Photo Source:

Clingmans Dome Tower, a 45 foot tower atop 6643 foot ClingmansDome, this is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

View from Newfound Gap into North Carolina- Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Andrews Bald

Air view of the Clingman's Dome Parking Area

An autumn scene on Newfound Gap Highway through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Shelter at Double Springs- footprints of a smaller sized Adidas tennis shoe were found here. Check out the photo of the shoes and sole pattern on the “So What Happened To Her?” page.

Collins Gap- Several different teams of tracking dogs traced Trenny’s scent to Collins Gap in the days that followed her disappearance. Why would she have gone to Collins Gap? Did she go there willingly?

Collins Gap

Trenny accompanied approximately 38 other students on a horticulture field trip on October 8, 1976.  The bus left Bearden High in Knoxville Tennessee at about 9 am, the destination of the trip being the Great Smoky Mountains.  To add some excitement, the teacher accompanying the students that day,  had not told them of the destination until they had boarded the bus. 


The bus stopped and parked at the parking lot in the Clingman's Dome area.  The students were instructed to hike to Andrews Bald, and observe the trees and plants, but not to break any plants or collect anything.  They were to return to the bus by the same trail no later than 3:30 pm.   Wayne Dunlap, the supervising teacher told the students not to go any further than Andrews Bald or take any of the side trails.  After a show of hands that instructions were understood, the students departed the bus.


The weather was overcast and chilly, but the students seemed to enjoy themselves and broke up into small groups according to their hiking pace.  Trenny hiked to Andrews Bald with the same classmate that she had shared a seat with on the bus, Robert Simpson.  At about 1:30 pm, Trenny left Robert's company and began the hike back to the bus alone.  


Angela Beckner, Lisa Mikels and Bobbie Coghill were walking together when Trenny came up behind them.  She was walking faster than the group was, so Bobbie started walking with her.  They then caught up with Scott Troy and Anita Rounds.  After about five minutes of walking with them, the group sat down to rest, but Trenny said that she wanted to keep going.   At the time, the group was about half to three-quarters of a mile from the Clingman's Dome parking area and the bus.


After Trenny's departure from this group, the students were watching her, and she stopped, bent down and then turned right off the trail.  David Eastham came up from behind and when the kids looked back down the trail, Trenny was not there.  There were several groups both behind her group and in front of her group. There is no side trail at this point, the terrain is very rocky, ground is rough and overgrown with trees, thick underbrush and briars. A small stream makes the bank slick.   The students assumed that she would be at the bus and continued on.


Anita Rounds, one of the last person(s) to see Trenny before she vanished

Bobbie Coghill, one of the last person(s) to see Trenny before she disappeared

Scott Troy, one of the last person(s) to see Trenny before she disappeared

Lisa Mikels, one of the last person(s) to see Trenny before she disappeared

Angela Beckner, one of the last person(s) to see Trenny before she disappeared

David Eastham, was the first person to come up behind the spot where Trenny stepped off the trail

At 3:40 pm, Trenny was not at the bus.  Wayne Dunlap and another student hiked both to Andrews Bald and Double Springs, but there was no sign of Trenny.  At this point,  the NPS was contacted by CB radio.  Ranger Sammy Lail responded and arrived at the lot at 4:30pm, where he was briefed on the situation. 


Lail then began to search the Andrews Bald area, finding nothing, he made an official report that Trenny Lynn Gibson was missing in the Park. Park service then launched a search as soon as this report was received.  Park personnel in Tennessee and North Carolina were requested to help.  Wayne Dunlap, stayed behind to aid in the search, while the bus carrying the Bearden High students returned to Knoxville. The general consensus among the students was that Trenny had run off with someone.


Approximately 19 searchers arrived between 6:30 and 8 pm.  Hampered by wind, rain and fog, the groups combed the area where the students had hiked and where Trenny was last seen. 


Hope Gibson, Trenny's mother, was notified by telephone at 8pm that evening that Trenny was missing, 5 hours after she vanished.  After Robert Gibson Sr, Trenny's father, arrived at the airport from a business trip, the Gibson's headed to the Park with clothing that their daughter had recently worn,  to give scent to the tracking dogs.  The Gibson's arrived around midnight,  and the search for their daughter was called off for the night at 3am, due to inclement weather conditions.


Danny Johnson, helped Wayne Dunlap search for Trenny by hiking to Andrews Bald, while Dunlap searched the nearby trail to Double Springs

Trenny Gibson and her kidnapper may have used this section of the Appalachian trail. Source Haunted Hikes, Angela Lankford

Riverview Terrace Motel in Gatlinburg, and what it looked like in the 1970's.

The Gibson family stayed at this motel while searching the Park for Trenny in October, 1976.

The full scale search for Trenny began the following day, October 9, 1976, complete with teams of German Shepherds and  Bloodhounds. Ranger Jack Linahan was the coordinator, he closed the road between Clingman's Dome parking area and Newfound Gap to the public.. Groups searched the area from the Clingman's Dome parking area to Andrews Bald and all of the side trails.  Two of Trenny's uncles participated in this search as well,  with their own dogs. Several National Guard helicopters had been obtained for the search, but could not fly until late afternoon due to heavy fog.  Haze, thick evergreen foliage, and changing leaves made visibility nearly impossible.  Hoarfrost combined with fallen leaves made hiking slippery and dangerous. 


A few ferns were found broken on the trail close to where Trenny was last seen.  3 cigarette butts and a partial opened can of beer were found nearby.  Several of the dogs had tracked Trenny to a spot on the paved road about 1.6 miles from the Clingman's Dome parking area. On the following day, eight cigarette butts of the same brand were found.  


The search for Trenny continued until October 22, 1976, then a limited search was carried out until November 2, 1976.  A total of 756 people had searched for Trenny.  At this point, the search was called off because no physical evidence could be found to indicate that Trenny was still in the park. Park personnel stayed alert for any evidence in the case as part of their regular duties.  A second search, organized by Robert Gibson Sr. began on April 18, 1977, and lasted until May 5, 1977.  3 days were lost due to inclement weather.  Eventually,  all major and minor trails, drainages and ridges between Andrews Bald and Elkmont in Tennessee, a distance of 15 miles, and Fontana Lake in North Carolina a distance of 14 miles, were searched.  230 people participated in the second search.


The Tueshaus Family - USA Southeast 2008. Source:

Wayne Dunlap, the teacher that was on the field trip. He taught Ornamental Horticulture at Bearden High.


03.10.2022 01:35


He also hung out with Robert Simpson.

03.10.2022 01:47


Yes, they were good friends

03.10.2022 01:28


Wasn't his Danny's girlfriend, volunteer to help in the search? I believed he accompanied her with the search.

03.10.2022 01:47


Both Danny and his girlfriend Stacey helped in the search for Trenny on October 9, 1976.

01.10.2022 03:56


He was jock.

22.09.2022 16:35


Why was Danny Johnson chosen to help assist in the search?

01.10.2022 13:08


He was a well-known athlete and photographer at Bearden. His girlfriend was a track and field star.

08.09.2022 12:26


Did anyone later send in cadaver dogs to the SMNP?
Have there been any sightings in the 44 years since?

09.09.2022 04:13


Cadaver dogs was far more a specialized science in 1976. I have correspondence from Mr Gibson’s lawyer asking for the services of a dog from New York that was trained in recovering the deceased.

19.10.2021 21:18


Was the coat given back, or was it removed?

15.10.2021 14:09


Like the rings the comb was a trophy or souvenir of the moment.

13.10.2021 19:35


Didn't her brother find it in Roberts car?

13.10.2021 17:10


He retrieved his coat, the comb in the pocket. All that Trenny lost that day and he didn’t even lose his coat.

13.10.2021 00:07


True it wouldn't but that's the unknown question. Several students claim they knew, other say they didn't.

13.10.2021 13:56


45 year old memories in some cases. In others, it’s safer to say they knew where they were headed. Because if Trenny wanted to run away, she’d know where she was running from.

13.10.2021 00:02


Just a National Forest wouldn't be a perfect place to plan a escape. Why didn't she wait till her mother was out of site than get in a car and leave from the school parking lot.

13.10.2021 13:57


Exactly. Or leave from her job. Really, she could have left from anywhere in Knoxville if she wanted to leave that badly.

10.10.2021 14:33


Don't forget to add the hour plus wasted before the Park was called.

10.10.2021 13:08


From the NPS Report , some time after her disappearance a recently abandon campsite was discovered on the south face of Clingmans Dome. Not sure if Hazel Creek or Bone Valley Trails were searched.

09.10.2021 12:35


But the drop and pick up points might've been two different addresses.

09.10.2021 11:59


Touching Base. Would that be a good idea Leaving to return then retrieve to again leave. The area would be hot for a while.

07.10.2021 00:30


Remember, Jack of Whitechapel collected ties

07.10.2021 00:23


Robert beside not having having been seen or hiking with the others in the class. He also is quoted have been the last one back to the bus.

07.10.2021 00:11


That's a enigma nothing is mentioned just that he drove the bus.

06.10.2021 17:08


What did the bus driver do for the 6+ hours they were on the hike? Is Wayne Dunlap still alive?

07.10.2021 02:16


The bus driver was mandated to remain with the bus. With that being said, we don’t know if he/she completely abided by that. Yes, Mr. Dunlap is alive.

19.07.2021 15:58


Robert Simpsons dad was a lawyer. They say the dogs tracked her scent to the road. What if robert and his dad came back later that evening and took the body out of the park to hide it?

27.05.2021 17:29

Harry Avery

Were the cigarette butts and beer can kept as evidence.

11.01.2021 19:53


The only thing that'd lure her off the path, thinking about that long ride back, someone was smoking off the trail. She probably smelled it as she was walking and they offered her one.

06.12.2020 13:55


the Tower has been an enigma , it was encased in fog, and never searched when she was first discovered missing.

26.08.2020 12:05


Strange that footprints were found in sand, that he could even tell precisely the make of the shoe when there had been a torrential downpour the evening/night that Trenny disappeared. Fresh prints?

06.07.2020 23:48

Elle Parke

Is there a roster of all of the students that attended the field trip?

It would be interesting to get insight from all of the 40 students, verses the few who gave statements to the police.

07.07.2020 00:37


Yes there is. Some interviewed gave statements to the police, some did not. A few are deceased. Some silent. Some declined to participate.

11.02.2020 23:40

Phu Cat

I was at Wayne's and Lynn's wedding, I knew them from college while I was studying Agriculture.

10.02.2020 03:24


Isn’t it more than a bit odd that a Quartermaster in the US Army can keep track of weapons, supplies, and what have you, and then loses a student on a field trip?

22.08.2019 11:15


The Cataloochee Valley and National Park.

20.08.2019 12:05


Rumoured a lot of illegal activities goes on in the park, like drug manufacturing.

20.08.2019 11:25

Appalachian American

Very true those mountains keep there secrets, legends from the Trail of Tears, though to today.

19.08.2019 01:14


If you want, reach out to the author of STILL MISSING. He's Michael Bouchard. He'll be more than happy to assist with this.

19.08.2019 01:12


The NPS will not admit to it but the same happened to Dennis Martin Jr in 1969. There have been individuals coming into that park and others as well committing crimes and getting away with it.

08.08.2019 10:51


The coat having been worn by two different individuals, might've been a issue with the tracking dog's.

08.08.2019 11:14


Very valid point. The mingled scents may have confused the dogs to some degree

07.08.2019 10:22


Also, back several years ago, when Chris's Crime Forum was up, remember a post stating the owner of the coat, got it back before she disappeared.

08.08.2019 11:24


NPS states she wore it when she vanished, but then again, they made several other mistakes. If Robert got the coat back, that may explain how he had her comb, we know he kept that, it was in his car.

06.08.2019 16:07


True, he sent the student back to Andrew's Bald.

06.08.2019 13:21


Interesting after losing one of the students, he and another student went on a search, he separated from the student and did a independent search in a opposite direction to Double Spring's.

06.08.2019 03:50


Does anyone know if anybody besides Wayne Dunlap saw those footprints at the shelter that day? Has it ever been verified that they were even there, it could have been made up.

07.07.2019 12:30


True, I forgot that trail, and a out of the way parking lot. The question is was she heading in that direction, or being driven?

07.07.2019 05:36

Jimmy Jack

Also the Road Prong Trail, has a parking lot, and a little over 3 miles from US 441.

06.07.2019 22:12


There's a shelter at Mount Collins, on the Sugarland trail, about a klick from a junction with the AT.

25.06.2019 21:45


Does anyone know if Trenny's parents are still alive?

25.05.2019 02:31


Tell me it was just a dream. 10/08/76 3:15.

07.01.2019 21:01


Yes, if the cigarette butts had been retained at least for a DNA sample. That was really the only tangible evidence besides the beer can, and a few broken ferns. The truth has a way of manifesting.

07.01.2019 20:08


I'd be interested to know if they retained the evidence in this case, and whether they ever ran any DNA tests on the beer can. Its interesting that it was left unfinished.

02.10.2018 19:53

Trek On

Yes, prayer's for the missing hiker, her family, and the search and rescue team's, for there safe return.

02.10.2018 19:42


Really makes one wonder about what’s going on. Nearly 42 years later, another hiker is missing in the same area that Trenny vanished from. Been missing a week today. Here’s hoping that she is found

02.10.2018 19:32

Trek On

It's sad, that another hiker, is missing in the same general area as Trenny, and at about the same time of year.

08.09.2018 17:41


Yes, all they’d need to do would be to keep her from calling out or screaming. Granted, thick fog messes with sounds.

08.09.2018 17:38

Gary 7

Very true, plus someone that actively knew the trails, could've moved her during the search, until the time was right, to exit her to a waiting vehicle.

08.09.2018 17:25


The search stopped for awhile that evening and then picked up again. In the span of the halt in searching, she could have been taken to a waiting vehicle and whisked out of the Park.

08.09.2018 17:21

Gary 7

True, the fog was thick, the tower was incased, with thick fog, sad, no one thought to check the tower, plus, misting rain on and off all day.

08.09.2018 17:06


Likely hidden at the observation tower in the thick fog until it was deemed safe to move her. Dogs tracked her scent to the base of the tower. Park shouldn’t have been too full of people that day.