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January 1-18 2012
** 18 DAYS IN THE SNOWBIRD BACKCOUNTRY
** CAMPING ON HUCKLEBERRY KNOB AT 5,600 FEET
** A COLD SNAP WITH SNOW ON THE MITCHELL LICK TRAIL
** 10F CAMP ON A RIDGE FINGER BELOW LAUREL TOP MOUNTAIN
** 12 CROSSINGS ON SNOWBIRD CREEK WITH FROZEN FEET
** THE NUTBUSTER OF KINGS MEADOW TRAIL
** CAMPING ON FIRESCALD RIDGE
** A NIGHT IN THE RAIN ON HOOPER BALD
** A NIGHT IN THE RAIN ON HAW KNOB
** A NIGHT IN THE RAIN ON WHIGGS MEADOW
** A CLASSIC LIGHTNING STORM IN COLD SPRING GAP
** 153 HOURS IN A JANUARY RAINSTORM
** FOUR NIGHTS IN THE RAIN AT COLD SPRING GAP
** 14F AT COLD SPRING GAP
** BURNED OUT CAR AT BEECH GAP
** PULLING THE FLATS MOUNTAIN-LONG BRANCH-NORTH RIVER-TELLICO RIVER-BALD RIVER ROUTE
A NEW YEAR ON THE MOUNTAIN KING
I wish all my readers a very good New Year and hope they find---we find---some expression of the outdoor world we can include in our lives. I hope we are able to continue our pursuit of the wild natural world and we are able to develop our relationship with Miss Nature, the woman of the green and blue and brown and white, the woman of the wind.
ON THE NEW YEAR'S SUMMIT OF HUCKLEBERRY KNOB
Little Mitten and I drive the Toyota up the Skyway into a world of thick fog and rain and high winds. We have to slow to 30mph just to see what is up ahead. The grand plan for the trip requires we go past Beech Gap and we do so passing old backpacking buddy Hootyhoo's blue van on the way. I want to get out and start my trip there so as to see the Hoot but my pack is stuffed with maps and ribbons for a long swaray into the Snowbirds so we keep on and in eight miles pass the Hooper Bald pull off and continue a short distance to the mighty Huckleberry Knob trailhead which leads to the highest mountain in the Cheoah ranger district at 5,560 feet or basically 5,600 feet, 300 feet higher than the Bob.
We take the necessary fotogs at the trailhead kiosk and here's Little Mitten bundled up in her North Face fleece.
I study the kiosk map and I'm ready to start a New Year's trip!
There are three balds in the Huckleberry chain and the first is called Oak Knob where I find this remnant of snow. More is to come. By the way, it's windy as heck, too windy to set up out in the open.
The open bald of Huck is very windy so I take the Little Huckleberry trail down into the woods and find this level site for the old Hilleberg Keron tent. It's starting to turn very cold.
On Day 2 I pack up a frosted tent and return to the bald for a final shot. I'm standing on the highest mountain in the Unicoi Range.
The hiker memorial and gravesite. Yes, we have our own Art Gilkey-type memorial and it's right atop Huck Knob. The plaque reads:
"December 11, 1899---A bitter cold day with snow and fog. Andy Sherman and Paul O'Neil, lumberjacks from Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, employed by Heiser Lumber company, left the mouth of Sycamore Creek on Tellico River for Robbinsville. September 6, 1900---Forrest Denton was deer hunting with others and found their bodies three quarters of a mile from this spot near a small stream then unnamed, but now known as Dead Man's Run. Apparently the two men missed the trail down Hooper Ridge between Huckleberry Bald and Horse Pen Gap. Several jugs containing whiskey were found nearby."
"The sheriff and coroner were summoned to the site and an inquest was held, the jury finding that the men froze to death while lost and intoxicated. The jury directed that O'Neils skeleton be given to Dr Robert J. Orr as a medical exhibit and that the remains of Andrew Sherman, badly mauled by wild animals, was buried in this grave." Placed and Maintained by Snowbird Mountain Lodge, December 11, 1999.
I retrace my steps from Day 1 and fall to Oak Knob and look back to where I was on Huck Knob. If you look closely you can see the hiker's cross.
I leave the Hucks and climb to the top of Hooper Bald where I turn around and get this shot of Huckleberry Knob in the left distance.
Ya gotta pull the Hooper Bald trail if you want to enter the Snowbird backcountry from the top and here's the Hooper trail.
I find this collapsed tent on the trail below Hooper Bald.
Here's the trailhead to the Kings Meadow trail #63 and it's in sorry shape so I add my own orange ribbons every 50 feet or so---just to get back if needed.
A nice footbridge on the Kings Meadow trail.
The Kings Meadow trail disappears for a while and then you run into a trailpost showing the Mitchell Lick trail #154 which cuts across the top of the Snowbirds and I find a level ridge finger midway down it and set up camp.
It's snowing in the Snowbirds and the night temps dip to around 10F. Ouch!
Day 3 dawns cold and the piling up of snow around the Keron tent. I go out to gather enough of it to melt a liter of peppermint tea with honey. The above shows the reason I carry goose down and it's cold, boys!
When I leave Snowy Lick Camp I am most certainly on the Mitchell Lick trail but my trek has me follow the apparent trail down to a Snowbird Creek crossing where the trail disintegrates into a snowy tread nothingness of ancient orange ribbons and that's all. Flumoxed, I follow something, a goat path, a hunter's fantasy whatever and end up "off the trail map" on top of a level ridge finger below Laurel Top mountain at around 4,700 feet. I can always follow my bootprints back.
The wind below Laurel Top is bitterly face eating cold at around 10F so I cook up my dinner inside the zipped up tent vestibule.