22 Days To Big Frog Mountain

6:45 a.m. on June 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Let's go backpacking into a southern furnace.

Little Mitten and I drive up Tellico River in Tennessee with Zoe Dog and we set up camp at the old Green Cove school which is now a membership cabin leased from the forest service by Mitten's Dad and a dozen others.

My trip thusly begins by camping with Mitten next to the cabin for a couple nights before she drops me off two miles up river at the Fish Hatchery and onto the Benton MacKaye Trail going south.  Here are the trip highlights---

May 18--June 8  2012

**  22 DAYS TO BIG FROG MOUNTAIN
**  THE LONGEST TRIP WITHOUT RESUPPLY
**  2 DAYS WITH LITTLE MITTEN ON TELLICO RIVER
**  BMT THRUHIKERS BOOTS AND ONE LINER
**  TRIP SUBTITLE---THERE WILL BE TICKS
**  INTO THE HIWASSEE FURNACE
**  LOSS CREEK SWIM
**  TOWEE CREEK SWIM
**  TRIP SUBTITLE---THERE WILL BE SWEAT
**  COPPERHEAD
**  HIWASSEE SWIM
**  LOST CREEK SWIM
**  PINEY FLATS CREEK SWIM
**  RATTLESNAKE
**  2 DAYS ON BIG FROG MOUNTAIN
**  CAMPING AT HIWASSEE OUTFITTERS CAMPGROUND
**  MEETING EVELYN FROM TRIP 102


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Mitten is using my old Nammatj and you can tell how little used it is when compared to the faded Keron.


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Little Mitten has found her personal home in the woods.


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The cabin can be seen along with the two Hillebergs.  This is the first time two Hilleberg tents have been set up on the Tellico River in the last 40 million years.


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The Nammatj is apparently a perfect tent for a dog as Zoe-bean seems to like it.


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The weather's cool enough to allow merino tops and bottoms as I split wood for the campfire, a rarity in my line of work---a campfire that is.


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The water's ice cold on Tellico River but the younger sorts are braver than old Fungus.  I sit back with the Zygoat dog and watch.


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The boys, Blade and Jerm, perform the all important Mister Tellico power clenchings.


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"See, I was on this river with Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty when we ran into these disturbing local boys . . . . . ."


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On Day 3 Little Mitten drives me up the Tellico River to where the BMT crosses and I prepare the kit with the relates on hand.  So begins my journey into the Hiwassee Furnace.  If the pack happened to tip over old Zoe Dog wouldn't be with us anymore.


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My journey begins on a tough climb up Sugar Mt with too much weight.  Here I am on switchback 7 out of 10.


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By 3pm I'm on top of Sugar Mt and find a new spot in the shade to call home for the night.


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On Day 4 I fall off Sugar Mt and reach a swtichback turn marked by a trailsign compliments of the Crosscut Mountain Boys who maintain this trail in an excellent manner.


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I quickly reach Brookshire Creek and its crossing which is done in crocs but it's low and easy.  The B Mac now becomes the Brookshire Creek trail and not far up it I reach Fern Valley and my night's home at Fern Camp.  It's close to water and a perfect place to camp.


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Day 5 begins by sitting thru a night of Day 4 rain and by 9am I'm packed and ready to leave beloved Fern Camp.  The Brookshire is pretty as it climbs 1,700 feet to Sled Runner Gap and the beginning of State Line Ridge.  Near the top at the gap I set up the tent next to the headwaters of Brookshire Creek at Iron Ring Camp after a good climb.


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A closer look at a near perfect three season backpacking pad, the Thermarest 40th Anniversary at 2 inches thick and 4R.


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These are the only BMT thruhikers I see in 22 days and they are Boots and One Liner.  I tell them about a great campsite at the bottom near the Brookshire crossing.


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Day 6 begins by leaving Iron Ring Camp and the Brookshire trail and passing this trailpost on the way up to Sled Runner Gap and State Line Ridge---all part of the BMT.


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The diamond blaze of the BMT near Rocky Top, Tennessee.  Yes!!



"Wish that I was on ol’ Rocky Top,
down in the Tennessee hills;
Ain’t no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top;
Ain’t no telephone bills"


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Before reaching Hazelnut Knob you reach a gap with a .4 mile loop to this fantastic water source.  Who knew there's a creek on State Line Ridge??


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After getting 3 liters and several more lbs I hump up the half mile 450 foot gain to Hazelnut Knob and fall off the south side to this campsite which is above Moss Gap so I call it Moss Gap Camp.


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Here's another shot of Moss Gap Camp.  The BMT is rarely hiked and so campsites have to be cleared by hand---hopefully not in a big patch of poison ivy.

DAY 7 TO CONTINUE

8:32 a.m. on June 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Uncle Fungus checks out a new trailsign north of Sandy Gap.


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Here's the new trailpost near Sandy Gap.


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The hump up from Sandy Gap to Six Mile Gap is hot and steep but there are views now and again.  Of course I never do find the water source marked on my map and in Sgt Rock's guide.


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Entry into the Six Mile Gap Club.


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Six Mile Gap is really just the beginning of a hot hump to my day's destination.  The back trail pictured is the half mile blue blaze to the top of Waucheesi Mt.


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At Tate Gap I do the obligatory visit to the old stone homestead.  There's a creek running underneath it so I get 2 liters and keep hiking and will stop at the first good spot---problem is there are no good spots.


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After a long 8.2 mile day I clear out a campsite in the May-apples near Peels High Top Mt and I pick it because clearing may-apples is alot easier than clearing poison ivy which covers the mountains as far as the eyes can see.


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Day 8 dawns too warm for normal men---we're in a heat wave---but I have to pack up anyway and leave Peels Mt descending to Unicoi Gap.  Along the way I find the accoutrements of syphilization.


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Somewhere near Buck Mt I stumble on this beauty.  Anyone know what it is?? 


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The trail is pretty around Buck Mt but be forewarned, there's no trailside water between Peels Gap and Coker Creek.  I cross Highway 68 and find this old trailsign above Coker Creek.


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I finally reach the footbridge over Coker Creek and it's a welcomed sight.  Now I'm in the Hiwassee furnace.


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The trail passes thru a redneck car camping hell (paradise to them) and then switchbacks steeply up a gorge face in direct sunlight so it's miserably hot and I'm dead tired.  Near the top of the gorge I turn back and see the mighty Hiwassee River below.


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I finally mercifully reach Loss Creek after a 12 mile day---too far---and immediately go swimming.


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Campsites are few and far apart unless you want to clear a 10x10 patch of poison ivy and so when I find this site next to Loss Creek I know it's home for the night.


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On Day 9 I leave Loss Creek and the trail passes above a rock river canyon called the Narrows.  The only backpacker I see on the John Muir Trail is this turtle friend.


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The BMT (shared with the John Muir Trail) reaches Towee Creek and after 4.5 miles I'm hot and bothered so I decide to park my butt in the shade and call it a day.


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Submerging in the holy Towee waters and relief from the Hiwassee furnace is found.


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Day 10 begins with breakfast on Towee Creek with cinnamon raisin bread with cashew butter and strawberry jam and hot peppermint tea.


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From the trail the mighty Hiwassee flows thru rocks.


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Near Big Bend I pass by this friendly water snake---banded water snake??


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Near Big Bend I find a nice little footbridge.


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A mandatory reststop before entering the Forbidden Zone.


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The Forbidden Zone is a 3 mile section which travels close to the river and it's hot but nice.  This I think is the best shot of the trip.


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The creature from the black lagoon---This is a rare shot of the elusive Wetfoot caught emerging from the Hiwassee River.


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This is the last known picture of the Wetfoot creature.


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The forbidden zone lives up to its name as this little bird was caught in a spider web---and released with a little effort.


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I grabbed it and pulled off the spider web which clung tightly to its feathers.  Freedom!!


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A river walk isn't complete without the obligatory copperhead.  Watch your feet, boys.


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The BMT crosses Childers Creek and thus begins a hellish two mile roadwalk and the most dangerous part of my trip---the dang rolling couch potato tourists wouldn't move over and there was no shoulder to hike on.


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The trail enters Reliance TN and crosses the big bridge across the Hiwassee.


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I skipped the tourists and the floats and the Gatlinburg-like grab ass and the ATV's and the loud Harleys and the rafts and breezed thru syphilization as quickly as possible and lost the trail around the Hiwassee Outfitters but finally climbed over Ellis Nut Mt and reached the goal of the whole trip---Lost Creek!!  It's home for Day 10.

DAY 11 TO CONTINUE

9:04 a.m. on June 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Great trip & photos so far Tipi!

The Hiwassee belongs to rednecks, tubers, & rafters this time of year - but come back in the middle of winter and it is deserted, quiet, and beautiful. You can pretty much have the area to yourself.

I have hiked & fished Towee creek, and others, many times in an effort to elude the onslaught of summer car campers who manage to pack the entire Walmart Camping section and 40 lbs of ice into their truck or hatchback and proceed to erect small municipalities complete with lights and cable TV on their 20' X 50' campground slot of paradise.

I await the rest of your report, but I feel ya on the Hiwassee redneck summer thing.

Mike G.

12:02 p.m. on June 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Yes, trouthunter, and Hiwassee Outfitters campground may just be where the rednecks cluster the most, but this story comes at the end of the trip.


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Patman rates a note---Trailspace message system gets active before a trip and I arrange to meet Patman somewhere around Lost Creek so I leave him this note in a wildlife clearing south of Lost Creek.


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Thankfully the BMT is well marked south of Lost Creek otherwise it would be a jumble of old logging cuts and dirt roads and sweaty distractions like the crossing over McFarland road.  Water is dear on the BMT and so when you find it you better get it.  Even better is finding a campsite next to water and Day 11's camp is in a pit on Piney Flats Creek.


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I find a collection of feathers around Piney Flats---turkey, a hawk and a crow.


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On Day 12 I leave Noseeum Creek on Piney Flats and climb up to the Kimsey road crossing.  Like water, views are hard to come by on the BMT between Hiwassee and Ocoee.


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Dry Pond Lead skirts Little Frog Wilderness and here the BMT doglegs right and down the mountain to Ocoee River.


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There's a fine campsite midway down Dry Pond Lead but there's no water and no backpacker is dumb enough to haul it all the way from Piney Flats so I get to an interior Little Frog trail called Rock Creek (above) and grab a gallon of precious water and backtrack almost a mile to a wonderful camp in a saddle.


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Funny thing is, on the way back to camp I see a timber rattlesnake and we say hello as he slowly moves across the trail.  I must've just passed him on my first swing thru to get water.


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Here's his head.  Step lightly, boys.


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In a world choked with poison ivy and briars and bushes, when you find a clearing in a gap you best stay put and spend the night.  I call it Rattle Saddle Camp.


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Dry Pond Lead descends into the real pit vipers of TN---the Interstate hiway 64 along Ocoee River.  Before getting there you see what I believe is Big Frog Mt in the left distance.


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The BMT passes over I-64 and goes thru Thunder Rock campground which should be called Thunder Truck Campground.  From my trail journal---

"It's nothing more than an Interstate rest area.  And people actually pay money to car camp next to a super highway?  Maybe it caters to the hearing impaired.  You'd have to be deaf to enjoy this place."


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The mighty Ocoee River is a tamed and broken waterway surrounded by I-64 (it might as well be an interstate) and constant traffic and 3 or 4 big powerplants and another hiway 64 reroute planned as Corridor K.  Little Frog wilderness is just a smudge stain afterthought to the American Traffic Dream.


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The climb out of Thunder Truck campground is hot and nasty and steep but it puts you into the Big Frog wilderness and along a little waterway called the West Fork of Rough Creek.  I decide to pull my first zero day here.


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A zero day on the West Fork of Rough Creek in the Big Frog.


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A zero day helps my head and so on Day 15 I pack and begin the 2,500 foot climb to Big Frog Mt.


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There are 3 legs to the top of Big Frog Mt and here's the end of leg 1 and the start of leg 2 where the BMT turns north on the Fork Ridge trail.


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I don't like to hike in a cold downpour but I get caught 2 miles below Big Frog Mt and have to use my Arcteryx rain jacket which saves my butt from high ridge wind-induced hypothermia.  The heatwave becomes a cold snap.  I keep moving and set up camp on the north end of Big Frog Mt.  It's my home for the next 2 nights.


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National Trails Day??  Day 16 begins with cold temps and thyick fog across Big Frog Mt.  I take a .4 mile trek to get water and visit the 2 main campsites on top of the mountain.  There are 5 decent campsites on the mountain and about 50 possible flat ridge spots suitable for tenting.

I pull another zero on Big Frog to enjoy the colder weather and run into BMT trailworkers Bill and Diana Ristom, old trail hands and legends of the B Mac.  I even help them weed wack the top of the mountain.


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My turn around point of the whole trip is Big Frog Mt and so on Day 17 I head north and slowly return to Reliance.  Here I am on the Big Frog trail at the Fork Ridge jct.


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Here's the trailpost.


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The washed out culvert on the Rough Creek trail.  The BMT crosses this creek 3 times and god forbid you see the water levels which tore apart this culvert.


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Day 17's camp is the same as Day 15's camp but this time I'm on my way back north.


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A turtle in the rain on the BMT north of Thunder Rock.


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The mighty Ocoee River.


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The Ocoee from the bridge on the BMT.


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I return to Rattle Saddle Camp with ample water and heading north but taking my time.


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Day 19 is a rainy day so I pack quick and I'm ready to hit the BMT on Dry Pond Lead.  After 5 miles I reach Piney Flats Creek again and set up like I did on Day 12.  I go north slowly and have my pick of the best spots.  The noseeums are bad, as usual.


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Day 20 begins by leaving the creekside camp at Piney Flats and eventually reaching the old gated logging cut numbered 1173-1 on the map which the BMT follows for about a mile.  Since my last pass a week ago, somebody came thru and chopped and killed about 2,000 trees lining the route and left it a real eyesore.  So much for a protected Scenic Trail.


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Welcome to the BMT.


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An apt symbol for the BMT.


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Walking Stick near Lost Creek.


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It's great to be back on Lost Creek where the water sound is perfect and blots out a couple bulldozers a mile back eating up a mountaintop.


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The Canyons of Lost Creek---I pack up on Day 21 and follow Lost Creek downstream and pass by the mini "gorge" as the creek slices thru some pretty rock formations.


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More of the Lost Creek gorge.


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The pull from Lost Creek to Ellis Creek is a mini nutbuster so get ready to break a sweat, boys.  Here I am on top of "Ellis Nut Mt".


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I make it into Hiwassee Outfitters campground and they won't let me use their phone so I decide to spend my last night "car camping" without a car in their campground and next to Ellis Creek and 50 feet from the mighty Hiwassee as above.

I ford Hiwassee here and find a way to cross and thereby avoid the dangerous road hike from Reliance to Childers Creek (when going north bound).  Just make sure they don't open the floodgates upstream!  Right after this pic was taken the river rose several feet in 20 minutes.


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Hiwassee paddlers.


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My last night on the Hiwassee in a car camping campground.

MORE TO COME---FINAL SHOTS

7:06 a.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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The Hiwassee seems to be a great river for rafting.


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Evelyn "N-Girl" from Trip 102---Here's what's really weird---I was hanging out in the campground and waiting for Day 22's evac when a group comes in and sets up nearby.  This woman and her daughter visits another camp and we get to talking about backpacking.  She mentions something about being on Bob Bald in October 2009 and it turns out I was there too, in a blizzard, and have pictures of her in my 2009 trail journal.


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Here she is from the Bob Bald 2009 trip during a surprise October snowstorm.  We didn't recognize each other on the Hiwassee until we started talking about TN backpacking.


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On Day 22 I hang out waiting for my noon evac as the whole camp sleeps.


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I'm all packed and ready to hike to Webb Brothers store for pickup but spend some time on the Hiwassee in the sun.


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I hike to Hiwassee Outfitters and buy a couple t-shirts and then hoof it the last little distance to Webb store for evac.


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Little Mitten picks me up and I take her back thru the campground to show her and Zoe dog the low water wading in the Hiwassee.


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BTW, I did see a black bear during the trip but can't say where since there may be hunters reading this with murder in their eyes.  It was a fair distance away and of course it's usually pretty hard to get a good photo since they often like to bolt off the trail.

It's a good way to end this trip report.

7:39 a.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Wow, lots of great photos Tipi!

I think the first snake was an Eastern Garter snake and the second was indeed a Banded Water snake (I have a field guide in my lap).

Cool photos of the Lost Creek area.

Mike G.

8:13 a.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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I believe as you say that the hike from Sandy Gap south to Big Frog and the Cohuttas would best be done in the winter as otherwise it's a lowland scrub rivercane journey into poison ivy, sweat, snakes and rednecks.  Problem is, when winter comes I want to be at 5,500 feet, not 1,000 feet, and so I tend to avoid this area if I can experience a good open bald blizzard instead.

8:27 a.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:

I believe as you say that the hike from Sandy Gap south to Big Frog and the Cohuttas would best be done in the winter as otherwise it's a lowland scrub rivercane journey into poison ivy, sweat, snakes and rednecks.  Problem is, when winter comes I want to be at 5,500 feet, not 1,000 feet, and so I tend to avoid this area if I can experience a good open bald blizzard instead.

 I certainly can't fault you for that approach Tipi!

Since I enjoy stream fishing in winter (I love the solitude & cold weather) I always tried to go into these high traffic areas during the off season. The water levels in the Hiawassee are also more constant during winter since the powerhouse doesn't release water just to please the rafters.

I would also like to be in a blizzard at high elevation, I love sleet & snow. Being a gorge rat I just haven't done much adventuring in many of the beautiful high elevation places you have.

Mike G.

11:48 a.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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I rarely post but I read the Trailspace forum everyday. I dont get to do all the backpacking/hiking that i want to so I anxiously await the trail reports to see what i am missing. I think everyone awaits Tipi's report, i know i do, and as usual this report had me laughing several times...especially the creature coming out of the water and the close up....funny stuff! Patman seems to have a regular report and Trouthunter has recently added a few...all of which I enjoy reading. BUT...I think you guys need to ease up. Not everybody that has a Wal-mart tent or rides a motorcycle is actually a redneck! I have never been one to try and keep up with the "Jones's" and have always been a very frugal person and my $20 tent and $100 backpack work just fine for me. I am sure that when i set up my 'Acadamy Sports' $20 tent that i am thought of as some lowerclass poor hillbilly that can't afford a proper tent and has no business out on the trails. If i was climbing mount everest i would have a $1500 tent but i am not, so i dont. If i did 3 weeks at a time like Tipi i would definately use the tent he uses. The point i am trying to make is that not everyone is a white trash redneck and i feel like with this sort of language in your posts you are going to alienate/belittle some of those people that are interested and want to learn more about hiking/backpacking and being out on the trails. Back in Feb 2011 i did a 13mile hike in the Fiery Gizzard with Trouthunter, Gonzan and Rocklion. I really enjoyed it and enjoyed meeting everyone but at one point along the hike i was asked what kind of boots i was wearing and it was a pair of $25 Wal-mart hikers that i have had for about ten years and still have not worn out. But at that instance i felt lowerclass.....i didnt help that i was wearing a cotton camouflage shirt...apparently the official color of rednecks. My definition of a redneck are those that hack up the woods with their hatchetts and leave their beer/pop cans and all there garbage all over the trails not nessecarily those that are car-camping with there Wal-mart camping gear. Anyway, my first post in over a year but i thought something needed to be said...the woods are for everyone that respects them...not just for the "Jones's".

12:01 p.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey Tipi,

As usual awesome trip report!

I have a question for you regarding part of the BMT you hiked this trip BMT, SGT Rock over on WB said you might be able to help me out.

I have hiked the West Fork (303) several times and have always wondered what is up with the big pile of rocks, bricks, and cinder blocks with the cross on top. To be more specific on the location, I am talking about the section of the West Fork trail in-between FSR 45 and FSR 221...........is it a grave?.........all I know is its kind of creepy, and makes me really want to know what in the world it is.

12:13 p.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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I browsed the pictures, gonna have to do the reading later. Looks like a great trip though. Another one I should say.

12:14 p.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Beersheba---Problem is, in my experience the locals boys you're talking about---and maybe what we refer to as rednecks---rarely if every backpack no matter what kind of gear they use, and usually their idea of camping is Car Camping, a whole other kind of beast.

And there's a general category of local backpacker (or car camper for that matter) who tends to build big bonfires in camp, kill every poisonous snake they see, cart out and consume alcohol, and leave piles of turds surrounded by stained toilet paper right on the ground w/o burying.  Oh, and leave large piles of garbage because they are too lazy to hump it out.

This is the behavior that has earned these people the "redneck" sobriquet.  It has nothing to do with Walmart gear or cheap boots or inexpensive tents.  Any genuine backpacker is a homeless hobo at best, at least in my definition, and a "hillbilly backpacker" is a-okay in my opinion. 

It's not about gear, it's about behavior.  I started out sleeping in town cemeteries and behind local churches and hitching across country as a homeless bum just wanting to get my bag nights---but I was careful to dig catholes and I didn't touch alcohol or leave garbage or use a noisy ATV to get my nature fix. 

Your Words---

"My definition of a redneck are those that hack up the woods with their hatchets and leave their beer cans and all their garbage all over the trails . . . ."

This is exactly what I mean when I refer to the species "redneck" in the Southeast woods.

12:16 p.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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SouthEastHiker said:

Hey Tipi,

As usual awesome trip report!

I have a question for you regarding part of the BMT you hiked this trip BMT, SGT Rock over on WB said you might be able to help me out.

I have hiked the West Fork (303) several times and have always wondered what is up with the big pile of rocks, bricks, and cinder blocks with the cross on top. To be more specific on the location, I am talking about the section of the West Fork trail in-between FSR 45 and FSR 221...........is it a grave?.........all I know is its kind of creepy, and makes me really want to know what in the world it is.

 I know exactly where you are talking about and I believe in my Big Frog/Cohutta book by Tim Homan he mentions it as a grave.  I almost took a picture of it on my way out.  I wonder if it has anything to do with a bicyclist as they use this part of the trail frequently?

12:34 p.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks! Good question because it is in the same area as all the bike trails......... also the cross on top doesn't look that old......a little overgrown with ivy but not old.........maybe someone changes them out frequently.........I really wish I knew the story behind it..........its just so strange.

5:39 p.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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BEERSHEBA said:

 Anyway, my first post in over a year but i thought something needed to be said...the woods are for everyone that respects them...not just for the "Jones's".

 Hi, Beersheba

Beautiful handle you have:  recalls the tamarisk tree in Gen 21:33.  I just wanted to affirm your feeling here and maybe offer a challenging suggestion.  The "Trip Reports" forum, more so than some of the others, does seem to me subject to the "groupthink" effect of a few dominant personalities and a large number of "lurkers" (infrequent contributors) at times disaffected by language or sub-grouping, etc.  May I suggest that we (including myself) start to come out of "Sarah's cave" (same scripture) and help to widen the "trail culture" by more frequently offering our own thoughts and experiences, however brief or contrarian?!  I appreciate Tipi's gentle and respectful way of answering your concern without forsaking his outrage at environmental abuse, as well.  This was a good exchange!  Thanks for having the courage to speak your mind, Beersheba! 

7:08 p.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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It was not my intention to make anyone mad or tell anyone off but it is obvious that the word "walmart gear" is clearly meant to be derogatory and is automatically associated with redneck. i wish we wouldnt catagorize others here on Trailspace just based on the name brand of their gear. i saw this way to often on the Backpacker forum and i finally quit participating on the forum. I just want to remind everyone to be considerate of others.

8:55 p.m. on June 10, 2012 (EDT)
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BEERSHEBA said:

It was not my intention to make anyone mad or tell anyone off but it is obvious that the word "walmart gear" is clearly meant to be derogatory and is automatically associated with redneck. i wish we wouldnt catagorize others here on Trailspace just based on the name brand of their gear. i saw this way to often on the Backpacker forum and i finally quit participating on the forum. I just want to remind everyone to be considerate of others.

 Beersheba,

Point taken, and I apologize if I offended anyone. I have always heard the word "redneck" associated with rude, boorish, behavior.

My mention of Walmart gear was - "..the entire Walmart camping section.." In other words, people who bring lights, fans, and all the other gadgets & gizmos you can buy there that often quit working and get left behind along with all the other trash many people who stay in these campgrounds strew around on the ground and along the banks of otherwise beautiful rivers & streams. It is a "please clean up after me because I am in a hurry to get back home" mentality.

Certainly not everyone who uses Walmart or Kmart gear acts this way. I have a lot of Walmart gear myself for car camping.

I have to go out of town for a couple days, but I would like to send you a PM on my return so as not to hijack Tipi's TR.

Mike G.

8:47 a.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Let's be realistic.  Walmart's line of Ozark Trail tents are, in my experience, crap.  I had a 12x9 Ozark Trail cabin tent with the three large steel arch poles and was set up in North Carolina during a harsh rainstorm and the dang thing leaked like a sieve and filled the inside floor with water.  The thing was brand new.  I had to get a blue tarp with the grommets and fashion an intricate fly with bungee cords to stay dry.

Then I got a cheap $28 Ozark Trail 3-pole dome tent and took it out to South Dakota for a several week trip and the thing leaked so bad around the seams I had to use a roll of duct tape to protect it.  Oh, and the three fiberglass poles cracked and split in a nasty thunderstorm and windstorm typical of the northern plains in July.

Further, Walmart's line of sleeping bags are never on my list of bags to consider for a backpacking trip, even in the summer.  Why?  Because they are too heavy. 

Once I bought a Texsport cook kit at Walmart and wanted to use the teflon coated fry pan to augment and improve my backpacking cooking options.  Fried toast, eggs, etc etc.  Well, after about 2 trips the teflon flaked off so bad it made my food inedible, unless you want to consume polytetrafluoroethylene on a regular basis.  It was dumped faster than a red-headed bonobo step-child.

In addition, there seems to be a disturbing tendency for Walmart gear to fail in the field when you can't have it fail.  This is unacceptable.  And as far as I can tell, at least in my area, Walmart doesn't sell any large backpacks suitable for backpacking.  Think Outdoor Products or CampTrails, etc.  Who knows why.

But heck, I DO USE some Walmart items---their Coleman fuel for my stove, occasional mini fire starter sticks for my trash fires, the infrequent flashlight (and several have mysteriously broken in the field when the on/off switch quits working), and a few Coghlans knick-knacks like tent stakes or whatever else.  And some of their clothing items are backpack-suitable, like their "thermolite" fleece gloves and their various tuques.

9:52 a.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Great report my friend! Wow what a trip…

Sorry I missed you on this one (work didn’t allow this time).

Glad to see I rate a note. :) And that’s funny because I started to leave you a note on the BMAC south of Sandy Gap.

 Hey that new trail sign has me flummoxed. I went up the first weekend of your trip for an overnight (didn’t post a report). I parked on Holly Flats road (at the start of the Brookshire), then road walked up to the Kirkland Creek trailhead (camped in an area between crossings, near an old cable).  The next day I went up Kirkland and came to what I thought must be Sandy Gap but there were no signs at all. I had intended to go across State Line Ridge but wasn’t sure which trail it was. To my left, after reaching the "alleged" gap there were three possibilities: the first logging cut went around the side of the ridge, the second went to the top of the ridge and the third was wide like an old road but was cut off by blow downs. I hiked for a while on the most traveled path (assuming it be the southward BMAC) and saw no other likely gaps. (I did find a water source hidden beneath some Rhodo, btw).

So anyway I returned to the gap, checked out each of the three possibilities but all were “bush whacks” and I didn’t have time to be wrong so I returned back down Kirkland Creek.

So either that sign is really new or I wasn’t at Sandy Gap (I’m pretty sure I was at the Gap).

10:18 a.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Great trip report except for one small error..

Let's go backpacking into a southern furnace.

...

The weather's cool enough to allow merino tops and bottoms as I split wood for the campfire, a rarity in my line of work---a campfire that is.

Come to Florida I will introduce to a true southern furnace. 

10:19 a.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey Patman---

Kirkland climbs very steeply out of it's watershed bowl and pops out on an old logging cut which veers right when coming up from Kirkland Creek.  This old cut reaches a confusing "gap" with a couple options---might've been the place you got confused.

Sandy Gap is way beyond and is obvious because it has a major forest service road dead-end full of gravel.  Once in the gap the immediate right goes up to Six Mile Gap and the obvious old jeep trail to the left climbs steeply on the BMT north to State Line Ridge.

Once figured out the Kirkland/State Line/Brookshire loop is a great weekend journey.

10:23 a.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

Great trip report except for one small error..

Let's go backpacking into a southern furnace.

...

The weather's cool enough to allow merino tops and bottoms as I split wood for the campfire, a rarity in my line of work---a campfire that is.

Come to Florida I will introduce to a true southern furnace. 

 That was early in the trip.  A couple days later we had a 10 day heatwave with muggy temps in the 90F's---it was 92F in Athens TN nearby.  The Southeast forest becomes a jungle in these conditions and I remember the long series of patches of sunlight and shade and always aiming to rest in the shade.  The combination of humping up a mountain with a 75 lb pack in 92F temps at elevations below 1,000 feet isn't my favorite thing in the world.

10:32 a.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey Patman, this is part of what Sandy Gap looks like---


TRIP-94-092.jpg

Near these guys is the dead-end gravel road and the trail ahead is the BMT going south up to Six Mile Gap.

11:03 a.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Hmm, Ok...I must have been at a false gap ....there was no gravel for sure.

12:11 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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I haven't spent any bag nights in the Big Frog area, though I've hiked it some. I think will wait until winter to spend any time below 3,000ft, as I really hate the heat, humidity, and poison ivy. It gets hot enough up high for my taste. 

Thanks for all the photos of the snakes! The first one is definitely a Garter snake, but I am 99% certain the second once is actually an Eastern King Snake. The pattern is a little different than the Common Banded Water Snake, and the coloration and head shape are also. 


96145-050-8C87206F.jpg

4:59 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Reading again over your posts, I must have not been at Sandy. I see a diamond blaze in your photo with those guys. I checked all around very carefully for signs and blazes and saw none. Also the terrain doesn't match.

Hmm, good thing I declined to bush whack across the ridge at the "false gap"; it may have taken quite an effort to intersect the Brookshire "cross-country" as it were. Of course I don't wanna end up like ole Jeffery did in the Citico.

 

BTW, I was reading a blurb on the State Line Ridge section of the BMac and apparently it's known to some as the "Heart Of Darkness" lol.

8:55 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Beersheba:

For what it is worth, most of us got our start with borrowed equipment, stuff purchased from garage sales, thrift shops, surplus stores and Sears.  I remember hiking around in Sears contractor’s work boots and using a tent from a clone brand known as Stansport for years, before my mountaineer activities required better gear.  I have friends who still use similar equipment, some out of economic necessity, but some also because they have better things to do with their money than purchase titanium carbon fiber underwear.  Please feel comfortable in your skin and equipment preferences; if we judge, it is one’s deeds and actions that are the criteria, not what brand of shorts you wear.

As one of Trailwise’s prolific forum contribhutors and as a self-acknowledged very snobby participant, I wish to assure you we study our flora and fauna guides, and would not mistake you for a Redneck.  True the Rednecked Yahoo (Crapulatum Vicanna Porcus) typically chooses a Walmart tent for habitation, and prefers donning camouflage pattern apparel.  But we are well aware, as you note, one specie’s visual likeness can lead to mistaking it for another.  For instance camouflage apparel and Walmart boots are the chosen attire of Rednecks for the purpose of breeding and spicie affiliation.  But they also incorporate into their mating behaviors large, loud, internal combustion conveances, sporting the largest possible tires, capable of dislodging the maximum volume of soils and roadway possible.  

You, on the other hand, are not a Yahoo, but appear to be a Budget Minded Camper (Inoblitum Attentissimus Castrae), or the popular Good ol' Boy (Commodus Antiquus Humanus), both subspicies of the Average Joe (Joeseph Mediocris).  The Rednecked Yahoo and Average Joe may look similar, but they are differnt spicies altogether.  Observed in their natural setting one notes Average Joes prefer a tidy, low key camp compound, often leaving little evidence of their presence after they move on; while Yahoos of all colors prefer to occupy a midden, marking territory with trash, discarded broken recreation toys, and trees carved with their clan affiliations (if they bother leaving any trees standing at all).  Note a sundry observer can differentiate Yahoos from Average Joes without even seeing them.  For instance the Redneck's mating call, known as the rebel yell, is distinct, and when coupled with C&W or rock music played at excessive volume are perhaps the surest telltales you are in the presence of a clan of RednecksAverage Joes, on the other hand, are generally more subdue, and visually detected long before you can hear them.  But a word of caution: While Average Joes pose no threat whatsoever; the prudent camper is advised to exercise caution when in proximity of Rednecks and other Yahoos, especially regarding the chastity of your daughters.

Ed

9:55 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:

TRIP-134-149.jpg

The creature from the black lagoon---This is a rare shot of the elusive Wetfoot caught emerging from the Hiwassee River.

Tipi:

Speaking of specie misidentification…

I believe that photo you have is not of a WetFoot, (Barbatum Ranae Formidulosus Magnus) but of the rare Hunchback Flatfoot, (Palnus Plantae Abavunculus Fungi) seen here seeking respite from the heat.  According to the guidebook,  Flora and Fauna of Big Frog Mountain both creatures look similar face on, but the Wetfoot sports a sleek backside for efficient swimming, while the Hunchback Flatfoot  sports a significant hump on its back, as shown this image (below), also from your trip.

TRIP-134-280.jpg

Ed

1:39 p.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Abavunculus Fungi sounds like a near perfect trailname and one I may use in the future.  The Wetfoot I saw emerging from the river did indeed have a sleek backside with no visible humps or protuberances---"protuberus" being a good trailname itself---and there was no way it would willingly strap on any amount of weight onto its back, preferring to keep it "slick".

"Nonslickus Loadilium Absurdia" is I believe the true name of the lower picture---individual name "Richard Pudendum".  Etc.

1:47 p.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Chopping to clear the path is one thing.

BUT this looks more like drilling a hole placing and lighting an explosive.

TRIP-134-512.jpg

Day 20 begins by leaving the creekside camp at Piney Flats and eventually reaching the old gated logging cut numbered 1173-1 on the map which the BMT follows for about a mile.  Since my last pass a week ago, somebody came thru and chopped and killed about 2,000 trees lining the route and left it a real eyesore.  So much for a protected Scenic Trail.


TRIP-134-516.jpg

Welcome to the BMT.

2:04 p.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Callahan---This part of the trail follows a gated forest road which I assumed to be permanently closed and devoted strictly to trail use. Wrong assumption.  In fact, the forest service, I believe, opened the gate and brought in roadside clearing machinery which county Departments of Transportion normally use on paved roads in TN to clear a wide swath away from roads, but I never thought the forest service would spend the money or bother with an old gated logging road shared with the BMT. 

Obviously it must be getting prepared for some major traffic---and not just foot traffic, otherwise why clear a foot trail 50 feet across??

5:09 p.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Probably my favorite trip report read to date, however I don't think I will be hiking through there anytime soon. I can deal with spiders rain, cold weather and just about everything but snakes...I like to think of myself as Indiana Jones. Don't know what it is about snakes but they have always just freaked me out, don't get me wrong I can deal with em so long as I know what type they are and they aren't poisonous, but I still remember the first time I came face to face with a rattle snake. I didn't scream or anything in fact I think it would have been impossible for me to even speak.

6:58 p.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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jchanman33---Rattlesnakes do put the fear of God in me, or they should.  Nothing breaks me out of my usual on-trail hippie bubble faster than seeing a rattlesnake---I immediately go into a sort of Dick Cheney mind-set which ain't fun either.

I don't ever kill them though, no matter how many I see or how I feel.  In my opinion, killing a pit viper is a sure way to piss off Miss Nature and then you're on her short list for payback, maybe even snake bite.  Karma, etc.

Backpacking in snake country is accomplished by developing Tunnel Vision and this is done by focusing your eyeballs on the trail directly in front of you.  No gawking off to the side or looking up in the trees or marveling at a mountain view.  If they aren't underfoot they're not a threat.  Just watch where you sit for reststops and be careful during night hikes and night time pee breaks. 

As mentioned, most snakes on a trail are easy to see, it's when they slither into the woods or the brush next to the trail that you'll have a hard time seeing them.  Bushwacking is extra special in such a case.

5:59 p.m. on June 17, 2012 (EDT)
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gonzan said:

I haven't spent any bag nights in the Big Frog area, though I've hiked it some. I think will wait until winter to spend any time below 3,000ft, as I really hate the heat, humidity, and poison ivy. It gets hot enough up high for my taste. 

Thanks for all the photos of the snakes! The first one is definitely a Garter snake, but I am 99% certain the second once is actually an Eastern King Snake. The pattern is a little different than the Common Banded Water Snake, and the coloration and head shape are also. 


96145-050-8C87206F.jpg

 Yes, Gonzan is right. I thought it was a banded water snake but after looking closer (should have done that first) I see that Gonzan is correct.

Good call Gonzan!

Below is a banded water snake I saw today on a hike in the swamp.


image.jpg

Notice the Poison Ivy / Oak as well.

6:06 p.m. on June 17, 2012 (EDT)
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I forgot to add, I'm pretty sure (?) the yellow and black bird is a Hooded Warbler. I got to see a few warblers on my hike today and  the area also had signs posted with pictures and names of the birds.

Mike G.

6:22 p.m. on June 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:

jchanman33---Rattlesnakes do put the fear of God in me, or they should.  Nothing breaks me out of my usual on-trail hippie bubble faster than seeing a rattlesnake---I immediately go into a sort of Dick Cheney mind-set which ain't fun either.

I don't ever kill them though, no matter how many I see or how I feel.  In my opinion, killing a pit viper is a sure way to piss off Miss Nature and then you're on her short list for payback, maybe even snake bite.  Karma, etc.

Backpacking in snake country is accomplished by developing Tunnel Vision and this is done by focusing your eyeballs on the trail directly in front of you.  No gawking off to the side or looking up in the trees or marveling at a mountain view.  If they aren't underfoot they're not a threat.  Just watch where you sit for reststops and be careful during night hikes and night time pee breaks. 

As mentioned, most snakes on a trail are easy to see, it's when they slither into the woods or the brush next to the trail that you'll have a hard time seeing them.  Bushwacking is extra special in such a case.

 I agree completely. I don't kill them.

I have never had a snake chase me down and try to bite me, just doesn't happen. All I do is be vigilant, be aware of snake behavior, and use reasonable caution.

I have had Cottonmouths within a few feet of me plenty times, they always either coil up, or make a fast get away. Same for Rattlers but a lot less common in my area. I try to pay attention to where I am walking or reaching. Gathering firewood at feeding times is a good way to find snakes.

A significant number of people get bit because they stick their hand or foot in close proximity to a snake, or they are harassing the snake - it is perceived aggression on the part of the snake according to everything I read.

Thanks Tipi - a fantastic trip report!

Mike G.

10:40 a.m. on June 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Great Report Tipi an great slog through the forest. 

Are you guys sure that first snake was a garden snake?  It really looks like some kind of viper with the high back ridge and the arrowhead shaped head.  I don't know very many of the eastern snakes, and we don't really have anything out here that is dangerous until you get into rattle snake country on the east side of the cascades, so I am far from an expert.  But it sure is shaped like a viper. 

Wolfman

11:44 a.m. on June 18, 2012 (EDT)
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trouthunter said:

Below is a banded water snake I saw today on a hike in the swamp.


image.jpg

Notice the Poison Ivy / Oak as well.

 Cool. It is interesting to see the wide variation in pattern and coloration of the Common Banded Water Snake. Sometimes I think it might have the largest range of difference in appearance of any North American snake. 

12:51 p.m. on June 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Wolfman said:

Great Report Tipi an great slog through the forest. 

Are you guys sure that first snake was a garden snake?  It really looks like some kind of viper with the high back ridge and the arrowhead shaped head.  I don't know very many of the eastern snakes, and we don't really have anything out here that is dangerous until you get into rattle snake country on the east side of the cascades, so I am far from an expert.  But it sure is shaped like a viper. 

Wolfman

 I think it flattened its head in a mock pit viper pose---to scare me off.  And then it shot down the hill like a bullet.

1:49 p.m. on June 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Wolfman said:

Are you guys sure that first snake was a garden snake? 

 Yep, 100% certain it is a harmless 'ol Garter Snake :) 

Many non-venomous snakes will display defensive aggression behavior like that. They inflate their body by rapidly sucking air into their lungs (and perhaps stomach) to make themselves look larger, twitch their tail rapidly to bake a buzzing "rattlesnake like" sound in the dead leaves, hiss, and flatten their head to make it wider and scarier looking. 

Here in the east there are two main venomous snakes, the Copperhead and the Timber Rattler.  To the south and west of Chattanooga, and along the coast, you can find Water Moccasins (Cottonmouth) as well.  All three of those are pit vipers. The only other venomous snake indigenous to North America is the Coral snake, which can be found the the southern and warmest regions of southernmost western states, and in the semi-tropics of GA, AL, MS, FL, SC, and NC.

5:54 p.m. on June 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Your trips so make me want to extend my travels. Yep, call me jealous. :p

That is definitely a Garter Snake(a few from past trips:)

126.jpg

128.jpg

129.jpg





9:43 p.m. on June 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Gotta love the snakes.

11:06 p.m. on June 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Rick,  why not take I70 over to South Mountain State Park in Maryland?  It's about 200 miles from you and your wife could spend a few days in Baltimore while you hiked.

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/southmountain.asp

9:55 a.m. on June 20, 2012 (EDT)
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If you guys say so!  They sure don't look like the "Garden Snakes" we have a round here!  I think I'll stay a way from most of the snakes anyway just to be safe.  :D

10:03 a.m. on June 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Wolfman said:

If you guys say so!  They sure don't look like the "Garden Snakes" we have a round here!  I think I'll stay a way from most of the snakes anyway just to be safe.  :D

Wolfman, those are Eastern Garter Snakes. Check out the link below:

http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/eastern_garter_snake.htm

10:04 a.m. on June 20, 2012 (EDT)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

Rick,  why not take I70 over to South Mountain State Park in Maryland?  It's about 200 miles from you and your wife could spend a few days in Baltimore while you hiked.

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/western/southmountain.asp

 That looks like a rather nice trip. Thanks for pointing that one out ocala...

10:09 a.m. on June 20, 2012 (EDT)
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We may be talking about different snakes. 

Do you have a link to the ones you've got out there? I tried googleing "gardeN"  snakes, and only came up with suggestions for "garteR" snakes. 

But there are so many different types of Garter snakes, the ones in your region may have vastly divergent colouration and patterning than those here in the east. 

PS. the emphasis on the two names wasn't meant to be patronizing at all, I just coupld figure out an easier way to see if we are talking about the same thing or not :)

8:22 a.m. on June 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Yea I guess it is Garter, that's funny because all my life I have been calling them Garden Snakes.  LOL  :)  So I though I would look up and see what they look like so I could show you all.  

Well here is a few sites that help with Garter Snakes. 

Puget Sound Gartersnake This is what I think of when some one says Garter Snake

And here is a variety from Washington, Northwestern Gartersnake

And Finally Snakes of Washington,  It amassing what you can learn on the internet!

And I though Bull Snakes were BLACK!  Wonder what a 4'+ long all black snake is??

Thanks for the Education!

Wolf

8:54 a.m. on June 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Here in the Southeast, a 4+ foot long black snake would most likely be a Black Rat Snake or a Black Racer. I don't know for that part of the country, though. 

That Puget Sound Garter Snake is gorgeous; what striking coloration!

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