starving, and there have been a few bear incidents this year with bears being somewhat territorial around people. But, as always, SFW hijacks any thread about the Smokies, and turns it into something about their ambulance chasing pursuits. Can't go on any local, or site like this one, without them hijacking a thread, and turning it into their own. It's fairly pathetic. Ashley Judd camping in the Smokies has nothing to do with bears at Gregory Bald, which is by the way prime blackberry, blueberry, and has cherry trees. Bet the SFW was clueless about that. They whine evertime that area gets closed because of bear activity, even if it's one of the most important habitats for them.

Nice post Sara, the public affairs employee had it mostly right, look, the persons enforcing these rules, at least the vast majority of them, have a great deal of experience and training, it usually is relatively easy to see through the scams once the contact is made in minor infractions like this. Lee, you make a good point, and as most of my experience is in the large western parks and forests, I can see that in urban interface areas there maybe a percentage of citizens trying to break these pet rules. But I truly believe the rules allowing the disabled should stand. I became a supporter of disabled access after I saw Mike Corbett take Mark Wellman up the face of El Cap in Yosemite. Mark was paralyzed from the waist down, Mike set the routes and protection, Mark by an amazing feat of human endurance (it took several days), pulled his way to the top. I will never forget it. Two really great people, Mike is still a close neighbor of mine. As I get older and am now acquainted with some really great senior citizens, many of whom have severe injury or health problems, it is important to be a little generous here in our approach to them. If it is a scam, the enforcement people will deal with it effectively. Until proven otherwise, I give the nod to Ms Judd.

Gary Wilson.

Thank you. You keep making our points for us.

"Ambulance chasers?" Ambulance chasers make MONEY. We're not being paid for fighting you tyrants.

Now get off your government owned or subsidized computer, and get back to work.

umm, Rob, you do realize I don't work for the government, right? Is that an ambulance I hear in the park. Better get on the move..Hurry call Morton.

You guys sure do beg for donations, and look for any excuse to scream lawsuit and "conspiracy" at any occasion. At best you are a money making scheme that uses filing frivolous lawsuits and wasting taxpayer money to prop up a fake NGO begging for donations so you guys can sit on the internet all day dreaming up conspiracies. You wouldn't know the first thing about producing anything that can make money, so pot meet kettle..

As one of these "average local yokel"s from "around these parts (who is) are too star struck, and almost pathetic when they(we) see anyone that's on that big TV", I am more than slightly offended. Who are you? And who cares who you are or what you have to say when you speak of someone I know, you do not know. So with that being said, your "I do know for a fact she was camping at campsite 12, not campsite 13" comment is not really fact but your spectualtion and insight that you are the one "hijacking" an opportunity to bash anyone who is opposed to what you think. Please move back to that western ski resort and comment on your C list star friends that you treat so well.

I'm not opposed to the use of service animals or closing the site for bear activity. I like cherries too! Special treatment is something that could hold the Park liable. Recently on a night bike trip around Cades Cove, after the gates were closed to motorized vehicles, a SUV came blazing around the loop. When the female driver had boasted that she had special access and her ranger friend had let her in for a midnight cruise, we could not but question the liability the Park would have if she had hit a biker, which there were several riding the loop under the full moon. I'm fairly certain, just a guess, not fact like this Gary guy has, that this was not a Movie Star. If special treatments are given, heads turned the other way, then when something does happen, those ambulance chasers will be too far behind if someone doesn't watch and make the Park accountable. But what do I know, since I'm a local yokel?

Actually she was at campsite 12, I know that for a fact. Now once again, this thread is not about Ashley Judd or SFW. Boy, you guys are lame.

Gary Wilson.


You do realize that when you start impugning someone personally, you are admitting you lost the argument? Right?

(Uh...this ain't Rob either.)

Ashley Judd has a service dog.

More information on ADA requirements for service dogs:

NPS had to allow the service dog; Judd had no special treatment or exemptions.

All of this back and forth for absolutely nothing except personal rage. Please stop - these forums are getting unreadable.

Yep, looks like Dahkota is right:

OOhhh well, looks like the cult is going to need to come up with a new conspiracy

So everyone who claims to have an anxiety based disorder may now take their yapping, animal chasing dog into the backcountry? Nice. Sounds like a real well-thought out policy. Funny, I don't see her with a dog in all her movies. I suppose she is a great actress, then.

Now we will get to hear from all the dog nuts who will proclaim how well behaved these yappers are. I can tell you that no matter how well trained a dog may be at home, in the Smokies where animal life abounds, the best trained of dogs go nuts, run off their leashes and become food. And I like dogs. But they dont' belong in the backcountry unless someone is blind. There are enough feral mutts and bear "service animals" in there as is.

This thread has to rank pretty high on the list of thread meltdowns on NPT!!

Since we're off topic anyway, I hiked twice over the week-end in the Sierra and had a great time.

This thread is closed.