Gunman Robs Mountain Biker, Shuts Down Pisgah Trail System

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(Via Blue Ridge Outdoors).

A mountain biker in the Pisgah National Forest was robbed at gunpoint this weekend. While climbing a fire road with a friend, an SUV rolled up behind them, a man named Phillip Michael Stroupe II got out, then allegedly pressed a revolver to Aaron Fischer’s chest and demanded his bike. Luckily for Aaron the bike was a rental, but it must have been a terrifying experience.

Pisgah National Forest is part of the Appalacian hills, a vast American wilderness that’s easy to get lost in – or not be found in, if you’re trying to escape the law. The mountains stretch for 1500 miles over a vast swath of Canada and the United States, and the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina is over half a million acres of land by itself. It’s the kind of wilderness that can easily create modern legends. Previous to this, it’s been a familiar name, with Neko Mulally filming there last year, and Litespeed previously naming a frame after it.

The robbery is apparently all anyone’s talking about in the region right now, with, as you’d expect, all sorts of rumours and contradictory stories popping up on social media. Up to date coverage is coming from the Transylvanian Times’ Facebook page, and the County Sheriff’s office.

At present, the entrance to the forest is under guard and a manhunt ongoing.

Pisgah map
The fugitive escaped into the Avery Creek area of Pisgah National Forest. Map via Wikimedia commons

It seems the manhunt may have shut down large bits of the trail system though. Here’s what commenter 828alleycat had to say from the region:

“I was in Pisgah yesterday riding with a friend and it was a surreal scene for sure. Around 1, we had just found parking along 479, just past Cove Creek camp. As we were getting ready, we heard sirens of a cop car which is really weird so back into the woods. Soon enough, a cop with lights going and siren blaring zips by us, kicking up tons of dust. We joked about how someone must have an expired fishing license, and got on our bikes to ride. We ran into some buddies on the trail who had originally planned on starting their ride on Clawhammer (close to where the drama was happning) but headed out towards Cove creek when they saw all the cops and chaos that way. They were the ones to tell us about the robbery and that they thought the guy was still in the woods. We kind of didnt think too much more about it, until we got back to the car after the ride. Driving out, it was deserted! Sometimes youll get caught in traffic leaving the forest on a weekend day like that, so it was weird to roll out without other cars on the road. We only passed checkpoints of cops blocking the road. So weird! We stopped at the Hub for a beer after and it was the only thing being talked about! Alot of stranded campers were hanging there wating to see if they would be able to get back in to the frrest and were a little dismayed that the Hub’s last call is at 6. From what I understand, the guy did not take the bike and jump on it and ride into the woods. He crammed it into the back of an SUV and took off. Also, the guy whose bike got stolen was 6’4 and it had clipless pedals, and the guy that took it was a lot smaller. It would be a challenging escape vehicle. They still are looking for him, forest is closed today. Glad everyone is safe and hope it continues that way.”

A statement from the Sheriff’s office read:

“The suspect continued on Avery’s Creek Road, and at one point quickly exited his vehicle, and stole a mountain bike, while pointing a firearm (unknown handgun) at the victim / owner. The suspect placed the stolen bike in his vehicle, and the vehicle pursuit continued. TCSO Deputies were unable to make contact at that instance due to the crowded nature of hikers and campers on the roadway. The suspect then blocked the roadway, parking his vehicle sideways, got on the stolen mountain bike, and fled into the woods.”

It must have been an utterly shorts-filling moment for the riders concerned. We hope no one gets hurt and the hire place get their bike back. Phillip Michael Stroupe II is wanted for alleged kidnapping, and remains on the run more than day after this incident.

Linville Gorge
The Appalacians are mountainous and remote wilderness – it’s easy to get lost if you stray off the path, and hard for people to find you too.

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