TOWNSEND, Tenn. (WATE) — A woman from Georgia is trying to reunite someone with a ring she found while hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park over the weekend.
Erin Fox, of Woodstock, Ga., said she was hiking near Cades Cove with a friend on Saturday when she stumbled upon a ring.
“I was looking down, just kind of shuffling my feet, and I happened to see it glittering there in the sunlight walking up towards the house,” Fox said.
Fox picked up a three-pronged, silver diamond ring.
“The first thing I thought of was, if I lost something–no matter the monetary value–I’d want it back,” Fox said.
She said that the ring didn’t have any markings on it.
Fox planned to drop the ring off at the Cades Cover Visitor Center on her way back from the trail, but there was no parking and she needed to get gas.
“We had intended to come back to the Cades Cove Visitor Center, but a tree came down and blocked us from getting back into the park,” Fox explained.
Instead, she gave her contact information to a nearby gas station, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Museum and called the Cades Cove Visitor Center to do the same.
GSMNP park rangers said they receive about 400 lost items annually across the entire park.
They said that about 300 visitors call the parks service annually, reporting that they lost an item.
Only about 20% of the items are reunited with the owners.
Fox and her friend ended up leaving East Tennessee that same night because of the weather.
When she got home, she posted on Facebook.
“Facebook reunites families. Facebook has found lost items and reunited them with their owners across the world. So, Facebook is my biggest ally in hoping to find the owner right now,” Fox said.
Fox said that she wasn’t posting a picture of the ring, so people would have to describe it first, or show proof (such as a picture) first.
“I had found a pure-bred dog a few years ago and posted pictures of it. (I) had quite a few people trying to say it was their dog, so it took a while to weed out and find the true owner,” Fox said.
She didn’t want that to be the case for the ring.
Park rangers have a similar system to returning a lost item to its owner.
They’ve collected cellphones, cameras, shoes, gloves, jackets, strollers and a lot more.
Once someone brings an item they found to once of the park stores, ranger stations or visitor centers, park staff will log the item into a park-wide inventory list.
Found items will almost always end up at park headquarters in Gatlinburg, according to Dana Soehn, spokesperson for GSMNP.
If someone drops off something at a GSMNP ranger station in North Carolina, it will be transferred to headquarters.
If someone is trying to claim an item that was found, Soehn says staff will only hand it over if they are sure it belongs to the person claiming the item.
However, Soehn said, the park is only required to hold onto lost and found items for about 60 days.
After 60 days, the item officially becomes federal property and the park will either dispose it or, if valuable, open bids.
Soehn said park staff has strict policies to follow when it comes to lost and found items, but because of the number of people visiting the park and how large the park is, items could remain at headquarters a little longer than 60 days.
“Sadly, there’s been a lot of people who’s lost sentimental and valuable items in the park and they haven’t recovered them. I’ve lost things and it’s not a fun feeling to lose something that means something to you,” Fox said.
She said that some people have reached out to her on Facebook about the ring, but none have been the right owner.
Fox also plans to take the ring to a jeweler to see how much it’s worth and if the owner could be tracked by finding out more about the ring itself.
She said that once she finds the owner, she will either mail the ring or meet up with them depending on how far they live from her.
If anyone finds or loses items while in the Smokies, they can drop it off or call any of the park ranger stations, park stores or visitor centers.
Soehn said that the more detail of where it was lost or found, the better chance of the owner recovering it.
Fox said people can either message her on Facebook to find out if it’s their ring they are missing or email her at email@example.com.