13 Days With The Cranberries

10:44 a.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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BACKPACKING THE CITICO/SLICKROCK WILDERNESS

March 10--22  2012

Okay boys, grab your winter kit and your geese and your platypuses and your protective cups and your tusk-resistant layered vellum hipbelts and your marsupial hung buttpacks and your nano cuben moonraker 2x2 foot tarp tents and your dyneema codpieces and sit on a comfy couch and read thru my latest swaray into the hot March mountains of TN and NC.

A COMPLEAT GEAR LIST---Forget about a long and involved legalese-like nomenclature prepared by my team of gear lawyers---suffice it to say I have a tent and a pack and the usual winter kit with books and tumeric and fuel and food and some q-tips.  The only important thing is the weight---90lbs starting out.  Read it and weep.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

**  13 DAYS WITH THE CRANBERRIES

**  MEETING PAUL AND AUDREY'S CRANBROOK GROUP AT NAKED GROUND

**  A SERIES OF FIVE THUNDERSTORMS WITH LIGHTNING BLASTS

**  IT'S JULY IN MARCH

**  CAMPING WITH BRYAN AND CHELSEA'S GROUP ON THE SOUTH FORK

**  THE SOUTH FORK CROSSING AND LOG GATE CAMP IN WARDEN'S FIELD

**  MEETING IAN AND EGLEE'S GROUP AT CROWDER CAMP

**  CAMPING WITH PAUL AND AUDREY'S GROUP AT WILDCAT FALLS

**  CROSSING SLICKROCK CREEK WITH IAN AND EGLEE'S GROUP

**  FAREWELL TO THE CRANBERRIES

**  CLIMBING THE UPPER SLICKROCK NUTBUSTER TRAIL 27TH TIME

**  FAMILY EMERGENCY SHORTENS THE TRIP


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The trip begins on March 10th in cool temps at 4,000 feet in the TN mountains and the Citico wilderness at the Jeffrey Hell trailhead.  Here I am on the trail and the third world load behind me is my pack.


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GOING DOWN ON JEFFREY---Yes, the Jeffrey Hell trail descends for a couple miles and reaches an important crossing over the South Fork Citico.  A right turn on the South Fork and in a mile you're at Iron Camp, a favorite spot as above.


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Day 2 begins by finishing off the South Fork trail on a mini nutbuster climb of a thousand feet to Cold Spring Gap and a left turn onto Trail 149.  After awhile you reach a fine campsite in a place called Barrel Gap where I set up for the night.


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On Day 3 I stay on Trail 149 as above.  The trail skirts the high bowl of the Citico wilderness and eventually jcts with the North Fork Citico.


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My camp for the night is on Trail 149 by the headwaters of the North Fork at a place I call Dean Camp.  My pack is heavy in part due to the books I am carrying but on this trip I decide to go slow and take my time so as to relax and read.


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On Day 4 I finish 149 and reach the North Fork Citico where I eat a crisp red apple and take a break.  My goal is to climb the North Fork up to the headwaters and set up in the open bowl at a place I call Snake Mt Camp.


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But instead I finish the stiff North Fork climb to Cherry Log Gap and take Fodderstack Ridge to another favorite spot, Snow Camp.


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On Day 5 I climb 700 feet to Gorak Hill and over to Naked Ground Gap where I run into my first Cranbrook group led by Paul and Audrey.  Old Uncle Fungus fits right in dontcha know. 

Cranbrook School is a high school in Michigan which has been running a 10 day spring break wilderness backpacking trek for the last 43 years, and they usually always come to the Citico/Slickrock.


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Paul brings out the map.  It's time to study the topo maps as the kids are encouraged to find the route and lead off with minimal help from the leaders.


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Here are the three Cranbrook leaders, Noa, Paul and Audrey.  They are headed over Bob Bald to the Wedge and Little Cove Camp.  I'm headed the other direction.


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Paul gives some final instructions.


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I stay on Four Mile Ridge past Naked Ground and get to Watauga Camp, another prime favorite.


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On Day 6 I leave Watauga Camp and climb up Four Mile Ridge to Bob's Wall and the butt rock.  I stop on the climb to cover the pack as a thunderstorm strikes.


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SHELTER FROM THE STORM---I bail off the high ridge zapped by lightning bolts and set up camp by the Wolf Laurel jct on Horse Cove Ridge, a thousand feet below the Wall.  After5 the morning mortar rounds the rest of the day turns sunny and warm.  Too warm.


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A nighttime hell barrage hits camp but I get thru the lightning zaps and on Day 7 retrace my steps a thousand feet to Bob's Wall and the mountain top.  Here I am on the Horse Cove climb.


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The Student Conservation Association fixed this trail two years ago and put in 41 of these steep trail water bars. 


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I decide to lose 2,000 feet from the Bob and seek the low ground due to the daily thunderstorms and stop on the upper South Fork for this photo.


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Iron Camp on the South Fork has many tent sites and I find a new and better one near a pile of 100 year old cans left by loggers.

DAY EIGHT MORE TO COME

11:23 a.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Day 7 ends with the arrival of Bryan and Chelsea's group to Iron Camp in the rain.  Bryan on the left, Chelsea on the right.


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With the group is Bobby the student leader.


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On Day 8 I say goodbye to the 'Berries and pull the long descent of the South Fork trail.  Here I am on the trail by the J Hell jct.


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The one big crossing of the day and it must be done so I plan it right and get across using a hiking pole, balance and adrenaline.


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Once on the other side I depack and reboot.


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South Fork Creek in high water.


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Last month I discovered this Warden's Field camp and so my goal was to finish the South Fork and swing thru the Fields and set up next to the loud music of Citico Creek here at Log Gate Camp.


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This is the warmest March on record and the temps mock my winter kit with the down pants and the Exped pad and the down booties but the show must go on.  As I sit in camp I watch 15 boy scouts leave a creekside camp on the narrow high trail above Citico Creek.  So begins Day 9.


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The scouts on the narrow trail out.


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I leave Warden's and get on the Rocky Flats trail and here's a shot of it near the beginning.  It's a great trail.


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The trail climbs up this valley and crosses Ed Abbey Branch seven times, a goodly number.


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The Rocky Flats trail passes right thru an old homestead and what's left of its chimney.  It's a good place to rest and eat.


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I finish the trail and jct with the Mill Branch trail and get to a nice little spot next to Mill Creek where I call it a day.  It's so hot I wash up in the creek and feel 25 years old for about 18 minutes.


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Day 10 begins by exiting Mill Creek Camp and hitting the Doublecamp goat path as shown above.  I will soon jct Crowder Branch trail.


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The real hiking begins by tackling the many crossings of Crowder Branch trail, a real nutbuster of a trail.  Here I rest on the trail as it scoots under a series of blowdowns.


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Day 10 becomes a long day of humpage on Crowder Branch trail but I finally reach Crowder Camp and rest before three leaders from another Cranberry group pop in and they are Eglee, Mike and Ian.  They talk me into getting out of the heat and being by water for the night and so I follow them down to Slickrock Creek on the Big Stack trail.


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I follow Eglee down the steep Big Stack Gap trail.


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Mike and Ian cross Big Stack Creek before reaching the mighty Slickrock.


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Eglee crossing Big Stack.


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SLICKROCK CREEK---The green green moss of home.  I cross here to get to Wildcat Falls.


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At Wildcat Falls I run into Paul and Audrey's group with the blue tarp to the left.  This is the first falls of four.


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Wildcat Falls Cranberries---Noa, Audrey and Paul prepare supper.


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The old Hilleberg tent at Wildcat Falls.

DAY ELEVEN AND MORE TO COME

12:38 p.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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I begin Day 11 by visiting Paul and Audrey's camp one last time before shoving off upstream on the Slickrock Creek trail.  Here's a typical Berry camp---they like to use tarps.


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Paul and Audrey enjoy enjoy their morning coffee next to Wildcat Falls.


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I leave Paul's group and cross Slickrock twice and at the second crossing I run into Ian and Eglee's group pulling the same crossing.


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The 'Berries scoot across the creek.


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Nobody likes to be photographed crossing a creek cuz they get nervous and self conscious but some of the best backpacking photos in my opinion are at creek crossings.  Here's Ian and Eglee and Mike on the ford.


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FAREWELL TO THE BERRIES---I pull the 10 legs of the infamous upper Slickrock Nutbuster trail and here I rest on leg 3.


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At the end of leg 3 I set up at Buckeye Camp next to Hangover Creek with the creek directly behind the tent.


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On Day 12 I strike camp and prepare for the nutbuster trail as it climbs 3,000 feet to the high gap at Naked Ground.  As I climb I'm bothered by a buzzing airplane doing continuous loops over the Slickrock wilderness, something I thought not allowed over a wilderness area.  I take a quick shot of the bright yellow couch potato.


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There are 10 legs to the Nutbuster trail and leg 5 is called the Open Cove and at one time it used to be open but now it's a mess of blowdowns and brambles.  Here's the trail.


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Near the end of leg 5 I pause by a big rock and wonder how bad leg 6 will be, the hardest and most rugged of all the legs.


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Leg 6 is called Lonesome Ridge and it's very steep and new blowdowns don't help.  Here's the trail gaining ground.


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Over one and under the other, the name of the nutbuster game.


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At the end of leg 6 you come to this level spot at High Tooth Creek and it's a mandatory reststop.


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Leg 9 becomes a heath tunnel---thank God me and Coy cleared it with saws a couple years ago.  Near the end of the trail you reach this Heath Overlook which is another mandatory reststop.  From here you can see all of Four Mile Ridge.


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I finally make it to Naked Ground Gap and throw in the towel and use the last of my energy to set up camp.  It's too hot but there's a good breeze blowing away the gnats.


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On Day 13 I call Little Mitten and she tells me of a family emergency and so we plan an early evac and I leave NG and climb over the Bob and reach the Tee for this fotog.  I'm headed out to Beech Gap.


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On the way out to Beech I stop to get my emergency Thermarest cache and find it destroyed by a bear.  Chew toy.


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And so another fine trip ends and can be placed in the history bin.  It was the hottest March trip I've ever done.  BUT GLAD TO BE OUT!

2:15 p.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Another great report! Can't decide if I'm sorry for missing the Cranberries or not , lol. That's a lot of kids!

What's the count up to for climbing the Slickrock Nutbuster? Man, those blowdowns look horrible to cross. (worse than I recall, the previous October being the last time I saw them )

This heat has been crazy. We were denied a full winter and now it seems spring is gonna be HOT. I guess the winter kit is done for now?

5:10 p.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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This would make it 27 times for climbing the old rugged Nutbuster.  What I could've done with a Corona folding saw and a hand pruner. NOT a Corona beer.  I would've spent three extra days on the thing just opening it up. 

Hottest March on record and so I'm cavorting with the idea of driving a fair distance and pulling an April trip to Mt Rogers, if I feel like dealing with the drive.  They have a neato overnight parking lot up there which costs about $2 per night, $3 on Sat/Sun.  Patrolled.

9:12 p.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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A very cool trip in a unique place Tipi!

All the photos were great and you tell a good story!

February thru March is usually bitter cold & at least windy at the higher elevations; even on some of my local dayhikes I have been sweating already, that's not right.

You seem to have met up with a lot of people this time, it's good to see so many young people have an appreciation for the outdoors. They will be the wilderness protectors of tomorrow.

I want to look at a Topo and maybe ask you a couple of questions later if you don't mind.

Thanks, Mike G.

10:56 p.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Great trip, Tipi, as always :)

Some bear is really getting a taste for your thermarest it seems, Haha! That's the second stashed one to meet a violent end at beech gap, yes?

Ps- I hope everything is ok with the family

1:58 a.m. on March 24, 2012 (EDT)
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WOW! That was really fun...both the pix and the story!

8:32 p.m. on March 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Found the forum today ... Good stuff.

Great report, Tipi.  My wife and I just returned from a loop around the Citico, starting on the 19th and ending on 23rd.  We went up the South Fork on Monday - fun crossings in the high water - and ended Friday via Rocky Flats (did you leave those orange ribbons?).

We ran into two Cranbrook groups, one other couple backpacking, and two guys day hiking; other than that, we had the wilderness all to ourselves all week (excepting, of course, for a couple bears we spooked off the trails).  

We spent Wednesday on the western slopes of the Fodderstack, and, indeed, it felt like July.

Anyway, I'm enjoying reading your threads.

Happy trails.

9:52 p.m. on March 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Whib said:

Found the forum today ... Good stuff.

Great report, Tipi.  My wife and I just returned from a loop around the Citico, starting on the 19th and ending on 23rd.  We went up the South Fork on Monday - fun crossings in the high water - and ended Friday via Rocky Flats (did you leave those orange ribbons?).

We ran into two Cranbrook groups, one other couple backpacking, and two guys day hiking; other than that, we had the wilderness all to ourselves all week (excepting, of course, for a couple bears we spooked off the trails).  

We spent Wednesday on the western slopes of the Fodderstack, and, indeed, it felt like July.

Anyway, I'm enjoying reading your threads.

Happy trails.

 Welcome to Trailspace.  Those orange ribbons on Rocky Flats were put in by Rick Harris, Ken Jones and the Crosscut Mt Boys at a bad spot on the trail where many people used to get "lost".  They are in a little open cove near the chimney.

I hope you're able to get back out and explore the Slickrock side and the Kilmer valley side.  And how the BMT connects Beech Gap to Mud Gap and Whiggs Meadow and a few ways how to hook into the Snowbird backcountry, etc.

12:37 a.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice TR Tipi, Thanx.

Looks like it was far from being the quiet solitude trip ya had last time. But I bet they're a fun bunch to be around. The kids probably enjoyed being around ol' uncle fungus too. :)

Glad the Thermarest wasnt a chew toy while you were using it.

Welcome to Trailspace Whib!

9:14 a.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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The Cranberries have a long school history of wilderness backpacking and they were out during the Blizzard of '93 which required helicopter extraction with some participants getting severe frostbite.

A CAVALCADE OF CRANBROOK SHOTS


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I ran into a big group of Berries at Naked Ground in 2004.


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The same group at NG in 2004.  They like to use tarps.


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Here is Greg Miller's group in 2004 at the Pine Ridge/Fodderstack Ridge jct.


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Here's a group of 2004 students on Fodderstack Ridge at Crowder Camp.


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In 2006 I run into another group of Cranbrook students milling about at Crowder Camp.


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The Cranberries use three leaders for each group, and here is Greg Miller on the right with another adult leader and a student leader.  2006 at Crowders.


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In 2006 I run into these Berries coming down the Nutbuster/Upper Slickrock trail.


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2006 Nutbuster---most trip leaders used Dana Design packs in this time frame.  Here is a trip leader going down the nutbuster with his Astralplane.


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At the end of a 2006 trip I run into this group at the South Fork/North Fork jct in Citico.


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In 2009 I am heading down the South Fork trail when I run into a Berry group pulling their solos---as they use small individual tarps.


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While their students are soloing, the leaders set up in the Donner Camps on the lower South Fork trail.


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Later in my 2009 trip I run into a group arriving at the top of the Mill Branch trail to set up camp.


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The students are always happy to arrive at their campsite for the night.  2009 at Mill Branch.


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The leaders set up their tarp near the kids at Mill Branch in 2009.


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2010 brings a whole other March weather and I run into Gordon's group near Beech Gap and working their way north to Cold Spring Gap. 


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I let the group break trail for me.  2010.


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Later in the 2010 trip I run into Frank's group on Slickrock Creek and check out his old Dana Designs pack.


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Near the end of my 2010 trip I run into Gordon's group again but this time on Citico Creek by Warden's Field.


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In 2011 I pull a trip over into the Kilmer side and run into my first Berries doing map study in the Low Dog Camps on the Little Santeetlah Creek.


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2011---Here student leader Lexi checks out here group in the Low Dog Camps.


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Here are the trip leaders preparing to leave Little Santee Creek.


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I manage to pose for a shot with the Berries in 2011.


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In the middle of my 2011 trip I head up the Hangover Lead South trail and stay in Elysium Fields where I run into Bryan's group setting up camp.


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In the morning the group packs up for their big climb up to the Hangover.


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In 2011 a group of Berries cross Slickrock Creek just like on my recent 2012 trip.  This is Gordon's group.


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After the crossing trip leader Gordon arranges his pack.


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In 2011 I swing down Slickrock Creek and run into trip leader Frank on the right at Wildcat Falls.


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At the end of their trip in 2011, I find Bryan bringing his group down the Nutbuster trail from Naked Ground to Slickrock Creek.


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Finally in 2011 the Berries leave the wilderness and here is Bryan crossing the South Fork on the Jeffrey Hell trail.

10:52 a.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:

I hope you're able to get back out and explore the Slickrock side and the Kilmer valley side.  And how the BMT connects Beech Gap to Mud Gap and Whiggs Meadow and a few ways how to hook into the Snowbird backcountry, etc.

I've been roaming the Kilmer and Slickrock sides for years.  A glutton for punishment, I happen to be a big fan of the Nutbuster/Slickrock and the entire Hangover trail.  Deep Creek's fun, too.  In fact, I think I may have met you once while spending a night on the Hangover a few years back.  I had my old orange mutt with me, and he was a great hiking dog, but a bit protective once his camp was established ... You came over to our camp for a post breakfast chat, and when you were leaving, my cranky old dog nipped you on the calf.  Was that you? (If so, my apologies, again ... I should've had him leashed.)

I found your Snowbird thread last night, and now I'm looking forward to exploring that area.  This was my wife's first trip (I bought her a pack for her birthday) and she loved it, so I'm already spreading the maps out on the floor for the next one ...

12:01 p.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey Whib---check out these fotogs---


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This sign used to be at the bottom of the Nutbuster until some miscreants removed it.


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I went into my archives and came up with this fotog from Trip 50---September 2005.  It was taken on the Hangover before the twisted motards from the Ranger station clearcut it and landed a helicopter.  Which one is you?


1:46 p.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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I can't believe it!  That's me in the green.  And that's the old Fish Dog.  Good stuff.

1:38 a.m. on April 4, 2012 (EDT)
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is that the actual band"cranberries"?

9:49 a.m. on April 4, 2012 (EDT)
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Who and what the "Cranberries" are is contained in the text of Tipi's report. It's worth the read regardless.  

10:25 p.m. on April 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Tipi,

If you don't mind me asking, what area of TN or NC do you live in?  I'm looking around for a place to settle after retiring from the Coast Guard and I've been thinking about Chattanooga or Knoxville if I decide to move east.  

Don

3:59 a.m. on May 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Great trip.

7:40 a.m. on May 1, 2012 (EDT)
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dm1333 said:

Tipi,

If you don't mind me asking, what area of TN or NC do you live in?  I'm looking around for a place to settle after retiring from the Coast Guard and I've been thinking about Chattanooga or Knoxville if I decide to move east.  

Don

 Sorry for the delay as I didn't see your post until today.  I actually live equally between Chattanooga and Knoxville in Monroe County in a little town called Tellico Plains. 

July 29, 2014
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