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21 Days with TN Wild and the Sierra Club No Show

10:24 a.m. on September 21, 2012 (EDT)
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My September 2012 backpacking trip is in these areas---

  • Citico Creek/Joyce Kilmer Slickrock wilderness
  • Brushy Ridge backcountry
  • North River/Tellico River
  • Bald and Upper Bald River wilderness


All located in the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests in TN and NC.  Dates August 31 to September 20.

TRAILS

Grassy Gap/Grassy Branch Citico Wilderness

South Fork Citico

54A South

Bob Bald and Four Mile Ridge

Hangover Mt

South Lead

Windy Gap

Nichols Cove

Slickrock Creek

Big Stack Gap

Crowders Camp

Fodderstack Ridge

Pine Ridge

Warden's Field

South Fork Citico

Beehouse Roadwalk

Flats Mt

Skyway Roadwalk

Long Branch

Hemlock Creek

North River Roadwalk/Tellico River Roadwalk

Cow Camp

Bald River

Holly Flats Roadwalk

Kirkland Creek

BMT/State Line Ridge

Brookshire Creek

Holly Flats Roadwalk

Bald River and OUT.


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Little Mitten hikes the Flats Mt trail with little Zoe Dog and accompanies me to a Thermarest cache for pickup before returning to the car and driving a couple miles further on the Skyway to Grassy Gap where my trip begins.


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The 2 Year Blowdown---This nasty blowdown blocks the Grassy Branch trail and hasn't been touched in 2 years.  In 2 more years it will be the 4 Year Blowdown.


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There are 9 creek crossings on Grassy Branch and here is the last one across the South Fork Citico.  The water is very low so it's no problem.  On the other side is my camp for the night.


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Eagle Camp on the South Fork trail.


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First order of business is a SF swim.


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Dehydrated spaghetti cooked at home using a box of noodles and 2 jars of sauce and 2 jars of mushrooms and then dried and it's delicious and becomes my supper.  The bag lasts me the whole trip.


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I leave Eagle Camp on the South Fork trail in earnest anticipation of finding the trail ahead cleared by a recent SAWS crew but the first signs don't look so good.  Here are 2 blowdowns on the high SF logging cut "detour" and it's always the worst part of the trail.


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After an hour on the logging cut I realise the SAW boys didn't clear the worst of the trail and then I hit this ribbon blocking the trail as it emerges from a wall of brush behind the tape.  Why they took the time to string this ribbon instead of actually clearing the trail I'll never understand.  It must be said that the SAW boys did come out and clear a half mile of the South Fork trail on the end portion of the logging cut to the Jeffrey Hell trail.


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I reach the Jeffrey Hell trailpost where I stop for this shot.


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About a mile and a half past the trailpost I reach old reliable Iron Camp and call it a day.  It's September but it's still hot.


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On Day 3 I pack and pull the last nutbuster section of the South Fork which I divide into 7 legs and here's the start of leg 5 to the top.


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The end of the SF trail comes here at Cold Gap which is a mandatory reststop.


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A 1,000 feet later I throw off the pack on the rock at the Bob Tee.  The total 2 day climb from Eagle Camp to the Bob is around 3,500 feet, a nut-eater with 80 lbs.


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On Bob Bald I find the water spring low but not drastically low and so get my 52 ozs of the stuff.


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It's risky but I set up camp in the middle of the open meadow at 5,300 feet.  It looks calm enough but later in the day a monster wind and rainstorm with lightning blasts come and tests every one of the 16 pegs I used for the tent.  I called it "When Lawrence Welk Became Black Sabbath".


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But before the storm and while sitting in camp I hear an engine noise on the old gated tractor road and then suddenly 3 ATV's appear on the bald and of course it's my God-given duty to curse them but they are not rednecks who broke thru a gate on a joy ride but actual Graham County rescue squad members called in by a couple at Naked Ground Gap who were coming up the Nutbuster trail when the woman got stung my hornets and had difficulty breathing.  The rescue boys therefore drove up the gated Bob road and hiked 1.5 miles to Naked Ground for assistance.


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A Polaris rescue ATV.


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Graham County NC emblem.


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The woman is safely seated and driven off the mountain.


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The husband backpacker arrives a little later on foot and takes an ATV off the mountain behind his wife.


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Meanwhile back in the trees in the South Col Camps there are 4 from Kentucky who I visit.

MORE TO COME ON DAY 4

10:44 a.m. on September 21, 2012 (EDT)
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DAY 4 BEGINS


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The morning of Day 4 on the Bob and after the Hell Storm.


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The 4 backpackers from Kentucky are ready to hit the trail.  For some reason this is my favorite fotog of the trip.


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The Cantuck 4 are ready to move.


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It's time to pack in a light rain and pull Four Mile Ridge to Watauga Camp past Naked Ground.  The day before all the talk with the rescue squad was stepping into a hornet nest on the trail between the Bob and Naked Ground and so on my journey I kept my eyeballs open but never saw them except one nailed me in the right calf though minor.

Watauga Camp is home for the night as the sky opens up with another round of rain.  This Hilleberg performs perfectly in the rain unlike Rick-Pittsburgh's experience with the Hilleberg Angina I mean Anjan.


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Caught in a 40 hour rain I decide to pull a zero day on the ridge but then a wild hair gets me to pack at 2pm in a lull of rain and climb the 4 hills to Haoe Peak where I take a break.


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Past the peak I reach Hangover Mt and the clearcut camp, a good place to stay in fog and rain.  Tomorrow I leave the high ground.


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View off the Hangover---It's starting to look like the jungles of Panama.


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The morning of Day 6 breaks with some blue off to the southeast of Hangover Mt so let's get packed and lose a 1,000 feet.


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My night's camp is at 4,000 feet in Elysium Fields on the South Lead trail.

MORE TO COME ON DAY 7

2:05 p.m. on September 21, 2012 (EDT)
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DAY SEVEN

 



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On my July trip Patman turns me on to these 3.3 gram coffee packets and he says "coffee will make your turtleheads poke out better . . ." so I take 20 on my trip and try to have one every morning with honey.


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Day 7 gets me to lose a thousand feet to Big Fat Gap where I talk to 2 hunters running their dogs.


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I reach Windy Gap on the Windy Gap trail and find both the South Lead and it to be in excellent shape, or at least most of the South Lead trail.


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Windy Gap showing Nichols Cove trail heading north towards the twin gravesite.


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Near the graves I set up camp next to Nichols Cove Creek at a place I call Dog Hat Camp.


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On Day 8 I leave Dog Hat Camp and stay on the Nichols Cove trail over 8 crossings and end here at the jct with Slickrock Creek.


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Near the trail jct is Buffalo Rock where I spend several hours in the sun swimming.  It takes me back to my July trip at the Cascades on Bald River.


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The plunge pool at Buffalo Rock.


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Okay, I leave the rock and pull one Slickrock crossing to Stiffknee Camp where I set up and wait for the in-coming rainstorm.


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My camp is at the trailhead to the Stiffknee trail---also the BMT #2.


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On Day 9 I square camp away and hang the food to go on a dayhike downstream to the Slisgah Camps across the low water of Slickrock Creek.  Here's the trail sign showing the jct with Ike Branch and all part of the BMT.


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Returning back to camp I pause at the crossing for this pic.


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Rain is coming but at the moment the crossing is very low.


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The morning of Day 10 comes with coffee and almond butter with bread.


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I'm packed and waiting for TN Wild and their dayhiking crew.


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The TN Wild crew is led by Jeffrey Hunter and here he is popping out on the Slickrock Creek trail.


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Part of the TN Wild team with friend Claudette on the right.  Her Dad and I used to do Pow Wows together.


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TN Wild crossing the not-so-mighty Slickrock.


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After 7 crossings we make it to Wildcat Falls which is a mandatory reststop.  I go swimming just to show off.


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Jeffrey Hunter brought the TN Wild banner just for these shots by Wildcat Falls.


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Another shot of the group at Wildcat Falls.


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I follow the group out of the Slickrock watershed and climb 1,500 feet in 1.8 miles to Crowder Camp where we all collapse.  They keep going out to Farr Gap but this is my home for the night.


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The Hilleberg at Crowder Camp.


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Day 11 starts with temps in the 50F's and clear blue skies.


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I leave Crowders and head south on Fodderstack Ridge to jct with the Pine Ridge trail.


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Pine Ridge trail jcts with the South Fork Citico and so I set up in the Donner Camps and go for another butt cold swim.

MORE TO COME DAY 12

9:55 a.m. on September 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Day 12 begins by leaving the South Fork and climbing up Flats Mt.  And here's why I love bears (or raccoons or pigs)---they root out yellow jacket nests.  Nest is to the right.


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Nest and poop and no hornets, a good combo.


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All set up at Flathead Camp in the middle section of the Flats Mt trail but the spring is dry so I have to hike 100 yards down the dry wash to find a pool.


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On Day 13 I leave Flathead Camp and climb to the top of Flats Mt.  Most of the trail is cleared and open but there are still many blowdowns and several walls of hateful briars.


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Trail of Blood---How do you know you're on the Flats Mt trail?  Copious blood flow.  You will get hurt.  If you like the color red on a tanned white body, you're gonna love this trail.


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The Top O The Mountain---Camp Hope on the Flats.  And the spring on the 10th switchback was flowing.


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The Skyway motorcycle racetrack---this one single road thru the mountains of TN and NC ruins most of the trails in Monroe and Graham Counties because of the racing roaring screaming motorcycles.  They can be heard all thru the Citico, Flats Mt, Long Branch and Hemlock Creek trails.  It's disgusting.  Anyway, to connect Flats Mt to Long Branch I have to hike this hateful thing.


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Long Branch trail has several yellow jacket nests and this is one.  Watch out, boys!!


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I finally finish Long Branch and connect to Hemlock Creek trail and pull 4 creek crossings to my night's camp.


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On Day 15 I pull the last Hemlock crossing and I'm on my way to Bald River.


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After a couple roadwalks (North River, Tellico River), I arrive at the sidedoor into the wilderness called the Cow Camp trail and it drops me here at the Rock Ledge Snow Camp with Bald River to the left.


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DAY 16---A cool morning on Bald River and so I layer up in Smartwool tops and Icebreaker bottoms with my turtle fur hat.


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On the Bald River rocks with the river valley winding up to the left.


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The Waiting Post---I spend 5 hours here at the Cow Camp trail jct waiting for the Harvey Broome chapter of the Knoxville Sierra Club who are scheduled to pull a 3 day packing trip thru Bald River on a 30 mile loop.  I was following their Outings Page but they never showed.


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Along the Bald River trail I make a new friend.  Who needs the Sierra Club??


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I head up river to Big Pine Camp and the same place Patman camped with his watermelon.  I wanted to hook up with Will Skelton and the Sierra Club but I get to listen to the TN/FL game instead.


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On Day 17 I have to leave Bald River and pass by the Cascades at low water.


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I leave Bald River and tie into the Kirkland Creek trail and take a break at the 8th crossing.  It's a great Autumn trail but too hot in the summer.


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This crossing on Kirkland seemed familiar and then I remembered Shunka crossing it on a long-ago trip.


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Kirkland climbs to Sandy Gap and thus begins the State Line trail heading south.


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The State Line becomes the BMT and it's a ridge top path.


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My campsite on the side of Hazlenut Knob near Moss Gap.


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On Day 18 I have a long day of backpacking and leave Moss Gap Camp and immediately hump up to the top of Hazlenut Knob which begins a state line ridge trek of 14 hills with hills 12-13-14 being real nutbusters.  The last one gets me to Rocky Top at 4,000 feet where I stop for this photo.


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State Line Ridge merges with Brookshire Creek which I follow all the way to the bottom and set up in the rain at Horse Camp and get set up just in time.  This becomes the 6 inch rainstorm so I zero out Day 19.

MORE TO COME DAY 19

12:53 p.m. on September 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Due to Hamhockers reaction to yellow jackets, hornets etc we need to do this area when it is cold. We carry two epipens now but we may need more there :(

2:05 p.m. on September 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Ewker said:

Due to Hamhockers reaction to yellow jackets, hornets etc we need to do this area when it is cold. We carry two epipens now but we may need more there :(

 I've gotten pretty good at spotting their nests ahead on the trail and thereby avoiding countless stings.  Most of the nest are partially dug up and therefore easy to see.

2:46 p.m. on September 22, 2012 (EDT)
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If I am in the lead I can usually spot them esp when they are buzzing about. We were in Sipsey and I had to climb over a down tree. Just as I got ready to step down there it was a big hole with yellow jackets flying everywhere. I told Hamhocker to stop and go way around the tree. Luckily I didn't get stung by them.

Remember at the Slickrock Creek hang there was that nest damn near in the middle of camp that no one saw.  One kid got stung which alerted everyone about the nest. I am surprised no one else got stung esp since everyone was walking right past it

7:59 p.m. on September 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I remember that nest.  In fact, on my swing thru this time I spent 10 minutes trying to find it but with no "luck". 

8:14 p.m. on September 22, 2012 (EDT)
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DAY 19

 

 


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Morning comes after a night of rain so why not pull a zero day?  I find a small wear hole on the Hilleberg tent which lets in some rain so I use a Tear Aid type A patch which barely holds on a wet surface.


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Swollen Upper Bald River which has to be crossed tomorrow otherwise I have to do a 7 mile detour.  A zero day allows the water to subside.


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The extra day of waiting gets Upper Bald down to easy levels and so I worried for nothing.


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This may be the reason the Sierra Club cancelled the trip but I doubt it as the side door Cow Camp trail is open and puts you right on the Bald River trail as before. 


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I return to Rock Ledge Camp for my final night and run into 20 dayhikers from the Chattanooga hiking club.


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Squaw Vine grows pretty much everywhere in the TN mts.


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On Day 21 I leave Bald River on the Cow Camp trail and here is its exit on Tellico River.


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I have to meet Little Mitten at Bald River Falls so I stop at Baby Falls for a break.


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A long September trip ends at Bald River Falls as I wait for Zoe Dog and Little Mitten.

8:09 a.m. on September 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Great report Tipi!

 

I chuckled at the flats mtn blood. I have emerged bloody from every summer trip in the Citico thus far! But who wants to hike in body armor?

 

 

11:01 p.m. on September 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Nice trip. Thanks for the info on all of the trails conditions. Hopefully I will be in that neck of the woods soon.

9:46 a.m. on September 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Love it, Tipi.

I was laughing out loud as soon as I read the first mention of "Engine noises" coming up to the Bob! I could just picture you madder than the Yellow Jackets that predicated the ATVs' arrivial :) 

12:38 p.m. on September 26, 2012 (EDT)
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It's great you got to see Jeffrey Hunter, my old friend and former colleague.  Next time you see him, tell him Seth says "Howdy!"

April 16, 2014
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