Monday, August 10, 2009

Trip 5 Bald River Wilderness TN

April 2002 Trip 5
Trails: Cow Camp/Bald River
Little Mitten's Bald River Trip with the Yellow Tent

My girlfriend Little Mitten and I head up the Tellico River in Tennessee and park at Baby Falls to gear up and walk into the Bald River gorge by way of an upper trail called the Cow Camp trail. Bald River wilderness is a 4,000 acre wilderness feeding into the Tellico River in the Cherokee National Forest in east Tennessee. It's a perfect place to go backpacking when you want to be by a wonderful creek on an easy trail. The above fotog shows us with our new packs, Mitten's fancy Kelty pack and my replacement to the old North Face BackMagic, a Kelty Ultra Tioga.

Here I am holding up my new pack for the world to see.

At our campsite by the river there's this rock ledge wall and we set up the tent next to it and pose in front of Mitten's new pack.

Little Mitten likes her new pack.

Here's Little Mitten standing by the big 9x10 foot tent, the yellow Iron Mountain. Behind her is the mighty Bald River. Mitten is standing in front of her brand new North Face Blue Igloo down bag which she returned to Campmor after this trip since it didn't come close to keeping her warm at around 35F night time temperatures.

Little Mitten helping to set up camp and getting things arranged.

Shunka dog wants to be part of the festivities and contributes to getting camp set up properly.

Here I am posing for a shot and getting the Thermarests arranged and all else. The sleeping bag on the right is my fairly new Marmot Couloir zero degree down bag.

Doggiebag(trailnamed fellow from me on to a website that configures these posters so I added a picture of the trip with the appropriate message. On the last day of the trip we pack it up and head out to the car.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Trip 4 Citico Wilderness

March 2002 Trip 4
Trails: Pine Ridge/Hemlock Grove/Fodderstack/Bob Bald/Fodderstack/North Fork/Camp 7/North Fork(red highlights are overnight spots).

The First Bob

The First Michigan Cranbrook Crew

DAY ONE On this trip I parked again at Warden's Field and strapped on my heavy North Face pack and headed up the Pine Ridge trail to the Fodderstack ridge trail where I walked over to the Hemlock Grove tentsite near Glenn Gap(above).

DAY TWO The next day I continued my hike up the Fodderstack south and got up to the Bob Bald Tee(a split in the trail)and turned left off the Fodderstack and onto the half mile Bob trail to the beautiful grassy green 5,240 foot tentsite of Bob Bald(above). Here begins a long relationship with the Bob and the sidetrails off the Bob leading into the North Carolina side of the Kilmer valley and the Slickrock wilderness.

DAY THREE I leave the Bob and go down the Fodderstack to Cherry Log Gap and descended the North Fork where I camped at my usual place, Camp 7.

DAY FOUR I continued down the North Fork and headed out to home. But before then I meet the Michigan Cranbrook School crew at the North Fork footbridge for the first time, a lively bunch of high schools kids and their leaders on their 35th annual 10 day backpacking trip into the Citico/Slickrock wilderness.

Trip 3 Citico Wilderness

January 2002 Trip 3
Trails: Rocky Flats/Mill Branch/Fodderstack/Crowders/Rocky Flats
Lost on the Stiffknee
The Inbred Dream

On this trip I parked the old truck at Warden's Field(above)and hiked up the Rocky Flats trail to Doublecamp road and connected to the steep Mill Branch trail where I slept in the tent at a very little level area before the terrible section.

This old chimney homestead is on the Rocky Flats trail and is a nice little landmark for the exploring backpacker. On the second day I left my little camping spot at the Mill Branch crossing and humped up to the Fodderstack ridge trail and continued up to the grassy gap camping spot at Crowders and then past Crowders I turned left and got up to Farr Gap and the start of the Stiffknee trail.

At the Stiffknee junction I went down steeply but in a little forgotten gap I got lost and went straight up Tallassee ridge instead of turning right in the gap and down into the Stiffknee valley. After staying on the wrong ridge for a long while, I reached a red steel farm gate and see ATV tracks and knew I was way off mark, so I turned around(my first Citico reach around!)and headed back up the harshly steep Stiffknee back to Farr Gap where as darkness approached I found a ridgetop tentsite and crashed.

The weather was cold and wet and my clothing had been wet with sweat and rain and so I headed down the Fodderstack to Crowders trail and go down in sleet on a very hard to follow trail. Like an idiot, I stepped on a wet frozen log crossing a small creek and fell hard on the palm of my right hand thereby tearing open a large hand wound. I stayed on the trail and made it to the forest road where I planned on getting to the Rocky Flats trail and sleeping at a spot I found there by the old chimney site. Everything was wet and so was I. After going up steeply I descended to the old homesite and put up the wet tent and spent a very miserable night shivering in my own sweat and exhaustion. Even my down bag was wet. But not all was bad as I found this big chestnut stump on the Rocky Flats trail(with Little Mitten by it on another dayhiking trip), and marveled at it's size.

The worst part of this whole weird trip was the nightmare I had by the old chimney site, a twisted thing of hypothermia and local-boy inbreds. I woke up early and in a panic quickly walked out back to Doublecamp road which I followed for 6 miles in the cold fog back to the car and out. Glad to be out.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Trip 2 Citico Wilderness

December/January 2002 TRIP 2
Little Mitten's Lowe Pack and the New Year Cold Trip

My girlfriend Little Mitten and I arrive at a trailhead in the Citico Creek Wilderness and I park my old truck by the South Fork 105 trailhead, a connector trail to the North Fork Citico trail. In this picture you can see I'm still using my old 1980 North Face BackMagic pack and we still have the painted hiking poles I made at the Tipi.

Little Mitten and I backpack up the North Fork and cross the creek 7 times and arrive at this fine campsite on the left bank somewhere in the middle of the North Fork valley. Behind us is the ever faithful Shunka-dog, and to the right is the fairly new Mountain Hardwear Muir Trail tent.

Here's a great fotog of Little Mitten at the firepit eating a quick lunch and looking funny and goofy as she peers out from under her watch cap. She's wearing an old garment I had at the Tipi, an insulated army pants liner.

Here is Uncle Fungus in full splendor at the campsite smoking my little tobacco pipe and feeling pretty good about being out with Little Mitten even though the ambient temps are cold and falling. The creek crossings were difficult and we froze off our feet.

The next day we pack up and leave Camp 7 and pull some very steep climbs as we ascend the North Fork trail. Here Little Mitten is passing thru the Blue Rocks, two giant boulders marking the way and coming before Old Goat Falls. She is carrying an old Lowe internal backpack which was once used by Johnny B and gifted to me many years ago.

Somewhere on the trail we run into this ice formation and so Little Mitten tries to get a few drops of the precious liquid. She's fully loaded in her Lowe pack and carrying her painted Tipi hiking stick.

Here's another picture of Little Mitten posing by the Blue Rocks, two big boulders making a sort of gateway to the high ground.

Just before we reach the top of the North Fork trail, we pass this great ice formation at an open campsite by a rock ledge with several carved in foot steps. This is my favorite fotog of the trip because it shows pretty much everything, the ice, the pack, the tent, and Little Mitten.

Our final campsite of the trip happened here on Fodderstack ridge near Glenn Gap. We pulled the North Fork and reached Cherry Log Gap where we turned left and followed Fodderstack ridge for a ways until we found this great campsite I first found on Trip 1. The night temps fell to 10F and we woke to a heavily condensated tent. In the morning we packed up and followed our in-route back out and home.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Trip 1 Backpacking Citico Wilderness

The most beautiful spot in the world! This is a scene on the North Fork trail between the 8th and 9th crossing.
This was taken from the trail and shows the North Fork in low water.

Here's a fotog of Uncle Fungus(tipi walter)walking up the South Fork trail as it's about to merge with the footbridge of the North Fork Citico trail.

TRIP 1 November 12-15 2001
With my old 1984 truck I drove to Warden's Field, a large car campiong area on Citico Creek by a low water bridge. From there several wilderness foot trails began and it was a perfect place to begin a backpacking trip. The Citico Wilderness is mountainous country with several pristine creeks dividing the ridges and going from around 1600 feet in elevation at Warden's Field all the way to over 5000 feet beyond the headwaters of its creeks. The main creeks in the Citico are the North Fork, the South Fork, Mill Branch and Crowders Branch.

My first trip started on the North Fork trail and took me up past seven crossings where I spent my first night at a little pulloff camping spot on the left. The next day I continued up river and passed two more major crossings and then reached a portion of the trail known for its wild, rugged and brushy nature. It's not for the faint hearted as the trail crosses the creek 15 more times and seems to disappear here and there.

After a serious workout the trail tops out on a long north-south ridge called the Fodderstack(#95)at a place called Cherry Log Gap. Here I turned left and went north to another gap called Glenn where I found a great campsite south of the gap in a grove of massive hemlocks. On my last day I retraced my route and fell off the mountain all the way back to the truck and out.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bald River In Flood Stage: Before And After

The top fotog shows Little Mitten sitting on a rock along the calm waters of the Bald River at the Cascade overlook. I am standing on the rock outcrop and taking her picture. The bottom picture shows the same exact place but in high water, terribly high water. The big flat rock by her head is visible in the lower shot. It was taken on Trip 40 in November 2004 during a 5 day solo backpacking trek where I got caught in a long deluge. I was actually camped about 3 miles upstream before this foto was taken and had to cross it on the Brookshire trail in a near-death traverse. I barely made it across. All this will come later in my trip reports and in this blog.

Bald River Dayhikes

The Bald River Wilderness is a 4000 acre area with a level trail and a beautiful creek, along with a series of rugged waterfalls. Near the end of the 5-6 mile trail there is the Cascades, a group of small falls with a big rock overlook jutting out over the creek. Here we threw down our daypacks and stopped for a picnic lunch.

A Series Of Tennessee Dayhikes

In 2001 Little Mitten and I did a series of exploratory dayhikes in the Cherokee National Forest and thru the Citico and Bald River Wilderness areas. This photo shows a knackered Blade and Little Mitten near the top of the steep North Fork Citico trail.

These two fotogs show us along the rock banks of the North Fork Citico trail as it winds up to Cherry Log Gap and a climb of nearly 3000 feet. The North Fork trail is a wet one, with 9 major crossings and about 12 smaller ones.

This fotog shows Mitten on the Rocky Flats trail in the Citico near the chimney homestead site and depicts how big the old chestnut trees must've been in their glory days before logging and the blight.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Little Mitten At The Tipi

Before I left Boone to go to Little Mitten's, I stopped at the Mast Store and picked up this big 7x9 yellow dome tent made by Iron Mountain. When Little Mitten and I returned to the tipi for a visit, we used this tent and set it up right next to the lodge. This tent would become my new home along Chickasaw Creek on Little Mitten's two acres in Tennessee, at least until I built something better.
During our North Carolina visit, we took a long dayhike along the ridge spine and ended up on a high cow pasture looking out towards Stone Mountain and the TN state line(the far ridge in the background). With us is a stray dog we took in and raised and named Little Cujo. Note also the dual homemade and painted hiking sticks, a leftover from my tipi days.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A New Bag And Tent

In 2001 I made a major upgrade in gear by going to Footsloggers in Boone and buying a new down bag to replace my old North Face Ibex, and a new four season tent to replace my old and shredded Westwind.
I found a dynamite tent made by Mountain Hardwear called the Muir Trail, a frog style modified A-frame which I used on several trips to Pisgah and later in Tennessee.
Long ago CampTrails Bob got a Marmot bag and it stuck with me, so I bought a zero rated down bag by Marmot called the Couloir, and it got me thru many cold nights at the tipi and in Pisgah and hundreds of nights in the Citico/Slickrock wilderness. I still was using the old reliable North Face BackMagic pack. (The above bag foto was taken on a 2001 backpacking trip into the Pisgah forest along the Upper Creek trail at the overlook).

Little Mitten Visits The Tipi

In 2001 Little Mitten comes up to the NC lodge for several days and she gets to see how the better half lives, the "independently poor". She enjoys the peace and quiet and I see a side of her that is like a little kid in a backyard tent. We return for several trips and also explore the woods around her TN homebase, a place I slowly begin to hike in and backpack.

Little Mitten And The Roanoke Powwow

I went to dance at a powwow in Roanoke and met a Cherokee dancer named Little Mitten and we hit it off and got to know each other better over the following weeks. When I got back to my Tipi in NC we corresponded with each other and I called her and eventually went to visit her in east TN, about 200 miles south of Boone. She invited me to move down and set up a primitive camp along Chickasaw Creek, a little area of level land next to a ever-flowing spring. So began my introduction to the Chickasaw Creek Camps and the backpacking trails of the Citico and Slickrock wilderness in the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests.

One Of My Heroes

Indian activist and one-time AIM leader Russell Means popped in at a powwow in Hillsborough, NC, and I managed to get a photo taken with him to my delight. He was at Duke University giving a speech and decided to breeze onto the powwow grounds. Anyone concerned about Indian issues should read his fantastic book, "Where White Men Fear To Tread."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Larger Beaded Bag

This intricate loom design came from several picture sources which I graphed onto bead paper and then added a flying eagle and put a pipe in his talons. To me it shows the holy earth mother protecting her children and welcoming the eagle nation down with the sacred pipe. The background is a rare silver-metal lined greasy white bead I found at a powwow vendor's stand and bought up just enough to finish this piece. It was done on a wide loom and is different than the usual lazy stitch, the loom offering a bit more detail.

Beaded Dance Leggings

I graphed out this lazy stitch bead design from a doll picture and added it to my dance leggings using a color arrangement I liked. To me, beadwork is fulfilling because of the possible color combinations. This design started with a simple white background and used two strong dress colors, greasy yellow and greasy blue. The dentalium-style earings were also in greasy yellow.

The Old Beaded Dance Shirt

My first dance shirt used old loomwork strips different than lazy stitch and easier for a beginner beader to master. The strips are beaded on a loom and transfered and sewn directly onto a garment, much simpler than applying lazy stitch. But the most striking feature of this shirt is the added yellow quillwork around the strip edges and the neck yoke. Working with porcupine quills can be a frustrating and highly fulfilling job when done right. Quills predated glass beads by thousands of years and were one of the first decorations used on primitive garments. They were naturally dyed and worked in an intricate fashion, more difficult than beadwork but lighter and to my mind, giving an ancient awesome feel to a piece of clothing. Modern day quillwork is available but it's expensive and worth every penny.

Beaded Buckskin Bags

Here's a final batch of smaller pouch bags using the moc toe design. The top bag has a few bells and bonepipe on the bottom and uses a greasy blue and yellow with greasy red bars in the middle. The front flap is also edge-beaded, a new technique I was learning from the Cash sisters in Tennessee. The hide is also different than the usual buckskin. The second bag uses a white buckskin in the same design but with two yellows, one greasy and the other opaque. The last bag is a special one using old time white beads handed down from a Comanche grandmother to her daughter. I could tell the beads were very old due to their irregular size and that certain white color hard to describe. Almost an ice-cream type of white, very solid and opaque.