On Saturday, an Alabama couple was vacationing in the Smoky Mountains in search of bears when they finally found one in the most unlikely of places – a hotel lobby.
Joel and Leah Pike of Creola, AL decided to spend a few days in the mountains of Tennessee. While in the area of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, they wanted to try to find black bears in their natural habitat.
The couple spent most of the day hiking and horseback riding, while hoping to spot one of the large, furry creatures. The Pike’s did see deer and turkey, but the area’s black bears eluded them while exploring.
However, their wishes eventually came true later on. The couple finally saw a large male black bear, but not outside in the wilderness. In fact, oddly enough they spotted the animal inside the lobby of the Appalachian Lodge.
Joel Pike said the couple came back that evening from Pigeon Forge after enjoying a dinner show. They craved the Appalachian Lodge’s famous apple cider, and evidently so did the bear.
“The bear kept going up to the hot apple cider, kind of smelling it. And then he went up to the Christmas tree, was smelling the Christmas tree,” Pike said of the encounter. “And then, he was kind of playing with the doors. The bear would go outside; the bear would come back inside. He was going in and out, in and out. And then finally, he started looking at me.”
Pike guessed that the black bear weighed around 400 to 500 pounds. He says the sight of it startled him. But, when he pointed the animal out to his wife, she thought her husband was winding her up like he often does.
“He’s always messing with me,” she said. “He’s always playing with me.”
Couple Says the Bear Caused a Commotion, But Meant No Harm
As expected, Pike said the huge animal caused quite the commotion among the hotel’s guests. Yet, he said the bear seemed more curious than anything and didn’t seem to be a threat to anyone.
“The bear, he wasn’t growling or nothing. He was just looking at me. He was mainly in there to smell that apple cider, ’cause you could smell it,” Pike said. “They got some of the best apple cider around, and it’s good on a cold night. And I guess the bear got a whiff of it, and then come down there and come inside there where we was at.”
Pike said an employee cut off the automatic doors once the bear walked outside. Subsequently, he heard that the animal poked his nose through an open van window outside the hotel and then went dumpster diving across the street at a pancake restaurant.
The husband said the massive beast didn’t concern him too much, but did admit he made sure to look for an alternate exit in case he needed to make a run for it.
“I’m just an old country boy,” he said. “I’m used to wildlife.”
Appalachian Lodge manager Joshua Goldston said this has happened before. Additionally, he said it’s the second time a black bear came inside the lodge in recent history and he thinks it’s the same male. The manager says it comes with the territory since the lodge is so close to the wilderness.
“We’ve had multiple incidents of this bear coming in for a quick peek,” Goldston explained. “We do, occasionally (see bears). But, not too often. … They’re used to being around people.”
Since the second recent encounter, Goldston said the Appalachian Lodge has taken further precautions. The hotel is making sure back doors are locked and they have ordered bear-proof trash cans.
[H/T FOX10 News]