Monday, June 08, 2015

Body of Missing Off Trail Hiker Found in Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Search teams found a body in the Great Smoky Mountains national park this morning at around 9:30am matching the description and believed to be that of avid 62 year old hiker Jenny Bennett who lived in Sylva North Carolina and according to her family has been missing since at least June 1st 2015.

Numerous people noticed her car sitting alone at the Porters Creek Trailhead parking area which was confirmed by rangers last night at around 7:53pm. Being too late to start a search, an area wide search went underway first thing this morning involving trained man trackers from the national park and other agencies with the aid of dogs.

The search ended when they found what ranger believe to be hiker Jenny Bennett’s body in an off trail area of Lester Prong in Greenbrier about a mile south and above backcountry campsite 31 at the end of the Porters Creek. Foul play is not suspected at this time.

Many other hikers have been lost or stranded in the same general area in the past, most notably GSMNP Backcountry Park Volunteer 70 year old hiker Albert Morgan Briggs who spent almost a week stranded atop Porters Mountain.

Exact details are still sketchy as to when she started her ill fated hike, but what is known is that her car was parked at the Porters Creek Parking area since at least the night before last. When Jenny Bennett decided to get in one more solo off trail hike in the Great Smoky Mountains national park before moving to Vermont is anyone’s guess at this point.

What is known is she was supposed to move to Vermont on June 1st and when movers arrived at her residence in Sylva, she was nowhere to be found.

Jenny Bennett’s brother Peter Bennett had no idea that she was missing until Saturday June 6 when he received a call from her landlord in Sylva who told him that her belongings were still in the house in Sylva, some of which were never packed.

He then reported her absence as well as the fact Jenny was an avid hiker and a member of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club to a Jackson County Sheriff deputy who told him that they were going to treat this as a missing person case and start searching for her car.

Peter Bennett went on to tell the deputy that she was probably up one of the trails in the area. The Sheriff's department told him they were going to follow up and search the trail heads for her car.

Her brother Peter expecting the best assumed he would hear back from the Sheriff’s department with a few hours, but by the end of the day he had not heard back and became more concerned prompting him to email the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club.

The next day on June 7th at 10:36am Peter Bennett posted a missing persons report on the Go Smokies blog which eventually made its way around Facebook as well. National Park Officials we also notified the on June 7th that Bennett was missing as far back as Saturday May 30 and possibly in the park.

The park service had no recent backcountry permits on file for Jenny Bennett, nor was her parked cars license plate run the system to see if she had an active backcountry permit while it sat in the parking area for at least 1 day prior to it being reported missing.

Not only was Jenny Bennett an avid off trail hiker in the Smokies, she was a writer as well. She produced 2 books Murder at the Jumpoff and the latest being The Twelve Streams of LeConte as well as a blogger writing on


More information to follow...


Anonymous said...

It should also be noted that many of Jenny's close hiking friends told the SAR team exactly where to find Jenny.

Smokies Hiker said...

So far the NPS has not released the exact location she was found so we can not confirm if the numerous locations given by other hikers were in fact where she was found.

It is clear that the local hiking community and social media payed a part in finding her sooner. Sadly we all wish she shared her hiking plans with others before leaving. A Facebook or Twitter post saying "hey I am going here" may have made a difference.

Then again, would a single female hiker alone in the woods announcing her location to the world not be a danger unto itself?

Chris Hibbard

Hominy said...

Backcountry permits are not required for day hiking. Jenny did not routinely camp overnight. Refer to her blog.

Smokies Hiker said...

Missed the point Hominy.

Lack of a valid backcountry permit normally makes a car sitting for days in the park stand out to rangers. When they see cars parked overnight they often run plates to check for permits.

People staying at night in the parking area to see the fireflies noticed a car was there.

Hominy said...

No, once her hiking friends knew she was missing, we began checking trailheads for her car. One of them found it and reported to NPS.

Smokies Hiker said...

Confused at your "no" comment.

Yes Local person(s) reported the car was there to rangers once they knew to look.

Yes Local person(s) saw the car there at least 1 day before it was known it belonged to a missing person. It was not reported by the local as suspicious at that time. It could have been a camper staying at site 31 or LeConte.

Yes The car was never checked against the backcountry permit system by a ranger before there was a BOLO (Be On The Lookout For) issued. If that was done, there would have been a record of when it was checked and it would have been "flagged" in the logs for other rangers since they would have known it did not belong there (or someone was camping illegally without a permit).

...did that clear it up, or did I miss something and make it worse?