BACKPACKING THE BMT/UPPER BALD RIVER WILDERNESS
April 24-27 2009
WITH THE CHATTANOOGA HIKING CLUB
Trip 94 starts with an early morning drive up Tellico River to the fish hatchery parking area where the BMT crosses the road between Whiggs Meadow and Sugar Mountain. Since this will only be a short 4 day trip, my pack is fairly light with minimal fuel and adequate food, perhaps too much food. I park my car near the hatchery and prepare to begin my trip.
THE CHATTANOOGA HIKING CLUB
Five backpackers from the Chattanooga hiking club will be doing a BMT/Kirkland loop for three days and will be pulling into the hatchery lot in a few hours to cross over Sugar Mt and connect to the Brookshire trail all the way up to Sled Runner and the State Line trail to Sandy Gap and out on the Kirkland and off the BMT (or will they exit at Six Mile Gap at Waucheesi Mt?).
Don't ask me how I found out about it, I stumbled into it on the internet, and so I emailed the trip leader Kurt Emmanuele and got some current information and loop particulars. I decided to join them if possible and run into them atop Sugar Mountain by Pretty Pine Gap.
WITH THE CHATTY BOYS
Five club backpackers show up at Pretty Pine Gap and we meet and greet and I follow them up to the top of Sugar and down to several little creek crossings where we deboot and wear the Crocs.
As the trail crosses over Sugar Mountain, it descends and crosses a series of headwaters on Upper Creek, and here is one of the Chattanooga backpackers pulling a bootless ford.
Here is Monty pulling the same crossing.
Here is trip leader Kurt "Horse With No Name" Emmanuele entering the water for an Upper Bald ford.
As we continued down Sugar Mt on the BMT, we finally reach the biggest crossing of the day and it's over Brookshire Creek as the trail crosses and continues up the valley to State Line Ridge and Sled Runner Gap. Here are the boys crossing the Brookshire.
We get to a mid-level Brookshire camp and here is Monty setting up his tiny tent.
THE END OF DAY ONE
We end up camping next to the singsong of upper Brookshire Creek and the small fire is out and each individual has gone to their tents: an old Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, a North Face Pebble, an REI small mesh thing, a Mountain Hardwear small hoop thing with two tiny windows on the fly, and Kurt's tent 50 feet away which hasn't been studied yet. Today we humped two mountains: Sugar and the Brookshire up near Sled Runner Gap. Tomorrow our adventure continues along the last hard pull of this trail and the long traverse of the State Lne to Sandy Gap and the jct with the Kirkland Creek trail.
In camp with the boys.
LEAVING CAMP SOLO
I leave Brookshire Camp before the others and sit resting at probably the last water source before Sled Runner Gap though there might be another this side of the new trailpost. It's a beautiful day for backpacking and the crew is behind me a ways and soon to pull in. I don't know whether to sit tight and tell them about this last water or keep moving.
THE CHATTANOOGA FIVE
Kurt "Horse With No Name" Emmanuele, Bill "Dugas", John "Time Out", Tim, and Monty "Choo Choo". The above fotog shows Kurt, Fungus, John, Monte and Tim, all standing at Sled Runner Gap and the start of the State Line trail.
The State Line trail is wonderful and has many ups and downs. Here's the crew resting near Moss Gap at one of my favorite campsites. We are on our way to Sandy Gap and the Kirkland trail.
We finally make it to Sandy Gap where we are very hot and thirsty so we throw off the packs and take a long break.
INTO THE MIGHTY KIRKLAND VALLEY: Here is John fording Kirkland Creek on a wilderness trail that has ten creek crossings.
Here is Kurt crossing Kirkland Creek.
I like this photo of the boys crossing Kirkland at a pretty rocky section of the creek.
OVERNIGHT AT HORSE CAMP ON BROOKSHIRE CREEK
The last two long pulls, one down Kirkland Creek and one up the Brookshire(#180), ended by finding Horse Camp unoccupied and ready for the six of us to set up camp. Here is my Hilleberg tent set up along the Upper Bald River at Horse Camp.
UNCLE FUNGUS WITH THE CHATTANOOGA FIVE: Here I am posing for a group shot on the Brookshire trail at Horse Camp. This is the morning of Day 4 and they are preparing to shove off in one direction while I shove off in another.
THE BOYS TAKE OFF: They leave Horse Camp and head across the Brookshire again and up Sugar Mt while I spend another night and the next day follow their route out.
Shunka watches Kurt change out of his boots for the Brookshire crossing and we say our goodbyes.
On Day 5 I pack up at Horse Camp and leave over Sugar Mt again to get back to my car and get out. So ends Trip 94.