Thieves, vandals strike Foothills Trail


A Greenville County couple, looking to “get off the grid” and back in touch with nature this Memorial Day weekend, became crime victims after they parked at a trailhead to a national hiking trail.Now, they are sending a warning to other unsuspecting nature-lovers.Katie Callhan, of Travelers Rest, said she and her husband left their Chevy Tahoe Friday at the trailhead to the Foothills Trail on Highway 107, in Oconee County off Highway 107, near the North Carolina state line.After hiking a spur trail and camping for two nights, the couple was shocked when they arrived back at the parking lot Sunday morning to find their SUV heavily vandalized. “We were coming in from the most pristine forest area that was just beautiful, so to walk out and have this happen was very disturbing,” Callahan said.Someone had broken a side window, stolen things from inside the car, smashed out the back window and left the car a mess.She said the worst part of the crime was that the thief took a drill to the gas tank.”They stole some of the gas, but also let the rest of the full tank of gas leak out all over the parking lot which sits next to a pristine cold mountain stream,” Callahan said. “I could have just cried,” she said.Callahan said the damage went beyond that of a normal car break-in and showed the person really wanted to inflict harm.”They took out a window that they didn’t have to – if they were just going for the gas, they didn’t have to do the other harm to the vehicle, making it undrivable,” she said.Callahan said without gas and no cell service, they were stranded.She said they sat along the highway and had to wave down someone driving by, asking them — as soon as they got to a spot with cell service — to call 911 and send a tow truck.The SUV was towed to a location in Walhalla and will have to be towed back to Greenville County for repairs.”We thought about trying to plug the hole in the gas tank, and filling it from a gas can, but we were worried about what other damage they had done to the underneath of the engine,” Callahan said.Speaking with deputies from both Jackson County, North Carolina, and Oconee County, South Carolina, Callahan said they told her at least five vehicles along the trail suffered similar damage in recent days.WYFF News 4 tried to contact the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office to confirm that information, but due to the holiday weekend, did not get a response.Callahan is now sharing her warning with other hikers who leave their cars, expecting to return to them safely. “I’m hoping that this news will also encourage more patrols, and that the perpetrator will be caught and charged,” she said. The 77-mile trail is located in Upstate South Carolina and reaches into Western North Carolina, the website says.”Through-hikers should plan to spend approximately 5-10 days on the trail, while weekend backpackers and day-hikers can utilize numerous trailheads for shorter trips,” according to the website.It also cautions about possible crime, saying: “Remember that primitive areas are not immune from criminal activity. Use caution, particularly near trailheads and parking areas.””This happened on the far end of Oconee County,” Callahan said. “There are no security cameras, no lighting – so we’re just relying on other hikers to watch out and report anything out-of-the-ordinary.””The environmental damage from repeat incidents (like this) should also concern our residents and those of us who love this special, world-class ecosystem we have here along the Chattooga and Jocassee Gorges,” Callahan said.

A Greenville County couple, looking to “get off the grid” and back in touch with nature this Memorial Day weekend, became crime victims after they parked at a trailhead to a national hiking trail.

Now, they are sending a warning to other unsuspecting nature-lovers.

Katie Callhan, of Travelers Rest, said she and her husband left their Chevy Tahoe Friday at the trailhead to the Foothills Trail on Highway 107, in Oconee County off Highway 107, near the North Carolina state line.

After hiking a spur trail and camping for two nights, the couple was shocked when they arrived back at the parking lot Sunday morning to find their SUV heavily vandalized.

“We were coming in from the most pristine forest area that was just beautiful, so to walk out and have this happen was very disturbing,” Callahan said.

suv vandalized at foothills trail

Someone had broken a side window, stolen things from inside the car, smashed out the back window and left the car a mess.

She said the worst part of the crime was that the thief took a drill to the gas tank.

“They stole some of the gas, but also let the rest of the full tank of gas leak out all over the parking lot which sits next to a pristine cold mountain stream,” Callahan said.

suv vandalized at foothills trail

“I could have just cried,” she said.

Callahan said the damage went beyond that of a normal car break-in and showed the person really wanted to inflict harm.

“They took out a window that they didn’t have to – if they were just going for the gas, they didn’t have to do the other harm to the vehicle, making it undrivable,” she said.

suv vandalized at foothills trail

Callahan said without gas and no cell service, they were stranded.

She said they sat along the highway and had to wave down someone driving by, asking them — as soon as they got to a spot with cell service — to call 911 and send a tow truck.

The SUV was towed to a location in Walhalla and will have to be towed back to Greenville County for repairs.

suv vandalized at foothills trail

“We thought about trying to plug the hole in the gas tank, and filling it from a gas can, but we were worried about what other damage they had done to the underneath of the engine,” Callahan said.

Speaking with deputies from both Jackson County, North Carolina, and Oconee County, South Carolina, Callahan said they told her at least five vehicles along the trail suffered similar damage in recent days.

WYFF News 4 tried to contact the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office to confirm that information, but due to the holiday weekend, did not get a response.

Callahan is now sharing her warning with other hikers who leave their cars, expecting to return to them safely.

“I’m hoping that this news will also encourage more patrols, and that the perpetrator will be caught and charged,” she said.

The 77-mile trail is located in Upstate South Carolina and reaches into Western North Carolina, the website says.

“Through-hikers should plan to spend approximately 5-10 days on the trail, while weekend backpackers and day-hikers can utilize numerous trailheads for shorter trips,” according to the website.

It also cautions about possible crime, saying: “Remember that primitive areas are not immune from criminal activity. Use caution, particularly near trailheads and parking areas.”

“This happened on the far end of Oconee County,” Callahan said. “There are no security cameras, no lighting – so we’re just relying on other hikers to watch out and report anything out-of-the-ordinary.”

“The environmental damage from repeat incidents (like this) should also concern our residents and those of us who love this special, world-class ecosystem we have here along the Chattooga and Jocassee Gorges,” Callahan said.