January 30-31 February 1-8 2009
Two Days With Hootyhoo
The Roadwalk To Farr Gap
Arctic Conditions With 30 Inch Drifts
Three Days At Zero or Below At 5,000 Feet
John Quillen And the Southern Highlanders
HOOTYHOO: On this trip I go into the Citico Wilderness from Doublecamp road and go up the Rocky Flats trail where I meet up with fellow backpacker Hootyhoo and his dog Rooty.
FARR GAP RESTSTOP: We decide to come out of Rocky Flats and do the 3 mile roadwalk up to Farr Gap where we take a break. I've got my Mystery Ranch G6000 pack and Hootyhoo has his Kelty frame pack.
KEN JONES AND THE CROSSCUT MOUNTAIN BOYS: Nobody does as much trail work in the area as Ken Jones. We leave Farr Gap and follow the Fodderstack trail(it's also the Benton MacKaye trail), south when we run into Ken and his boys. Hootyhoo and I set up a quick trailside camp not far from this picture.
FODDERSTACK CAMP: Hootyhoo gets his camp set up and we prepare for night temps in the 20sF. He's using his old Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight tent.
DOWN TO SLICKROCK CREEK: I leave Hootyhoo and go to Crowders to camp and then drop off the Big Stack Gap trail to Slickrock Creek and come up to this sign at one of the creek crossings. If you want to hike the whole creek, you'll have between 12 and 14 crossings, depending on if you want to pull a treacherous creek bank rock cliff or not.
SNOW ON THE SLICKROCK: The next morning I wake up to a view out of my tent of sleet and a cold snow and so begin my day with a barefoot crossing in a butt cold creek and start backpacking by climbing a long trail up towards Hangover mountain.
THE BIG FAT GAP CLIMB: The trail leaves Slickrock Creek and I was cold so I put on my Marmot rain jacket and went 2,000 feet up to Big Fat and beyond on the Hangover Lead South trail to a favorite wide open and level gap camp I call Elysium Fields.
THREE DAYS AT ELYSIUM FIELDS: I spent 3 days hunkered in at this camp and it was very cold at around -5F. It took me many hours to pack up and get Shunka's frozen dog pack zipped. My goal was to leave a high camp and go even higher in even deeper snow. To the Hangover!
POSTHOLING SLOG: Here's Shunka on the trail as we battle our way up a thousand feet to Hangover ridge where we hit 24 inch drifts and some real slow going. Welcome to paradise.
TIGHT LEAVES: You always know how cold it is by looking at the curled up rhododendron leaves, and yes, boys, it's cold! I'm at the high heath section of the trail where it turns left and up.
UNCLE FUNGUS HIGH MOUNTAINEER: I'm going without oxygen although my dog is short-roping me up to the summit where we'll set up a cold bivouac.
AIRJET CAMP ON THE HANGOVER: We make it and have to set up a quick camp with frozen fingers and endure another night of below zero temps. I later learned it was -22F atop Mt LeConte the same night me and Shunka stayed up here.
THE MORNING AFTER AT -10F: It's dang cold and I hang up my Western Mountaineering Puma sleeping bag and enjoy the wildness of Miss Nature's dance.
AN EARNED VISION: The view off the Hangover. And you're looking into North Carolina and the ridge where the Appalachian Trail goes across--with Cheoah Bald the big bulky thing to the left.
FOUR MILE RIDGE: The ridge walk between the Hangover and Naked Ground took me several hours though it's only a mile and a half. Why? The snow was deep! Notice my nice Icebreaker merino wool tops.
NAKED GROUND ARRIVAL: I make it from the Hangover and stop for a fotog at Naked Ground on my journey to the meadow atop Bob's Bald. I feel squared away.
THE MEADOW OF BOB STRATTON BALD: The mighty Bob! It's a great place to rest, to get water, and to camp. I'm on my way off the mountain to connect to the Fodderstack trail and the long haul north to Pine Ridge and the Mill Branch turnoff.
JOHN QUILLEN: As luck would have it I run into John Quillen and the Southern Highlanders on my way down the Mill Branch trail and he invites me to set up nearby and so I find a nice flat place up behind his camp and we have a fine old time talking and hanging out. The next day I hump down the rest of the trail and get back to my car and say goodbye to the woods for awhile. Another great 10 day trip.