Disjointed November Backpacking (Eastern Tennessee, USA)

4:22 p.m. on November 23, 2011 (EST)
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This trip was planned very differently than executed due to some grievous family issues on my wife’s side. I went forward with the trip with my wife’s blessing after many matters were settled but I needed to check in often. So I wound up going for three short trips instead of one long one as planned.

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And the trip starts in the Upper Bald Wilderness Study Area two days later than it was supposed to. I had told Tipi I would rendezvous with him on Thursday in the Bald River Gorge; since I was two days late, I wanted to catch up and started my hike from the Holly Flats Road and the fabulous Brookshire Creek trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This was such a beautiful trail. Ah well, unfortunately my mind was far away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This was a strange sign. Was it a warning? “Abandon all hope-hiker version” kind of thing?

After about a mile I started seeing some fresh tracks on the trail and could tell someone was using a trekking pole (been watching too much Mantracker).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And sure enough I had caught up to Tipi! He was getting ready to strike camp. Here he is deflating his Exped bed.

I didn’t really have a plan and with approval decided to tag along with the “Most Interesting Backpacker in the World” for the day. hehe He was sort of making up his plan as he went which was fine with me also.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We passed this beautiful cascade and I scampered down an embankment to get this picture on the Brookshire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This picture was taken near the next trail junction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The day’s destination was Sugar Mountain. Here is Tipi getting water at a nice little seeping spring a bit below our summit. Hey, this was like a guided hike for me; my guide knew where all the water sources and camp sites were. I hope he wasn’t expecting a tip. : )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We decided to make camp at an old logging road turn-around on the top of the mountain. It was a nice cool evening enjoyed in good company. Unfortunately, I was still quite distracted mentally and not fully into my trip but I still had big fun…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The next morning was glorious weather-wise. There was a cool (but not quite cold) breeze and just that great sense of seasonal change in the air. It’s not a smell exactly or a particular color, or a certain temperature but rather some combination of those and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hmmm, this picture could be a promo shot for either Jetboil or Hilleberg tents…mmm. Coffee is gooood in the morning mountain air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After consulting about routes and with me trying to sort through whether or not I should even be out there, we decided to part ways. I wanted a route that would give me an easier exit back to my car should I decide to evacuate. I initially decided to pull another night and the ridge behind us in the picture was my new destination. (State Line Ridge, Tipi told me). My other hope was that the ridge would allow me to get cell phone signal and check in back home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here was a neat vine that looked like a hanging mummy scarecrow, somewhere near State Line Ridge.

The Brookshire trail was really, really nice and after making it to the top of the ridge but still having no cell signal I was just too distracted to stay. So I spent the late afternoon hiking all the way back to my car and drove nearly to Tellico Plains to make a call out.

After checking in with the wife who was doing fine but aghast at the thought of my returning so soon (threatened to kick my butt if I came home…wow, I love that woman.), I was finally able to have some peace of mind. It was nearly dark and I needed to get back to some woods somewhere to pitch my tent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So I drove back up the Skyway and off to the Bald River Gorge and decided to hightail it into the gorge for a quick camp near the beautiful river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My hasty camp on Bald River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I camped not too far from this….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The next morning I decided to hike back out and move the car up to the Citico wilderness which I had never seen in person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I was about to depart on Citico trail 105 and then up 98 shooting for the top of the ridge somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, well,, I had to cross the river immediately to go that way. OK then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Almost immediately up trail 98 was a nice foot bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And these were views of the two intersecting creeks from the bridge.

The trail crossed the creek a bunch of times (I lost count) and at first I was taking my shoes off to try and keep them dry. (I’m in between boots at the moment and was using cloth trail running shoes) But eventually that became futile and so the slog began.

At some point the trail went up a series of switchbacks to my left but also seemed to cross the creek and I couldn’t tell which the more defined route was. So I went up the switch backs and followed a pretty worn trail to an area of multiple tributaries but again couldn’t tell where the trail went. I thought maybe I should have crossed the creek back at the bottom of the valley instead and so went all the way back down and crossed. But that path went nowhere also! Frustrated, I went back up the switch backs and decided to just walk a criss-cross pattern around the tributary area and try to pick something up. Sure enough I eventually noticed some broken branches around a blow down and upon investigation saw a trail on the other side of the blow downs. Not sure that I was actually following trail 98, I decided to continue but keep track of any junctions in case I needed to turn back. (If I have any doubt at all about retracing a route I call it quits and retreat.)

The trail became very steep and strenuous at moments as it wound up the valley in and out of a small creek. The trail even stayed in the creek completely for one stretch. I was getting pretty tired and wet on a tough uphill slog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I apologize for the blurry photo but reaching this trail marker was notable; it was such a major point of relief to finally match up with the map.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Although I had intended to go all the way up to the top of the ridge, I came upon this relatively flat spot and with the rain and wind picking up, decided to call it home. There was a nice spring just a few meters to the right in the picture.

It rained, and rained and then rained some more. So much for start gazing; and that situation was illustrative of a primary drawback to ultra-light tents. They are not a lot of fun to hang out in for extended periods. I had brought a book of Hemingway short stories and read several of them. The rain never really subsided that night but I was still able to get my jet boil going and have a hot meal (which was nice in those conditions).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The inner tent became covered with little black and yellow lady bug looking things. They were pretty friendly as they got in every time I opened the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The next day was still wet and a little cold up on the high ground of the Benton McKaye Trail. This pic was taken at the junction of trail 99 and the BMT after a few miles of foggy hiking. I hate hiking in wet shoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It finally cleared a bit as I took trail 99 back down into the Citico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And here I had a sanguine moment in an autumn breeze. I stopped and just let the wind blow against me for about 10 minutes at nice little site on the ridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And a parting shot out of the car window as I left the Citico in search of dry shoes and to check in at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And the trip resumes at the third forest of the week. Here I was about to begin from the Clingmans Dome parking area in the Great Smokies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unbelievably I had the whole touristy area to myself so I climbed the observation tower (which I usually avoid when packed with tourists). This is Mt Leconte on a clear day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And this was looking back across the AT towards Newfound gap etc…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just cool pictures…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last time I hiked any distance on ice I fell (resulting in a trip to the ER and six stitches) so I brought some micro-spikes this time. Although, I didn’t really need them as it turned out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ahhhh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Hiker for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I left the AT (and sunshine) for the Goshen Prong trail on the north side of the mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A pretty little ice fall…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That is some cold rhodo…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Random cool pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And all of sudden I was out of the winter wonderland…that rock was magically magnetic; it attracted my booty like a tractor beam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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C’mon, let’s go see what’s in the cave in bear country…brilliance of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ah, there was nothing in there but me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I just love these Southern Apps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, this doesn’t look as dangerous as it actually was but this was a serious crossing. It was about thigh deep in the middle and very strong. I had to cross it twice on this route.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 All the rains had really swollen these creeks…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hmmm. The Little River wasn’t so little that day. I kept looking at my map and looking at the river. I’ll have to cross it. ..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Halleluiah! I was never so glad to see a footbridge…lol.

I had two more deep crossings just before my campsite (#30) that night and barely made it there before dark. 30 is a really nice site and worth the effort and I had all to myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The weatherman said it was getting down to 24F in Knoxville, but my little thermometer registered 19F shortly after dark. I went to a fire ring farthest from my tent and made a little fire, mostly for fun….not much heat from a few pieces of wet wood. I’m wearing a thrift store wool shirt over my down jacket to protect it from any stray embers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The next morning I explored a man-way as far as I could up into the valley until it became rhodo hell. I did find this cool spot though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The sun finally got high enough to crest the mountains behind my camp site and the instant warming made me smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And when it was time to go I had to immediately pull those two crossings again. You can’t tell it but this crossing was waist deep in the middle and I didn’t want to get my pants wet ( I still had 12 more miles to hike). Good grief was it cold! The ambient temp was still only 34 F.

And I eventually made it back to the car a little cold but highly satisfied!

Happy Trails everyone!

5:43 p.m. on November 23, 2011 (EST)
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Nice trip report Patyman. Sorry about your family problems making it difficult on your first hike.My niece is going thru that now so my hike photo's are takeing time to get from her. But nice report we got zero snow our weekend but there was residual from the week before in certain  area's. Great photos's

5:51 p.m. on November 23, 2011 (EST)
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Mice pictures, I love all the waterfalls! Got to get out that way next year on my bicycle tour!

6:14 p.m. on November 23, 2011 (EST)
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Very cool trip Patman!

I'm glad you got to go enjoy the areas.

6:40 p.m. on November 23, 2011 (EST)
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So on the last photo ya broke down into you "Happy Hippie Hiking Suit." :p

6:47 p.m. on November 23, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks guys...I appreciate the kindness.

Rick,

Yeah something like that, I guess... I'm willing to endure a large degree of momentary discomfort to avoid a long day of wet clothes. :)

I edited the last photo with the Trailspace logo upon my wife’s affirmation that the photo as taken would be inappropriate for this venue. Yup.

10:29 a.m. on November 24, 2011 (EST)
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Patman said:

Thanks guys...I appreciate the kindness.

Rick,

Yeah something like that, I guess... I'm willing to endure a large degree of momentary discomfort to avoid a long day of wet clothes. :)

I edited the last photo with the Trailspace logo upon my wife’s affirmation that the photo as taken would be inappropriate for this venue. Yup.

 Patman,

I have made the same decision many times before; having to spend time in wet clothes is not an option IMO.

I must admit though that nowadays I cheat, in the colder months I carry UL breathable fishing waders with built in neoprene stocking-foot booties. These work very well and can also be used as a rain & wind blocking shell if the weather gets nasty.

This is of course easier to justify if you plan on wade fishing as part of your trip; I love being in the water but I hate hypothermia.

8:14 a.m. on November 25, 2011 (EST)
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Mike,

 

You got me wondering...how light is a UL set of waders? That's an intriguing thought.

1:08 p.m. on November 25, 2011 (EST)
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Nice TR Patman, Thanx

Sorry about the family issues, my thoughts are with you. Sometimes a trip out is just the thing ya need.

On a lighter note..... Im sure after a pantless 34 F water crossing a set of UL waders does sound pretty darn good! LOL

3:03 p.m. on November 25, 2011 (EST)
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Patman said:

Mike,

 

You got me wondering...how light is a UL set of waders? That's an intriguing thought.

 For nylon chest waders coated with polyurethane, and with neoprene booties, chest belt, and built in gaiters they are somewhere around 20 - 30 ounces. LL Bean has a flyweight pair for around 70.00 but they don't list the weight.

Now gram weenies would scoff at this, but although temporary, how much do wet clothes weigh? You can also wear your insulation layers under the waders without getting them wet.

Another option might be to get lightweight hip waders which are lighter and pack smaller. These look like cut off pants legs and have a loop you hook to your belt.

One word of caution though, if you do try this or ever go fishing in waders you really need to wear a wader belt. This slows water from filling your waders should water come over the top of your waders.

Remember the Trailspace member name overmywaders? He may also be able to give you some additional insight on waders.

Like I said this works for me because I carry waders to fish in anyway, but it is an option.

1:27 a.m. on November 26, 2011 (EST)
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That was a great read......I wonder if Trailspace ever thought they would be the great pixalater.......Thanks for the fun report!

6:44 p.m. on November 28, 2011 (EST)
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Heroic trip! Well done. 

LOL "the most interesting hiker in the world"

"I don't often eat dehydrated food, but when I do, I only eat beef stroganoff."

4:59 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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Great stuff as always, Patrick. Very sorry hear about your difficulties, I'll send you some thoughts and prayers. 

Your photos of the snow and ice are REALLY making me eager to get up in the highlands! 

5:40 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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Awesome, as usual.

5:44 p.m. on November 29, 2011 (EST)
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It was good running into you in the Upper Bald area and here are a couple shots together.  I'll post my trip report when able.


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Mystery Ranch Trance, Patman's pack.  Climbing up Sugar Mt.


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Here's a pic of you packing up near the top of Sugar Mt.


7:10 a.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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Welcome back Tipi, yeah it was a fun meeting for me also….

Sorry I missed you after Thanksgiving; I had to work that weekend. Man, I thought about you several times as I watched the rain at home filling the drain easement on one side of my yard. Of course I know you have good equipment and I’m sure you stayed dry.

8:59 a.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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Patman said:

Welcome back Tipi, yeah it was a fun meeting for me also….

Sorry I missed you after Thanksgiving; I had to work that weekend. Man, I thought about you several times as I watched the rain at home filling the drain easement on one side of my yard. Of course I know you have good equipment and I’m sure you stayed dry.

 I could've hung in there and stayed a few more days---like four more days---and probably got to watch the nonstop rain turn to sleet and snow on the high ground, but after 20 days I was ready to hike out in whatever rain wanted to kick my butt.  We'll just have to wait until December for the white stuff, I guess, although it looks like you saw some powder on your above mentioned trip.


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I spent my last night in the Wedge next to Bob Creek as a terrible windstorm hit the mountains with reported 70mph gusts, and I got to experience some in the 60mph range.  I was worried about my ride not making to my evac point so I got an early start and hiked out with a long roadwalk and gotta say, the above orange rain jacket SAVED MY BUTT.

I found all sorts of new ways to cinch the hood and around the neck with little cord doodads and pulls and shock cords, etc.  I don't mind getting wet but I gotta stay warm, ergo the Ochre Protector.  The above shot is at the end of that long wet hump.

I looked for you on the Bob after Thanksgiving but it's better you didn't come out as the high ground got walloped with some severe winds.

10:12 a.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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Tipi Walter said:

 I don't mind getting wet but I gotta stay warm, ergo the Ochre Protector.  The above shot is at the end of that long wet hump.

 I think that's closer to Cadmium Orange than Ochre, LOL ;)

I think I am going to try for the Bob in a week and a half, over the weekend of the 10th. Maybe I will be able to actually see one or both of you this time. I will update my plans in Trip Planning as soon as things are settled.

11:12 a.m. on November 30, 2011 (EST)
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I should be pulling a short December trip around that time.

7:49 a.m. on December 1, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks all...

To Gary Palmer: Regarding the waterfalls, I only showed a small sampling of the falls I passed on that route. It’s not practical to capture and post everything. Also for example, my last campsite in this report is called “Three Forks” and is literally surrounded (that’s why I had to cross those creeks) by beautiful cascades and rushing white water but I did a poor job of showing that with pictures. Maybe video would be better…  

…and if you do make it out this way I’d be glad to show you some cool places but be forewarned : East Tennessee isn’t very bicycle friendly as far as road design.

Tipi,

I look forward to seeing your report…I was wondering what route you chose after we parted (as well as where you hunkered down for some of those rains). And yeah, I had a few miles of light powder with spots of ice but it dissipated quickly after I dropped below 6000 feet.

Gonzan,

Sounds good. Do keep us posted…I will try to make it if work allows.

11:26 p.m. on December 4, 2011 (EST)
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Enjoyed your trip Patman!

Thanks for sharing.

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