Friday, January 30, 2009

The Bizzard of '93

"A big snowfall hits the ridge, the 9th snowfall of the winter and it will sock us all in hopefully. There's so far maybe 18 inches of snow with creosote stove madness and shoveling angst but it is no big deal as the winds haven't hit yet. Hurricane force they say but these are evil limp-necked rumors if ya ask me. As soon as Americans get homebound they declare emergency conditions and spread such panic over the radio waves. As far as I can tell, Boone's shut down and the local radio station is going wild."
Here are actual quotes from the radio during the storm:
**"Stay indoors!!"
**"It's the storm of the century!"
**"Bring pets inside."
**"All church services cancelled."
**"106 mph winds on the coast."
**"The weather science institute at M.I.T. says we're all doomed"(I made this one up).
**"Stay tuned to the radio as we cover the Blizzard of '93"
**"The birds are going crazy, throw out some bread."
**"Snow depth has reached 18.5 inches."
**"Jimmy Jones calls from his cell phone, says it's basically a white out."
**"We are broadcasting on two stations in case you lose us on one."
**"WSJK station in West Jefferson had to go off the air due to ice crystals on the transmitter."
**"Sugar Grove caller reports 28 inches in a protected spot."
**"City officials report a curfew beginning at 7pm in Boone."
**"The National Guard is being called out."
**"A group of 30 motorists stuck near Deep Gap will have to break into Parkway elementary school for the night. He wanted police to know this over the radio."
"The wind is here and we are midway thru the storm. It looks like I'm gonna have to shovel out the entrance every three hours around the clock, otherwise I'll wake up in the morning sealed in, a dreadful thought."
"The storm is over but I have 35 inches of snow with 6 foot drifts and the low this morning was 6 degrees. The sun is out now and I recovered from a flurry of activity and a nasty head wound from last night. In the howling wind I decided I had enough of a new tin stove I was trying(the old one was outside in pieces and under a 6 foot drift), so I proceeded to pick it up and throw it, still burning, into a snowbank and salvage the other."
"I started by digging thru the snow and getting all the iron pieces I needed from my old stove, and rebuilding it by using two 6 inch old creosoted stove pipes cut down from 24 inches to 21 inches and bolted onto the old stove iron bottom door panel and top iron plate. Why? Because the witch of the new, improved tin stove just spewed smoke inside the lodge and spewed creosote everywhere else. I wasn't going to get any sleep anyway as the wind and snow and low temps had me pulling tipi guard and master snow-shoveler to keep from getting sealed inside the lodge."
"So around 10pm I went out behind the woodpile which had five feet of snow on it and I dug out the many parts of the old stove. Spreading newspapers on the tipi floor I brought in all the dirty rusty parts and cleaned them and then I used a pair of fabric scissors and cut the filthy stovepipes to length--the worst."
"Suffice it to say the old stove is now cranking but what a hellish job. (This was before getting the new stove in '94). Blizzards have a way of puckering the old sphincter and it got me going. One half hour ago I quickly walked up a high snowbank(used to be the trail)and proceeded to impale my forehead on a nail jutting out of a low horizontal tree branch. It didn't even hurt until I squirted alcohol on it."
"It is 8 degrees on Sunday and I walked halfway to the deck overlook with ridge drifts 4 feet deep and nearly impossible to plow thru without snowshoes. I don't have any but was thinking of using my turkey roast pan top and bottom, or I could use a sapling with nylon rope across it. Have it figured out by the time this all melts."
"You should of seen me these last two days, last night especially was a war zone and I was beady eyed. This is not to sound funny as it was all very stressful. As I was shoveling drifts about, my mind slipped into a rodent-like fear of all things natural and it was like a nonstop firefight to survive for 20 hours. A low grade panic had me going in circles, tossing snow around, squatting in one clean spot not trashed with wet shoes, socks, gloves, stovepipes, wood, water jugs, slush, piss bucket, while all the while the demon wind threw me into some dreamlike beady-eyed state much like a mother lifting a car off her young child."
"It is payday at my one-day-a-week church job but I ain't going anywhere. The sky is blue and the sun is out and it is a tropical 27 degrees and impending snowmelt faces us all. I walked to the deck overlook and played the flute to let the poor souls down below know I'm still alive. It is great not to have electricity and running water during this time(and actually, at all times), as the mangy curs in Boone whined outloud to no one about their consumptive woes. A few derelicts were caught in cars for over 30 hours and that would've been pure torture."
"It is evening and I washed my hands, face and hair with peppermint soap and attempted to walk further than the big locust but gave it up and I didn't really try. Cabin fever and tipi dengue. A chopper flew over looking for a family of 4 trying to walk out to the road, fools. Five foot drifts cause the body to expend too many calories inducing fatigue and a screw-it attitude. They are all probably in a stupor as night falls. Did you hear about those backpackers caught in the Smokies? This ridgetop had its own wonderful movie to show me complete with the medulla squirts and the winching hysteria. I tried to pee but it froze to the ground and I couldn't move until I hacked myself free with a hatchet. Ha Ha Ha."
"We've had a curfew for two days so no one's allowed outside anyway, at least on the highways. Last night at about 10 I walked around, looked at the thermometer at 8 degrees and out in the distance about five miles on the road I saw a convoy of emergency vehicles following each other, a state patrol behind a scrapper and a dump truck with sand. It was errie yet very cool. Here are some storm stories:
**A normal two hour hike took backpackers 8 hours in waist deep snow. Their leader, when he woke up in the hospital, asked about his group.
**An elderly couple in some remote part of Watauga County spent 6 days stranded and snowed in when suddenly they heard a helicopter and the first person they saw that week was NC Governor Jim Hunt waving from the chopper above them. He threw them a few MREs and waved good luck."

1992: Another Year At The Lodge

Johnny B and Anne visit and we all take a sweat in the new sweatlodge. Here they are gathering firewood.

1991: Excerpts From The Trail Journal

FOTOG: Johnny B visits the lodge for an overnight visit and brings his best friend, Kudra Dog.

"I arrive here at the lodge after following the other trail from DK's side up the draw hollow, across the creek and up to the pine forest, across the cliffs and up the gradual inclined ridge finger to the very top of Chickweed Ridge. From there I walked downhill across the razorback ridge to the tipi, coming out at the fallen oak tree bridge."

"Last night I walked up from the DK's in 9 degrees and I knew the walk back would be a tough nut so at 12:30 I took off and was sweating like a pig upon arrival here at the tipi. When I got here it was zero degrees, the coldest temp recorded here in almost 4 years. Now, the next day, I sit inside on this very clear opal day and the temp has risen to 22 degrees and it is balmy, the tipi is in need of a thorough cleaning but it won't happen until some warmer weather comes."

1990: Excerpts From The Tipi Journal

"Some friends and kids came up to the lodge in a nighthike with lights and I gave one of the kids my old famous Ben Pearson bow and some arrows with the quiver. We had a great night though the stove needs desperately to be replaced or repaired, probably dismantled and fixed, but it will never be airtight. We came to get Pisgah gear--backpack, tent and stove--as we had a trip planned with Johnny B and others."

"It's another day at the lodge after humping up a chainsaw and doing some major trail work with it, cutting the big fallen tree which crossed the trail. Up top I resumed, working on the downed oak as there is a lot of wood in it."

"Autumn comes and with it the wind and dead or dying leaves. I'm up at the tipi site on a gorgeous ZAP! A BAT JUST FLEW IN AND ALL AROUND AND ZOOMED ME REPEATEDLY AS I HUGGED THE FLOOR AND THEN I JUMPED OUT THE DOOR TO LET IT EXPLORE THE PLACE IN ITS WILD FLIGHT AND THEN TO FIND THE DOOR AND FLEE!!" (It swirled around liked water down a drain and when it reached the door it was gone).

"I gathered my first ever living tipi pole today and debarked it with a drawknife. All of this comes after a 72 hour rainfest. I spent two great days filled with hiking these trails and making new ones and gathering new poles. My left hand is torn and sore after using it to hold the machete which I used to do all of the hard work. The thumb is almost paralyzed with a few rips and the typical ache from a deeply buried Hawthorn tree thorn. Now as I sit in the warm lodge I listen to the loud gusts of this fearsome ridge wind and wonder, what's next?"

"It snowed last night and dipped from 60 degrees to 20, which is the usual cold snap and it is only going to get colder. I would say it is around 15 and falling and I do feel the cold, especially on my knees which are low to the ground. Since all this seems to be happening I installed an ozan, the first time ever. It's like a inside ceiling tarp."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

1989: Excerpts From The Tipi Journal

"I did a nighthike to the lodge and here comes another wintry day as I sit with a light patter of snow falling on the tipi skins. I am back in the fold of the lodge as I walked up the muddy trail with bow and quiver in hand and a full pack on my back, looking for a piece of Fastex buckle lost on the treadway yesterday. It was ripped off the pack by the brush. It is warm up here and I finished plugging up the rust holes in my stove with a black tar-like substance, aluminum foil and a 3 foot sheet of thin tin."

"The woodstove now hums but the wet icey wood necessitates the use of kerosene poured on newspaper, a sure fire starter. Now it hums and I wonder how long the thing would burn if I left it to go down and get some gear. Two hours? I went down and erected a trail pole with tibetan ribbons and then went to gear up and carry more heavy stuff. This lodge is getting full, there's enough clothing for 3 bums but never enough candles. A dog got my 5 lb peanut butter jug, I found it empty and torn 100 yards from the tipi and also a large quart container of honey is now history, it sat ripped but much closer to the lodge--3 feet."

"It is spring on the Beaverdam ridge. Before it all started, the rains I mean, and when the shoes and pants were once dry, we would crouch on feeble haunches filling water jugs by the open spring pipe below the ridge and sometimes that hole dried up but it was okay. And then, the two box turtles would walk down the trail, one maimed, and would wonder what all the ruckus was about. It is later evening after recoverng, reskinning, replastering and reshelling the outside of the lodge using the 3 blue tarps I got many months ago."

"Hurricane Hugo came thru but my tipi stands!!"

1988: Excerpts From The Tipi Journal

"I am out with the morning temp at 12 degrees and evening at 28. The temp is now 10 degrees as I feed the fire frequently and listen to the calm wind go thru the treetops high above me, the sound blocks out everything else. This spot is not as pristine as Lost Valley, it is not in a sea of rhododendron and does not have abundant water or a lake, but it has become a home base. It also has a pretty trail leading upward with deer, turkey, turtles, newts, groundhogs, abundant edibles and the close proximity for hitching into town and a community of like-minded souls below."

"The moon yellowish comes over my left shoulder as I write this and I will shortly crawl out of the tipi and walk back and forth in the snow, breathing deeply. I will look around and hear the wind and feel the cold against my face and love it, being glad to be alive, glad to have this boon of being out, free and alone, healthy and working on contentment and hermittry, yoga and solitude. My environment is good enough, now it depends on me to produce the flame of contentment."

"There is snow at the lodge and we have 12 inches and 10 degrees, what more could I want? Snow blows in from the west, a lot of it, as the temps dip to 8; there is almost too much windblown snow in the face to allow for a comfortable walk in the woods."

"The arctic, life in the arctic, becomes the most popular subject around here since up north they truly experience some deep cold where here we invoke the many names of god when the thermometer hovers right above zero. Of course, I am speaking here of people who live outside, backpackers, hikers, the homeless, debris shelterists and tipiers."

"I am at the lodge on this evening as the 31 degree night air captivates, the lantern glows and the fire cackles and pops. It is cloudy and it wants to rain as I sit on my haunches. The trail up last night occurred late and in the flashlight's glow, I had mud on my feet but made it. Johnny B came up for a chainsaw visit and we both walked down the trail to look for wood. The hawk screeched three or four times as it glided over our humble world."

1987: Excerpts From The Tipi Journal

"From the Harvard Camps and the Rominger Chouinard Camps I conceived a plan to ask permission to camp on the 40 acres of the old Stillwinds commune started in the early 1970s by John Swan. In March of '87 I had my first preconception and by the 17th had full permission from the community to use the land for camping."

"I am surely ready to hit the upward bending hillsides, I've got to move the gear to Stillwinds and I have to figure how to do it, borrow a truck once and forget about it. I rode the bicycle into the 'Winds yesterday and did some work on the site and gathered tipi poles."

"There has been a big freeze and a big big snow delaying my Stillwinds move but I gotta get away. I am now sleeping in the Chouinard tent at the Rominger Camps".(The "Nard was a single pole Chouinard pyramid tipi-style tent which I used thru '87 before the tipi).

"I am in town sleeping at the Oak Mother with a lot of snow, the deepest snow in years but the 'Winds beckon and the switchback trail calls softly."

"An auspicious full moon first night at the 'Winds with a broken lantern glass and the breaking of such is sad. DK's Dusty Dog sits to my right and came up with me. The big orange moon greeted me in its full orbed magic. Site preparation is like this: Find land and get permission and then scout it and find possible tipi sites and locate a water source. Then make a trail to the site and spend several nights on the land in the tent getting the lay of the place, feeling the wind direction, the water runoff from storms, the dead trees above the site, the surrounding noise levels and sun exposure. After this consideration it is time to gather the poles and debark them."

"The tipi hooch has been completed with the taste test coming up! It is late after a long hard two day flurry of activity. It is April 25 with the stove in the tipi and lanterns on high. Actually, the beauty of a simple rucksack is what truly inspires although this spot has everything and is probably somewhat permanent as the high winds bring in the summer. Stillwinds, but the winds are not still tonight with gusts from the west and the east facing door becomes a blessing, an idea from the American Indians."

"I am back in the yukta hooch after spending 6 weeks backpacking and camping in Pisgah NF with Johnny B. I am starting a new journal book at the tipi after a tremendous summer with Celo jaunts, Rainbow gatherings, a 5 week Pisgah trek, and trips to Robbinsville to look for Johnny B's Shay dog. My tipi projects include insulating the windward side using poles and leaves. I must alos gather more firewood, put up a feather pole at the trail entrance, fix the door and make it rainproof for snow and cold containment, and get a new bow saw."

"I returned from the elk creeks and the mountain asphalt byways, using my thumb as as ticket to anyplace like home, but instead I landed in Luray, Virginia for a day. I backpacked thru the Shenandoahs and the winds at Thornton Gap were horrible, they drove me down to Sperryville, to Manassas, to Charlottesville, to Bent Creek and finally to Yogaville at Swami Satchitananda's place near Farmville, Virginia."

"Presently the tipi lives in leaves and builds it's wood supply. I finished various projects here like cutting firewood, placing a blue liner inside, putting leaves around the outside, rigging up stovepipe by the door, and collecting and placing tree bark along the outside. There's a black winter sky on this forlorn mountain top as the trees softly roar in the wind and my woodstove creaks and pops to the heat inside. The tipi stands secure, the canvas door sits ajar to let in some fresh air."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The View From Tipi Ridge

The trail up to the tipi was steep but this view made it all worthwhile. I used the old North Face BackMagic pack for all my hauling needs and rarely was I without a pack unless I went down to the community for a get together, often returning late at night wearing just a daypack and holding a flashlight. I did hundreds of nighthikes up the trail, under full moons, in the snow, in desperately cold air temperatures, but always giddy to arrive back to my humble lodge.

One Of Many Snows

Every one of the 15 winters I spent at this tipi had its fair share of snow, and the lodge by design was well suited to the white. It drained quickly and warmed fast, it was very stable in high winds and easy to seal. All hail therefore the humble tipi home.

A Spirit Dog Visits The Tipi

For about two weeks this big malamute came up the trail and passed by the tipi to visit. He seemed holy and I called him Spirit Dog. He just arrived one day in his travels and passed by the lodge and stopped to say hello and then was on his way thru the woods. This went on for about two weeks and then he was gone. I sure miss him now.

Willow Visits The Tipi

The Hot Biker Chick? Well, by this time my old backpacking buddy and motorcycle mama is married and is actually a mama with two kids. She decided to come for a visit by bringing the family and her husband, Jodal. They spent the night and we talked about everything under the sun, especially about our past Pisgah trips.

The New Wood Stove

Around '94, my Mom came to Boone for a visit and we used her car to travel around the area looking for a suitable Tipi woodstove replacement for the old and smokey one I was using. We found a near perfect one at a flea market near Valle Crucis, and after close inspection I got it for $70 and loaded it carefully into the car and dumped it off at my trailhead below the lodge where it sat for several days.
Getting this heavy monster up the 800-1000 foot climb by myself was gonna be a Sysiphean task, so one day I went down and just started rolling it end over end like a domino, inch by inch up the mountain. After about four hours I made it about a third of the way and decided to wait for my backpacking buddy Johnny B to help.
A couple of days later Johnny B shows up and we manhandle the beast slowly up the trail, grunting and heaving as best we can. It's a heavy mofo. Finally we get it situated and hooked up properly, which takes some time as I have to reconfigure the pipe exit using new dimensions, etc. I used old clumps of insulation to block and seal the stovepipe hole and layed in enough new stovepipe as backup for the winter.
The new woodstove was a true outdoorsman's blessing, it kept a fire going all night long and kept the Tipi even hot on cold winter nights. It was not unusual to experience subzero temperatures during the long, cold Boone winters, the lowest I saw at the Tipi was -14 degrees, and this woodstove kept me warm.
I used a standard base camp style thermarest mattress for sleeping on the ground(with the ground covered in tarps and rugs and even in the beginning my old boy scout red flannel sleeping bag from the 1950s). And of course I used my old North Face Ibex goose down bag to sleep in, so it saw a lot of action thru the years.
When I first moved to the ridge in '87, I carried water from a well head at the bottom. Later, I discovered a small spring seep about 150 below the Tipi and dug it out and found it wet enough to form a small reservoir with a pipe and bucket-holding tank. This became my main water source and never really went dry, even during a drought. With five gallon water containers, I could load up two at the spring and hump them up at once, about a hundred pounds of the precious liquid. This was stored in the Tipi and I used very little on a daily basis. It's amazing how little water a person needs to survive, nothing like what is commonly used in a typical modern home.

Johnny B Visits The Lodge

Johnny B was one of my first visitors, and came up the most thru the years wearing his old Lowe backpack and bringing his dog Kudra. One time he came up carrying a whole watermelon, and another time after I found a much better iron woodstove, he helped me get it to the top.

Tipi Still Life With Wood Maul

All the security and warmth from the howls of winter came from my stacks of wood supply, and I was consistently working to improve it. The standard bowsaw became my tool of choice along with the needed wood maul to split each cut piece. Often I would borrow a chainsaw from down below and cut up deadfall close to the Tipi. Mercifully, about every two years a standing dead tree would fall, mostly oak and locust, and provide me with all the wood I needed. I kept it stacked like little protective walls around the lodge.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The 1994 Rebuilt Tipi

In '94 I cleared out the site and cut up the rotted poplar poles and put up a new Tipi using 21 new locust poles along with 20 older poplar poles. In addition, I added $150 worth of canvas tarps for the outside(carried up in one long, slow heart-pounding trip), and all secured with a few well placed anchor poles. The stovepipe as usual ran thru the door and I added a small piece of custom cut plexiglas skylight above the door. The dead leaf berm had to be refilled every autumn after the leaves fell.

The First Tipi Woodstove

As soon as I finished building the first Tipi(and living in my tent during the process), I found this old woodstove in a trash heap and with a little help carried it all the way up to the ridge. It had no sides and the top was off, but with a couple of 8-inch galvanized stovepipes cut and spread out for the sides, and with enough stove cement, I was able to get this baby to hold a fire, at least for a few hours. It kept me warm for many winter nights until I found something much better a few years later.

The most important configuration for me was to have the stovepipe exit out thru a double wide door, partially blocked for the pipe hole. This worked great and kept the top of the Tipi capped off and leakproof, so there was no hole above me. I had a bit of creosote problems but this was due mostly to the old rotted wood I was burning. I used a simple swinging door opening outward and closing securely on a piece of flat door wood. Home sweet home.

The Second Stillwinds Tipi

In 1990 I tore down my first Tipi and in about two days had a new one set up using cut poplar poles along with assorted old poles from the first lodge. The outside leaf berm really helped in high wind stability and as winter insulation.

Starting Up The Tipi Trail

Here I am in '87 at the start of the one mile Tipi trail going up behind to the top of the ridge. In the high trees circled in red was the approximate location of my 17 foot diameter tarp-covered Tipi. It was a difficult and sweaty but exhilirating hike up to the top of the ridge where the wind would be whipping across the open level lead.

The Stillwinds Tipi Years 1987-2001

In April of '87 I got permission to set up a tipi on 40 acres of land that used to be called the Stillwinds Community, a loosely-based commune 10 miles west of Boone. I bushwacked in behind the community and cut a switchbacked trail about one mile up onto a flat ridge overlooking the Watauga River and the tiny community of Cove Creek. The only way to reach this site was on a pretty little trail I built that gained about 800 feet of elevation, putting me about 3400 feet up atop a ridge finger.

The first lodge I built used strictly deadfall and old chestnut tree trunk sides as I didn't want to cut anything down that was alive. I already had a pretty good idea on how to set up a tripod and how to fill in a circle, and then I covered this frame with tarps and more wood and eventually capped off the top and added the rest of the wood, forming several layers.

One secret to enduring the harsh winters and the winds was an outside berm of dead leaves I built encircling the entire lodge around its base. This layer kept me warmer and helped my woodstove to use less wood. My backpacking days were far from over, everything I needed had to be humped up the tipi trail to the top, including food, water,(I found a spring seep right below the lodge), the woodstove, clothing and all the rest. This would be my home for the next 15 years.

Willow The Motorcycle Mama

In 1985 I met Willow and we did several trips on my 1970 model BMW. I first met her in '85 and shared several backpacking trips over the year with her to many different places: Pisgah Upper Creek, #9 Tipi, Horn Hill, AT, Raider Camp, Lost Valley, the Sky Ranch Camps, and Bald River wilderness. She even lived alone in the #9 Tipi for several months. In 2006 she thruhiked the Appalachian Trail(read her trip on Trail I joined her around Fontana and Cheoah Bald for a few days. In 2007 Johnny B, Willow and I did a trip into the Bald River wilderness and it was good to get the old Pisgah hands back together.

The Motorcycle Craze

The craze started in 1971 when I was in the USAF and got a used '68 Honda 350 which I rode thru base and even parked in the barracks. I was fascinated with the chopper look and attempted some minor modifications like a teardrop tank, Z-bars, shorty pipes and six inch fork slugs.

Another Round Of Street Music

I kept playing the clarinet and saxophone in public on the street and gradually evolved into mastering the little wooden recorder flute, easy to carry and fun to play. When I was living up at the Harvard Camp tipi site, I passed some dumpsters on the way home one day and inside found a nice little Hopf recorder in a carrying case with a fingering chart. I learned to play it and in about 8 months could whip it out in public for jams and Irish tunes. By this time I was living at my Stillwinds Tipi and rode a little motorcycle into town, or hitched during the big snowstorms.

Yoga And The Woods

A big motivation to live outdoors for me was the philosophy of yoga meditation and simplicity. Here I am in the mid '80s visiting friends at a campground and taking time out to do a little yoga. Every tent I used I made sure was high enough to sit up in, and I always carried a wool blanket for my asanas.

It was difficult trying to control the mind, in fact I never was successful in gaining the peace and concentration I was looking for, but I tried my best during a period of over 20 years.

A Typical Pisgah Backpacking Group

And yes, we somehow managed to get everybody into the campsite on a two mile trail, in some parts a two mile STEEP trail. These were taken in 1992 and includes Willow, Jodal, Lindal, Johnny B, dogs, kids and yours truly Uncle Fungus.

Another Pisgah Canyon Shot

Around 1991 we return to the Upper Creek rock canyon and leave camp to do a dayhike into the gorge where there's this tricky rock face to cross. Celo Carl and Lindal Newbius(both trailnames)step lightly.

I Visit Turtle Island

Way back in the early 1980s when I was living out of a backpack, I met a fellow backpacker coming thru town on foot wearing his gear and he introduced himself as Eustace Conway and was looking to set up a tipi in Watauga county and settle down. He eventually found a place along Howards Creek and then another place near Deep Gap he called Turtle Island Preserve where this foto was taken.

Eustace and I shared several backpacking trips together though indirectly as he was part of the college anthropology department and went out on Pisgah trips along Harpers Creek to run sweatlodges during get togethers organized by Dr. Harvard Ayers. I tagged along and set up my tent with the others including CampTrails Bob. Eustace also helped organize a powwow at the Scheile Museum in Gastonia where we would all go and camp, even Big Don went one time.

I remember once I was sitting on the college campus with my pack nearby when two friends of Eustace showed up on foot both wearing backpacks. They were Frank and Lori and the girl had a North Face BackMagic pack, the same as me. They wanted to get to Eustace's tipi along Howards Creek which was on the other side of a mountain called Howards Knob. I figured we could reach the place by heading up the mountain and over it to the other side, entailing some bushwacking and "confusion" for a while but we finally reached Howards Creek and found Eustace's tipi in the woods. I camped there for the night and in the morning left the group and hitched back into Boone.

The Westwind Tent On Roan Mountain

Everybody needs to backpack along the Appalachian Trail on Roan Mountain and set up a camp on the high ground. This place along with Mt Rogers and the Grayson Highlands area are two of the best places to backpack if you're looking for some high elevation excitement with wind, cold and snow. Not so windy in these pics but we were lucky. Or not, depending on your point of view.

The New(Old) North Face Westwind Tent

In 1989 I got a new North Face tent to replace my worn out out blue and brown Tuolumne. It was called the Westwind, a 3 poled hoop tent in bright yellow and gray, and was used extensively in Pisgah, at the Stillwinds Tipi, in the Sierra Nevadas during my '89 California trip, along Lake Michigan in February at zero degrees, and hundreds of nights at the Beck Camps and behind the new church where I worked. The top fotog shows the tent set up in the backyard of some friends I was visiting, and the bottom was taken in a national forest in South Carolina with a small group of backpackers from Boone.

All Set Up In Pisgah At Burnthouse Camp

Johnny B and Rob are standing around camp along Upper Creek in Pisgah at our favorite campsite. Behind the campsite 75 yards is a 100 foot waterfall coming down off the hillside behind camp. There's a short steep trail to the top of these falls and it's a favorite place to visit. The bottom fotog shows Lindal in camp and my new North Face Westwind tent I got in 1989, a replacement to the old Tuolumne.

Pisgah Night Arrival

Here's Johnny B setting up camp along Upper Creek after we did a nighthike in along the trail. This could also be called the "drooling mini-mag shot" as anyone who has used the mini-mag flashlight knows, prolonged use results in sore lips and excessive drooling. But back in the mid 1980s when this fotog was shot, the mini-mag was the best backpacking flashlight you could get, and this was way before the LEDs so popular today.

Johnny B's Tipis

Johnny lived in several tipis over the years, one up at the Harvard Camps, one in southwest North Carolina(the white one), and one in Celo, NC, where he lived for four years at the base of Mt Mitchell and the Black Mountains(bottom fotog). The Celo camp was especially nice as it was in a community of friendly old hippies and next to a fast flowing, clean-water creek. I would often camp here in my tent next to his tipi and we would visit Joe Hollis and his Mountain Gardens up the hill a ways. Joe had full moon drumming nights where I got to play my soprano saxophone while a dozen drummers played around the fire.

Johnny B In Pisgah at Burnthouse Camp

We are camping along Upper Creek as usual and I caught Johnny B gathering firewood in this night shot.

Johnny B In The Glory Days

Here I am with my backpacking buddies Willow and Johnny B and his four legged friend Shay Dog in 1986. Johnny B had one of his tipis set up here along Laurel Creek(barely see the tipi at top of picture), and I was in my swami-phase with ochre pants. I considered myself to be a sort of wandering sadhu but Johnny B said it was more like a sauntering wadhu.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pisgah Brother and Backpacking Buddy Johnny B

I first met Johnny B in 1985 behind the church where I parked my old BMW motorcycle. He was then a student at ASU and he also shared a love of motorcycles, having ridden up on his own BMW to check his mail by the campus post office located next to the church. The cause of our meeting? A burned out headlight. We got to talking and thus began a long fulfilling relationship of treks and travels together and hundreds of shared backpacking trips to places like Upper Creek, Horn Hill, Raider Camp, Harpers Creek, Conehead, Lost Valley, the Stillwinds Tipi and the Citico/Slickrock wilderness.

Johnny B At Babaji Point

This photo shows my backpacking buddy and Pisgah brother Johnny B atop Babaji Point, the high cliff overlooking Upper Creek canyon. He's holding on tightly to the little tree as it's a terrible fall otherwise. This fotog was taken during a Pisgah trip in the 1980s when Johnny B and I spent many years exploring the area. You can see Upper Creek in the picture way down below, the same place most of the canyon fotogs were taken.

In The Holy Pisgah Canyon

Here is another typical scene along Upper Creek in the rock canyon area. This is the beginning part of the stone waterway, and starts with this pool and big rocks and goes downstream. You can barely make me out in the water waving back to the camera.

Upper Creek Canyon Gorge

Another feature of the Burnthouse Camp and the Upper Creek area is the rock canyon gorge located downstream a ways from the campsite. If you go upstream you hit the MST and the Moss Rock and the Greentown area, but if you go downstream you reach a fantastic gorge much like the Linville gorge area. Here the creek becomes a giant stone funnel for several hundred yards, with deep swimholes and little waterfalls. At a deep swimhole further down there is Babaji Point, a 200 foot high rock face towering above the canyon and reachable from the trail coming in, you just have to know where to turn off and start bushwacking.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Greentown Area Along Upper Creek Pisgah

If you leave the fine campsite along Burnthouse Camp and go upstream a ways, you'll pass the Moss Rock and eventually tie into the Mountains to Sea trail where it opens up into the old Greentown Camps. Here the MST crosses upper on the right and continues its merry way into the Harpers Creek watershed and north. Years ago there used to be a road to here but it has been closed for at least 25 years.

A Typical Upper Creek Pool

What made the Upper Creek area so inviting for backpacking were the many fine falls and swimholes along its length. Here is one near the Moss Rock and adjacent to the Greentown trail on what is now part of the Mountains to Sea trail. Further upstream the trail opens into a wide campground and even further up there is the opportunity to do a difficult ascent along the creek to arrive eventually, after a full day of bushwacking and rock hopping, to the high falls near the headwaters of Upper.