Trees and friends (Joyce Kilmer forest hike, USA)

7:54 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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I planned a meeting with Gonzan for this trip, although in this case planning was just a couple of PMs exchanged here on Trailspace. I was fortunate enough to get off work a little early to offset the 2.5 hour drive to the Trailhead of choice: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest picnic area in TN/ NC.



 I was ready to begin a short road hike in the Memorial Loop trail to catch my next junction.









 And here is the poem that made Mr. Kilmer famous and caused this forest to be named after him.









 Here was where I deviated from the Memorial Loop trails and took off up the Naked Ground trail. This trail is very special because it is one the few trails that is an actual footpath and not a logging cut. The valley traversed on this path is a never-logged old growth forest: quite rare in these parts.









 It was getting dark with such a late start and went ahead and made camp at the first likely spot I found (area is open camping but level spots are hard to come by). This was a creek side site complete with soothing babbling brook sound.









 And this was the brook behind my tent.









 I read with great interest the recent Trailspace discussion of food hanging techniques but couldn’t follow all those complicated charts and diagrams. So I just did what I always do and tied a rock around my rope and threw it over two limbs.  Don’t blast me here folks…just funnin’….I acknowledge that those techniques are crucial with heavy loads so as to protect the trees.









 Here I’m showing off my new Trailspace Ibex merino wool beanie while reclining against a grand old tulip poplar. I had wonderful evening of moderate temperature (just below freezing I’d say, based on the presence of un-melted BB sized hail), and clear skies. I slept like a baby that night.









 I passed this bit of neatness the morning of day 2 as I continued up the trail.









 And I’m sure this is a standard picture spot as well.









 I decided to rock the bed head for a while. Hey, if Andrew Skurka can do it so can I! Reality trip reports…oh yeah.











 It really lifted my spirits to see all the old growth trees.









 This was neat a twisted pattern broken away from a fallen giant.









 I had arrived at Naked Ground where I was greeted by this view.









And just up the trail was this familiar tent! I was wondering if I would run in to Mr. Walter up there but was surprised to do so immediately! After greeting with a flourish, Tipi told me I was the first and last person he had seen in 18 days (since my last trip report). Wild. My other greeting up there was the fierce and unrelenting wind. It compelled me to add some layers after standing around for only a few minutes. In fact it was so strong I climbed in the “back door” of Tipi’s Keron to seek shelter for a while.









 Here is Tipi showing the remnants of the previous nights hail. He was going my way so I hung out while he packed up and we trekked on up the ridge together.









 Here is an example of “humping a pack up a mountain”. My back hurts just looking at the picture, lol.









 We paused for the obligatory photo near “butt rock”.









 This is my favorite shot of the trip: Tipi breaking out into the clearing of Stratton Bald at 5200 feet.









 This was my chosen camp site. I wandered all over the area trying to pick a spot that was less windy. To my slight dismay, the wind had no primary direction and whipped around from every angle. So I figured the trees might offer some dilution (they didn’t).










 Another beautiful day on the Bob. I still had some energy to burn and decided to hike around for a while. I headed down the other side of the ridge and went up and down several trails just messing about.









I passed this known-good spring and filled up. That pvc pipe is just laying in a pool secured with a rock on top of it (A thoughtful addition to a natural high elevation spring).









 I had started to move on when I spied Gonzan busting up the trail! He stopped for some spring water and we gabbed for a while. He also treated to me to my first taste of Hemlock tea; it was really good!









 Here you see Gonzan in action mode with his fancy camera!









 The three of us had the place to ourselves and we all camped in the trees on the high ground. This was dinner time at Tipi’s camp. Gonzan applied some Trailspace knowledge and made a huge steam baked blueberry muffin (thanks Rambler!). It was really good on that cold mountain.

We had a nice evening but it grew too cold to sit outside so we eventually holed up with TW for a while in his huge tent so we could all have a chat before being forced into survival mode by the cold.

It was funny stuff and felt like a childhood fort; quite nostalgic for me. But you gotta have a big tent like that for such things… I like those guys a great deal but not enough to share my UL tent. Ugly thought, that. 









 The next morning we eventually packed up and posed for three cameras. Gonzan and I had planned to hike out together back to my car and then I would shuttle him back to his.









 This is my next favorite picture on our exit hike.









 Gonzan fell into that giant tree and it tilted over….he doesn’t know his own strength.









 We stopped for a break after losing a couple thousand feet off the mountain. I like this shot of Gonzan making coffee with his home-made alcohol stove.









 I asked G to stand there for perspective….what a great forest!









Ever see a dynamited tree? It does indeed look explosive!









 And we ended that hike at my car. Hey my hair looks similar to the exploded tree trunk! I had great time meeting up with Tipi and Gonzan (per my new usual!) and can’t imagine having any finer company for a wilderness excursion.

It was a pleasure to trek with people who enjoy nature and wilderness as much as I do.


Happy Trails!

8:24 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Another nice trail report, Patrick. I like the succint narrative; I tend to be overly verbose, and have difficulty paring my trips down to a manageable number of photos :)

I hope to have time this weekend to edit together all my photos...we'll see.

Man, that shot of Tipi climbing up from Naked Ground makes me tired and sore just looking at it, lol!

9:15 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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that is just awsome Patman, makes me wonder why anyone would settle in the flat woods of florida, easier to farm i guess. as far as i have been able to trace back my family was in N.C and slowly migrated south between the late 1700's until around 1830 when they finaly settled in coon bottom on the florida georgia line. that may be reversed now because after taking my oldest grandson to boone and blowing rock he has for the last 3 years been telling me he is going to be a doctor and move to the mountians and drive a big red monster truck, i dont know about you but thats my kind of saw bones. wish i had had a plan like that so young.



10:19 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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Nice trip report Pat. I think I'm going to call you guys the Three Musketeers

Earl it's called warmth.  Now-a-days you can hop in your car and be in the Appalachians in 10 hours.  My parents used to have a cabin near Brevard NC.  I enjoyed summers there. It was nice in the summer.  We went up during the winter a a couple of times.  Didn't like it.  Most of the trees are so bleak without leaves.

10:28 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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yeah that came back to me after reading Ricks report of his trip with "Big Blue". i think i could cope down to freezing ok during the days, ive road my motorcycle in the low 20's and hunted in the teens but it would take a hell of a bag for me to be able to sleep in that. my feet stay cold nearly year round here so that would probably kill me.

1:26 a.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Nice TR Pat. Good to see you guys meeting up again. Looks like it would be a good trip with good company.

Heck looks like you could save wieght buy ditching the tent and just sleeping in a tree trunk.

7:55 a.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks guys! For us Tennessee guys it's not that hard to meet in a great place to backpack.


Yeah, keeping the toes warm is always my challenge as well. I have a really good sleeping bag (rated to -10F) which works great when I'm in it. It's the other times that cause difficulty, lol... we estimated the ambient temp was about 15 on the high ground but when the wind was strong it sure felt colder than that.

11:39 a.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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excellent trip report as always. love reading your reports as they give me a list of places i need to go!

12:02 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Nice tr man. So you guys got the wind I had up this way? I was asking Gonz how ya fared in your BA. From experience in my Spur they don't do a tremendous amount in the aspect of wind protection so I was wondering with the colder temps how ya made out.

I am working on a tr now from my little trip in the white stuff. I got a healthy dose of snow on my trip. Made getting into my tent kinda fun. The wind was blowing the snow so hard I was borderline in white out conditions at times(especially when I crossed the ski resort.)

Oh did I mention I left my map in my wife's car and didn't realize it the first night. 

I am very familiar with the trail but at the same time when ya can't see trail markers, etc due to blowing snow it can make for sketchy travelling lol. 

Good stuff man. Looks like you all had a good time. 

1:03 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks JP!...Kilmer really is a great place to explore.



The pole structure seems very stout in that tent; it's withstood at least 40 mph winds. What gives me pause is a backpacker magazine review of the Big Agnes String Ridge 2 which is a similar pole design (but with two hubs instead of one like the Fly Creek), 4 season tent and its poles broke in 60mph winds during the review. 

 I do worry about the fabric eventually shredding in a really strong wind because it's just so thin. As far as comfort in wind....well that's another story. It isn't much of a wind block (better than nothing of course). I'm pushing my luck to keep taking it to high elevation balds in winter. Hopefully I'll settle on something before next winter...

Hiking without a map huh? Should be a good report!

1:13 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Looks like a great time! Nice Trip Report!

1:34 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Patman said:


The pole structure seems very stout in that tent; it's withstood at least 40 mph winds. 

The poles on my Soulo are also DAC NSLs same as my Spur. My Copper Spur utilizes a 2 hub design. They definitely are strong poles but the design/geometry has quite a bit to do with this as you know.

My Spur sees use from late spring to early fall. The Hille covers the rest of the seasons. 

I wouldn't want to be caught in the weather I was just in with my Spur just due to the thinness of the fabric on the tent.

4:11 p.m. on February 28, 2012 (EST)
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Patman    Goodtimes, Goodtimes, seems you Gonzan and Tippi had a blast again. Nice Trip report cant wait to get out myself away from work and hike..


2:00 p.m. on March 1, 2012 (EST)
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Whoops just saw the other comments…

Thanks for the kindness Ashleigh and Denis!


It is indeed goodtimes to hook up with other enthusiasts in the backcountry. I’m a bit of a loner and usually go solo but I’ve recently discovered it’s much easier to connect with people who already enjoy the same activities than to try and convince or prepare my other friends to go with me!

9:54 a.m. on March 4, 2012 (EST)
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Nice trip report Patman!

I enjoyed all the photos, that's a cool looking area. The trees are enormous from what I understand aren't they?

Do you happen to know the name (or location on map) of the brook behind your campsite? I found the Naked Ground Trail on a map but I wasn't sure exactly where your camp was.

I'm glad you guys got to meet up and put some green behind you.

Patman said:

"...but I’ve recently discovered it’s much easier to connect with people who already enjoy the same activities than to try and convince or prepare my other friends to go with me!"

A couple of years ago I talked a co-worker into going on an over-nighter with me. He had "camping experience" and enjoyed hunting and fishing. Our trip involved a good bit of backpacking and I had supplied him with all the gear he needed plus a printed route description & map. He assured me he "had it covered".

We met at the trailhead one Saturday morning to get an early start and he proceeded to pull two small coolers out of his hatch back, one with beer & ice, the other with hot dogs etc. and more ice.

He also brought both of us full size steel frame folding chairs. After a short discussion we opted to just car camp at a different location. I still had fun but I didn't / don't understand the disconnect considering how much talking we did about the trip.

Mike G.

3:42 p.m. on March 4, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks Mike!

The creek behind me was Little Santeetlah Creek. I think my day 1 camp was about a half mile beyond where the alternate Naked Ground trail rejoins the main.

The trees were big but the biggest ones are on the Memorial Loop trails which we didn’t hike on this trip (but would have made more impressive pictures.)

Funny story about your friend joining you; I have had many experiences just like that. And it never stops, just today someone asked if they could come with me on my next trip, but this person for sure doesn’t realize what they are asking despite my efforts of detailing the experience.

5:12 p.m. on March 4, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks for the info!

I'm always looking for new places to fish....well, once I am able to get away.

Little Santeetlah Creek....for some reason I have an affinity for smaller creeks in hard to get to places where I can make secret campsites.

I like your phrase "detailing the experience". Sometimes easier said than done huh? If someone hasn't been out there I'm sure it's hard to grasp.

Mike G.

April 26, 2018
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