How an Athens backpacker saved his son from a bear attack

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We’ve heard about the Ohio teenager who survived a vicious bear attack last week. Again, this creepy event might hinder backpackers to hike or camp at the Great Smoky Mountains.

According to a press release from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the 16-year-old Gabriel Alexander was on a 50-mile backpacking trip with his father in that famous mountain in North Carolina when he was attacked by that black bear.

Gabriel and his father Greg Alexander were sleeping in hammocks about 10 feet apart, with food and equipment stored on aerial cables nearby.

The Athens boy was pulled by the bear from their hammock. Fortunately, the teenager’s father was able to drive the bear away from their campsite.

After that sudden attack, Greg and his son hiked to a nearby lakeshore, where campers with a boat took them across the lake. From there, the teen was airlifted to Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. Gabriel apparently suffered multiple lacerations, including cuts in the head, but already declared stable by his doctors at Mission Hospital on Sunday afternoon.

“He has some stitches right through here and several lacerations over the backside and top of his head,” said the older Alexander.

While Gabriel is still recovering, he and his father are still wondering what caused the bear to attack in the first place. He told the public not to be afraid to get out in the woods just because of what has happened to him. It’s a rare thing, he added. Well, he’s been released from the hospital and now at home.

On the other hand, the park officials opted to close several trails and campsites in the national park following the bear attack. In addition, the national park rangers found a bear near the campsite – presumably the one who attacked Gabriel. According to park spokesman Brent Everitt, it was captured and humanely euthanized last Tuesday.

With all these bear attacks happening in the some famous mountains and national parks, local or foreign visitors are advised to take necessary precautions while hiking in bear country and comply with all backcountry closures. Camping in the woods isn’t too easy and safe but for backpackers like the Alexanders, the thrill and excitement that they get from it is priceless.

So, don’t stop backpacking, but stay aware and safe.

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