18 Winter Days in the Big Frog

8:51 a.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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BACKPACKING
THE
BIG FROG
WILDERNESS

Trip 141
January 2-19  2013

**  18 WINTER DAYS IN THE BIG FROG

**  MEETING CHRISTINE THUERMER THE GERMAN TOURIST

**  6 NIGHTS ON BIG FROG MOUNTAIN

**  WOLF RIDGE AND YELLOW STAND LEAD AND GRASSY GAP TRAILS

**  WHERE IS RANDY?

**  180 HOUR RAINSTORM IN THE FROG

**  NAUGHTY HORSEMEN ON THE LICKLOG AND BIG FROG TRAILS

**  CAMPING IN THE RAIN AT THE ROUGH CREEK POND

**  WINTER STORM HITS THE FROG

**  15 DAYS WITHOUT SEEING A BACKPACKER

**  BMT THRUHIKERS REGINA REITER AND JONATHAN PASS THRU

WELCOME TO THE NEW YEAR 2013


The odometer reads 44 miles for our home to the Big Frog trailhead at Thunder Rock campground and the start of Trail 305 which becomes Trail 330 which becomes Trail 303 which all are the BMT going south into the Big Frog/Cohutta wilderness.


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My winter trip begins with a heavy pack in the Thunder Rock campground next to the Ocoee River.  Here I am loaded up for an 18 day trip and carrying the items needed for such a long cold haul in the woods.


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The tough climb out of the campground is over and 4.4 miles later I'm set up on the west fork of Rough Creek.


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Day 2 begins by debooting and wearing my crocs for 3 Rough Creek crossings.  Day 2's pack is about as heavy as Day 1's pack---around 75 lbs.


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On Fork Ridge I clear a tentsite and set up 50 yards away from the spring headwaters of Rough Creek which makes this camp fantastic.  I even do a late night headlamp water run to the spring and back just to use the convenience of it.


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19F Morning---I'm up and ready to leave my Fork Ridge spring camp and climb to the next spring which Sgt Rock mentions in his BMT trail guide.  I get to the gap and go for water and when I come back I meet legendary backpacker Christine Thuermer---the German Tourist.

I got an email before the trip from Bert Wildcat Emmerson who told me she is backpacking the AT and the BMT and wanted to get in touch with me and so I planned my trip to be on the BMT in Big Frog about the same time she was to hike thru and as luck would have it she passed by on the Fork Ridge trail. 

She's done the triple crown, kayaked the Mississippi, paddled the Everglades and the Yukon River, backpacked the Bibbulmun Track and Florida Trail and Arizona Trail, cycled thru Australia and New Zealand and Japan, etc.


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Uncle Fungus with Christine in the Big Frog.  She's veering off the BMT at Watson Gap and taking the Pinhoti trail south thru Georgia and Alabama.


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Christine is loaded up and ready to hit the trail.


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Day 4 unfolds to be an outstanding day of gaining the top of Big Frog Mt and it starts with a pot of hot nettle, peppermint and ginseng tea.  The Fork Ridge trail ends here when it jcts with the Big Frog trail.


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I reach the top of Big Frog and set up camp a quarter mile north of the peak and swing over to the spring where I find the pool of water the highest I've ever seen it so I grab about 145 ozs and book it back to camp.


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My camp on Big Frog North and it's a flat ridge which I call the Frog's Tongue.  Here I am in my down pants and Icebreaker tops as a cold wind hits from the west and I'm close to 4,200 feet.

8:53 a.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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Day 5 becomes a cold icy morning after a long night of butt cold rain.  The day starts with hot tea, my last apple and almond butter, a perfect breakfast.  It's time to leave Frog Mt and there's frost on the trail but no snow on the ground.


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CURBOW FIELDS---My route off the Frog is the Wolf Ridge trail down to a wide level gap I call Curbow Fields in honor of John Curbow who ran the Ramp Tramp up this trail in the 1960's but died in a farming accident in 1968 and so his friends came up here to the gap and left a memorial.  It's my home for the night of Day 5.


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On Day 6 I wake up in Curbow Gap on the Wolf Ridge trail and give Randy Cadenza a call for a possible meet up and he decides to come in the next day at the Wolf trailhead in Pace Gap and so I go down the same trail and stop in Pace Gap and take FS road 221 to the Yellow Stand Lead trail and stop on it for a break.


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Yellow Stand reaches Low Gap which is an important trail intersection so I set up camp for the night.



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Since the goal of this trip is to explore the Big Frog, I pack up with the intention of hiking the 5 mile Grassy Gap trail and stand in Low Gap ready to hit the trail.


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The Grassy Gap trail pretty much looks like this the whole way as it contours around dozens of hollows and spurs and passes over 7 or 8 fast moving mountain side creeks.  This is the first of many.


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After an endless slog on Grassy Gap (and I get too much water way too soon), I make it to the end where I jct back with Wolf Ridge and leave Randy Cadenza a stick arrow with a little stick tipi pointing out my location.


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My goal was Curbow Fields a mile below the Frog but I was hauling too much water so I hit the physical wall and decided to park my butt at a dry campsite where the Chestnut Mt trail tees into the Wolf Ridge trail.  I slept here before on a 2011 trip and it's nice enough.

9:13 a.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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Day 8 starts in a cold January rain so I pack early and I'm on the trail by 8 in the morning.  All mountain trails to the summit have nutbuster sections and the Wolf Ridge climb to the top of Big Frog is no exception.  As always I've broken the trail into 9 sections from the Chestnut Mt jct and the rhodo section and beyond thru a pretty rock section as above.


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There are 4 campsites on Big Frog Mt and I'm camped on #4 which is the furthest from the very top.  I get set up just as the rain turns from light to moderate.  This rain is to continue for the next 180 hours.


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On Day 9 I wake up to an all day rain on Frog Mt and with the rain comes a brisk wind so I pull a zero and with the down time I decide to repair the worn and frayed thumb holes on my Icebreaker merino top and use fabric bandaids sewn over the frays.


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Day 10 puts me into my 53rd hour of rain with tremendous winds so I go out and take a few shots of the tent while pulling a needed water run to the spring in my rain gear.  It looks like I'll be on Frog Mt for a total of 5 days to sit out this storm.


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It's a Saturday on the Frog and I start Day 11 in yet more rain so by 8 in the morning I reach my 72nd hour of the stuff.  "Wonderful weather, wish you were here."


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And then lo and behold the rain stops and a foreign yellow object enters the sky so I hang out everything on the bear line.


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SADDLE POTATOES---Of course the whole of the Cohutta is open to horses but the Big Frog wilderness is not.  So these four take the Licklog Ridge trail and loop back on the Big Frog trail, both of which do not allow horses.


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Day 12 dawns with rain and so I sit put until 3 in the afternoon and then quickly pack and leave the Frog after too many days of wet limbo.  I make it to Low Gap because I stay on the Big Frog trail off the mountain and take a break in the gap.


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I make it to the jct with Rough Creek trail where I set up camp and this pond is right next to camp.


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On Day 12 and into Day 13 I get hit with the biggest rain of the trip and by 10 in the morning I'm into my 98th hour of the stuff.  By 8am on Day 14 I'm into my 120th hour of rain but I'm still in Frog Pond Camp, an apt name.  There's a brief lull so I go out to get water and return to the pond for a flood update.  It's another zero day in the rain.


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The Simmerlite on a zero day.  The idiots at MSR decide to discontinue this lightweight and wonderful white gas stove.  Why? 


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My soggy Frog Pond camp at the jct with the Big Frog Trail and the Rough Creek trail.


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I've given up and realize I'll never backpack again as I'm into my 142nd hour of a January rainstorm and it's starting to piss me off.  Suggestions?  Yeah, get a gun and shoot out the sky.  But I dig deep and pack up and hear the radio say there's snow coming soon and what better place to be than on top of Frog Mt so I pack and retrace my steps up the BF trail.  In one mile I reach Low Gap again and take a break.


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Near the top of Big Frog Mt I pass thru this rhodo tunnel which makes for a great pic.


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After a 4 mile climb of 1,744 feet I reach Frog Mt and set up at a new place on the very top of the mountain.

10:07 a.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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Where the heck are we?  Oh yeah, on Day 16.


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SUNLIGHT LET UP?  It's hard to say and don't be fooled---Miss Nature is like a cat waiting for the mouse-hearted Wally to stick his head out of the tent and POW!!  Claws to the frontal lobe.

Nothing's changed rainwise but Momma Nature threw a lone light beam into the tent and it woke me up to the possibility of packing the wet tent and gear and getting the heck off Frog Mt---a wise decision as it allowed me to lose almost 2,000 feet and while not keeping me snowfree at least it put me in a more gentle world at a campsite in Low Gap.  Just after getting set up and getting water down at the spring(which is a raging river), a new rainstorm hits the tent.


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Finally, snow.  It was like birthing a rhinoceros but it finally comes.


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After 9 days of near constant rain, Day 17 dawns cold and white but blue and sunny.  Gear must be hung in the morning and so my camp in Low Gap slowly stirs and waits for more sun before shoving off down the rest of the Big Frog trail.


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The hardest part of winter backpacking is packing up a frozen ice encrusted tent and getting it stuffed into its small sack, all the while keeping the hands and feet from freezing off.  The job accomplished I stand in Low Gap ready to finish the Big Frog trail.


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I reach FS 221 and take a break in the sun.


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The last night of my trip is where I was on my first night---the West Fork of Rough Creek.


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REGINA REITER AND JONATHAN---Wow!  After 15 days of not seeing a single backpacker, 2 BMT thruhikers pass by and it's old friend Regina Reiter and her friend Jonathan, 2 excellent individuals.  I take them down into my camp and we talk for 20 minutes.  This is Regina's 4th BMT thruhike.


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Back up on the trail, Regina and Jonathan are ready to keep heading south.


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The last day of the trip dawns cold with frozen tent zippers but I'm up and ready to move back to Thunder Truck campground and out.  Here's the mighty Ocoee River in high water.


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In Thunder Truck campground I run into 6 members of the Chattanooga hiking club as they get ready to pull a dayhike across the Ocoee bridge and up into the Little Frog wilderness on the Dry Pond Lead trail.


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The final shot of the trip shows the Ocoee River in high tumult so don't try to ford, boys!  So end another January trip.

4:51 p.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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Another excellent report. I saw many familiar places in your pictures.

There is an excellent site on Grassy Gap on the way to Wolf Ridge and down by the creek (that is usually not that high). Its not real obvious, but it is down in the river rocks - big flat soft and sandy. There is another site near the top of Yellow Stand trail and to the left that is on a little spur and all covered with soft pine needles. It is on the map you posted on WB right where the number 67 is written. It also has good views at night if you walk out  the spur a couple hundred yards. Good views, if you like city lights, that is. 

I chuckled at the term "SADDLE POTATOES". 

Glad you had a good trip. I'll be heading out in the next couple of days for a trip.

I'm not sure where. Somewhere with more trees than people.

The Simmerlite - I could not figure out why they quit making it either. I'm glad I got one last year.

My old saying - If they make something you like, you better buy plenty of it before they stop. 

6:22 p.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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Nice report Tipi!

Now I'm bummed that I missed a chance to talk with Christine Thuermer. Oh well...it couldn't be helped.

I thought about you when we had those record settings rains. Pavement and buldings were damaged here and I bet it was mentally taxing out in the wilderness.

 

I did make it out this weekend but figured you were back or close by now.

10:21 p.m. on January 20, 2013 (EST)
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hootyhoo said:

Another excellent report. I saw many familiar places in your pictures.

There is an excellent site on Grassy Gap on the way to Wolf Ridge and down by the creek (that is usually not that high). Its not real obvious, but it is down in the river rocks - big flat soft and sandy. There is another site near the top of Yellow Stand trail and to the left that is on a little spur and all covered with soft pine needles. It is on the map you posted on WB right where the number 67 is written. It also has good views at night if you walk out  the spur a couple hundred yards. Good views, if you like city lights, that is. 

I chuckled at the term "SADDLE POTATOES". 

Glad you had a good trip. I'll be heading out in the next couple of days for a trip.

I'm not sure where. Somewhere with more trees than people.

The Simmerlite - I could not figure out why they quit making it either. I'm glad I got one last year.

My old saying - If they make something you like, you better buy plenty of it before they stop. 

 I saw that campsite on "67" and first passed a little creek and then looked down into a little gap and spied an excellent campsite with pine needles so it must be the same one.  Near the mid-end of Grassy Gap I had to cross the biggest creek called Penitentiary Branch (not to be confused with Cohutta's Penitentiary) and saw a potential campsite below the trail on what looked like a level platform in the rocks.  The trail nexus on Grassy Gap where Big Creek trail comes thru would make an excellent place to camp but there wasn't any level spots. 

I like to do a trail for the first time and eyeball potential future campsites.  On my next Big Frog trip I may come out of Thunder Rock and take the 221 roadwalk to the Big Frog trailhead and get to Rough Creek and take it all the way to Licklog and go up it to the Frog.  We'll see.

2:19 p.m. on January 21, 2013 (EST)
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lol, "saddle potatoes"

And where were their obnoxious, unleashed dogs?

July 24, 2014
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