Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TRIP 93 April'09


April 10-21 2009

Little Mitten Drops Me Off
Seeing Two Backpackers For 12 Days
The 22nd Nutbuster Trail

A 12 DAY TRIP AT GRASSY GAP: My girlfriend Little Mitten drops me off at a Citico trailhead and I start down the trail with the 9 creek crossings, hence the need to hang my boots around my neck. The big yellow thing is my 3.10lb Base Camp winter Thermarest pad.

THE HIGH WATER OF THE SOUTH FORK: Thank God I didn't have to cross this creek and I found a back way thru Clemmer Cove and got on the South Fork trail downstream where I set up my first night's camp.

FIRST NIGHT CAMP: I call it the White Rock Camp and it's close to the creek and just right for a great night of camping.

BRUSH MOUNTAIN CREEK: It's tumbling down to the South Fork as I pass by on my way to the Donner Camps on the South Fork. There's a fine trail that run up this creek and it's called the Brush Mt Trail, and has been recently cleared and opened and is a new favorite.
THE NORTH FORK FOOTBRIDGE: What better place to pose for a fotog then on this bridge?
CROWDER BRANCH TRAIL: I leave the South Fork and pull the Rocky Flats trail and start the Crowder Branch trail, an inside Citico trail leading up to Fodderstack ridge. It's steep in places and has several creek crossings.
GOOD OLD CROWDER CAMP: After you hump up Crowder trail, you reach the ridge and this fine open campsite on the BMT.

DOWN TO SLICKROCK CREEK: I leave Crowders on the Big Stack trail and reach Slickrock Creek where I set up at Bee Camp in the Slicnic Camps. What's Slicnic? SLICkrock/NIChols cove, the two main trails in the area.

THE MIGHTY SLICKROCK: As seen from Bee Camp. The cleanest water in the Southeast? Yup.

THE ONLY BACKPACKERS I SAW IN 12 DAYS: A father/daughter team out of Asheville, and we talk before I start up the Nutbuster trail, the upper Slickrock.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NUTBUSTER TRAIL: Open Cove Camp, located in a once open hemlock and silverbell cove, now a brambly mess due to the hemlock dieoff.
CLIMBING THE NUTBUSTER FOR THE 22ND TIME: I've divided the Nutbuster into 10 sections and the worst and most rugged is section 6 where this fotog was taken. It's my favorite trail of them all.
A VIEW OF THE HANGOVER FROM THE NUTBUSTER: There's a merciful reststop on the Nutbuster on section 9 in the Heath Tunnel at a place called the Heath Overlook, and you get to see some stuff.

THE GOAL OF THE NUTBUSTER? It's a high gap called Naked Ground where I set up for the night.

AIRJET CAMP: I leave Naked Ground and stay on the high ridge between the Bob and the Hangover, a place I call Four Mile Ridge, and my destination is this campsite near the Hangover rock overlook, named in honor of Jody Brown and Rcarver who set up here in a cold blizzard and used a Mt Hardwear Airjet tent.

WHEN ALL SEEMS BLEAK GOD SENDS A LIZARD: I spent all day with this guy up on the sunny rocks of the Hangover.

DEEP CREEK CAMP: Now, if you want a great backpacking trek, leave the Hangover and fall down the Deep Creek trail to the little wooden footbridge and you'll find this great campsite.
THE BIG DOG AND THE PINHEAD: Here we are posing by the Deep Creek footbridge. Another favorite place.
LANDON CAMP WITH THE TWO MISCREANTS: We leave Deep Creek and pull the long loop up Haoe Lead back to Naked Ground. Our trip is winding down.
MERINO CLAD NATURE BOY: I knew something was up back in Kansas in 1959 when I was called a nature boy by my 4th grade teacher. I'm leaving Naked Ground and heading out of the woods for my pickup at Beech Gap.

BEECH GAP LOOKING INTO NORTH CAROLINA: Nantahala Forest is what they call it.

KING FUNGUS SURVEYS HIS KINGDOM: It's called Cherokee Forest when you look from the NC side. And so another trip ends.

Monday, January 18, 2010

TRIP 92 Mar'09


March 12-23 2009


CITICO TRAILHEAD: A 12 day trip begins at the Grassy Branch trailhead and so I load up myself and Shunka and we leave the car and begin another March backpacking trip.

CRANBROOK SCHOOL LEADERS: The Cranbrook school in Michigan has been running 10 day backpacking trips for their high school students since 1979, and I always run into them in March, this time on the South Fork Citico at the Donner Camps.

BURNING TRASH ON MILL BRANCH: I leave the South Fork and go up the Rocky Flats trail and tie into the short but steep Mill Branch trail and set up my Hilleberg tent at a small place next to the creek by the first and only crossing.

A BACKPACKING CRANBERRY: As I set up camp near the Fodderstack trail, I run into 12 Cranbrook students and their leaders who join me at my campsite for the night.
GORDON AND THE CRANBROOK LEADERS: The Cranberries use Walmart tarps for their shelters and I go visit the leader's tarp for dinner at dusk.

UNCLE FUNGUS AT MILL GAP BMT: I leave the 'Berries and climb up to Mill Gap and get on the BMT and go south to my destination past Cherry Log Gap at a site I call Snow Camp.

A WINDY SNOW CAMP: I got caught in a rough rainstorm and nearly everything got soaked so when I got to Snow Camp I put out things to dry in the wind.

DEEP CREEK FOOTBRIDGE: I leave Snow Camp and climb up and over the Bob to the Hangover and fall off on one of my favorite trails, the Deep Creek/Haoe Lead loop. Here's the Deep Creek wooden bridge.

ON THE HAOE LEAD TRAIL: It's a briar and bramble filled, hot trail and it shows as I'm plumb wore out but I make it to my next camp around Jenkins Meadow where I find a new water source.

ROCKS ON THE HAOE TRAIL: The one reason this trail is my favorite is because of the big rocks all along the way. It's a spine ridge walk.

GRAVEYARD CAMP: I call this level campsite the Graveyard Camps because of all the fallen blowdowns along the whole ridge. It's another of my favorite camps.

CHAD HOOPER'S CREW: I run into fellow backpacker and friend Chad Hooper and his Coker Creek TN church group up on the Hangover and so I set up my tent further along the trail and we all hang out together. Here is part of their camp, and the ridge behind them is the Haoe Lead trail I came up from the Graveyard Camp.

THE COKER CREEK CREW: And a great group of people. Chad is in the back row in the blue jacket.

THE INDY FOUR: I run into the same backpackers I saw at the beginning of my trip and they all hail from Anderson College in Indiana. I name their campsite "Bree Camp" after the girl on the right, and this campsite will prove to be a cold and snowy place for me on a later trip.

ANOTHER NIGHT ON THE BOB: I get some good colors atop Bob Bald and settle into my second to the last night of the trip. The next day comes with a 9 mile hike down the South Fork Citico trail.

ALMOST DOWN THE SOUTH FORK TRAIL: I got cut up in the brambles but made it down to set up one last time by the South Fork crossing.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

TRIP 91 Feb/March '09

February 20-28 March 1 2009

Three Georgia Backpackers And A Big Black Dog
Baby Skunk At Iron Camp
Two Girls From Asheville On The Little Santee
Ann Arbor Girls With A Cranbrook Student
Three Day Rain At Naked Ground
Three 'Ville Boys With The Tarp At Naked Ground
THE FAMILY JEWELS: A full pack with 10 days of supplies. I go into the Citico Wilderness from the South Fork trail and stop at the first creek crossing and survey my route across. My Mystery Ranch pack is fully loaded and the big thing on the right is my winter Thermarest pad, the Base Camp. The bottom green tube is my tent.

"POISONED IN THE BUSHES AND BLOWN OUT ON THE TRAIL": A Bob Dylan quote comes to mind on the South Fork trail after climbing steeply up to an overgorwn and briar-filled logging cut trail. I stop by a big cairn of rocks to rest, a place I call the Hippie Cairn.
ARCTERYX NAOS 55: On my way up the South Fork I run into 3 backpackers from Georgia and a big black dog. One of them has a fancy waterproof Arcteryx pack which I check out as I head up river to my tentsite at Iron Camp.

THE BACKPACKING DOG: I remember when we all looked like this, young and healthy.

FROZEN IRON CAMP: I reach a great campsite on the upper part of the South Fork trail and get hit with cold temps and snow the next morning. A baby skunk found my tent and went inside for a visit!

I WOULDN'T LIE: Nope, a baby skunk did come into my tent for a moment and then stumbled out and away. Goofy little thing.
ON TOP OF THE SOUTH FORK: I leave Iron Camp and get to the top of the South Fork trail and turn left and in about 1.5 miles I reach a campsite where I run into the same guys I saw before from Georgia with the dog. They're on their way out to Beech Gap in the newly fallen snow.

THERE THEY GO: The Georgia boys leave Uncle Fungus to the cold and the snow but I'm A-OK.
SNOW CAMP IN . . . UH . . . THE SNOW: I leave Camp 149(where I saw the Georgia boys), and hoofed it up the BMT connector trail to a place I call Snow Camp, a fine camp close to Cherry Log Gap on Fodderstack Ridge.

OVER BOB BALD AND DOWN: I leave Snow Camp and go up and over the Bob and reach the Stratton Ridge trail which I take and pose here by the Wolf Laurel junction. I call Stratton the Horse Cove trail and follow it all the way down to the Joyce Kilmer memorial forest, the place with the big trees.

CAMPING ALONG LITTLE SANTEETLAH CREEK: I bypass the big Kilmer trees and find a low campsite at the bottom of the Naked Ground trail, a good place to stay for the night. The next day I'll go explore the massive poplars and hemlocks.

THE WAY AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL USED TO LOOK: What happened to all the big trees in my wilderness world? Loggers, chainsaws and bulldozers. But there's a fraction of them left, and here I pose by one of them.

SITTING WITH MY GRANDADDY: Do we respect out elders? Not really.
BLOWDOWN GATEWAY: I head up the steep Naked Ground trail and pass thru a forest of fairly large trees, some of them down on the ground.

UNCLE FUNGUS ON THE LITTLE SANTEE: Half way up the Naked Ground trail I stop at High Dog Camp and set up for the night.

THE FOUR MICHIGAN GIRLS: I make it up to the 5,000 foot gap at Naked Ground and set up camp in a very cold rain and four girls from Ann Arbor pass by and one of them asks, "Are you Walter?" It turns out the one on the left used to be a Cranbrook student and knew me from their wilderness trips out here every year.

WHEN ALL SEEMS LOST-GOD SENDS A NEWT: It's hard to get lonely when you have a friend like a newt.

TWO COLD WET DOGS: These guys walked up the steep Naked Ground trail and passed thru a wet camp and I took their picture from inside my tent. They did not smile.

I'M JOINED BY THREE NASHVILLE BACKPACKERS: I was getting lonely despite the newt and these friendly guys showed up and were wet but set up their camp in a hurry. They later set up a rain tarp and we all had a good time talking and eating.

THE NASHVILLE TARP: Shelter From The Storm, and we're back with the original quote of this blog trip report. The boys were friendly and I'll give them that.

THE LAST DAY TRAIL: I leave Naked Ground and pull about 10 miles to get out thru the Citico wilderness on the Pine Ridge trail. Shunka dog leads the way.

TIPI WITH A FULL RUCK: It's always glorious to hike thru snow and I'm given it on my last day of Trip 91.