18 Days in the Cohutta Wilderness

8:49 a.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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Here's another trip boys, this time in February in the mountains of TN and Georgia.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS


TRIP 142
February 9-26  2013

**  18 DAYS IN THE COHUTTA WILDERNESS.

**  WINDSTORM IN THE BIG FROG AT LOW GAP.

**  SHUNKA RETURNS.

**  AT THRUHIKER TREE BEARD AND DANNY ON FROG MOUNTAIN.

**  GOING PAST DALLY GAP ON THE BMT.

**  THREE MILES ON THE PINHOTI TRAIL.

**  ROADWALK FROM BUDDY COVE GAP TO 3 FORKS MOUNTAIN.

**  COLDEST NIGHT ON PANTHER TOP.

**  CROSSING A BUTT COLD JACKS RIVER.

**  TWO BACKPACKERS CROSS BEECH CREEK.

**  HELLISH WIND AND RAINSTORM IN LOW GAP AGAIN.

**  PATMAN COMES INTO THE BIG FROG.

**  WITH PATMAN ON BIG FROG MOUNTAIN.

**  SIX BACKPACKERS FROM KENNESAW COLLEGE.

**  BACKPACKING OFF FROG MT WITH THE HUNTSVILLE SIERRA CLUB.


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It's a beautiful day for a backpacking trip.  Once again I get Little Mitten to drive me up the Ocoee River and into the Big Frog wilderness by way of Thunder Rock campground for another long backpacking trip.  40 lbs of food, 8 lbs of books and 4 lbs of fuel---I'm ready to climb the 8 switchbacks out of Thunder Rock with an 80 lb pack and pull my 4.4 miles to the first night's camp.


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As on my last trip I'm ensconced at West Fork Camp on the banks of Rough Creek.


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On Day 2 I follow West Fork trail which parallels Rough Creek.  A new trail beckons and it's the west part of the Rough Creek trail as it climbs to the Big Frog trail and here's the jct.


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A big windstorm hits and so I hoof it to Low Gap and barely get the tent set up in the wind and have to use all 16 pegs to bolt it down.  Low Gap is a gap so all of the wind is channeled thru it but it's level and there's water.  A big rainstorm is supposed to be coming.


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On Day 3 I leave Low Gap and climb up 900 feet in 1.3 miles to reach this point on the ridge going up to Big Frog Mt.  I call this ridge the Frog's Wall.


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I make it to Camp 4 on Big Frog Mt and set up in the usual conditions---a cold fog.


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Finally I've got campers nearby and go to check out their Marmot wedge tent.


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Tree Beard (and Danny) are from Chattanooga and came up the Wolf Ridge trail from Pace Gap.  Tree Beard thruhiked the AT in 2011.


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It's morning on the Frog and so on Day 4 I make hot tea and prepare to backpack a thousand feet off the mountain on the Licklog trail.  There's a section of the Hemp Top trail above Double Spring Gap which loses 800 feet in .8 of a mile.  Finally the nutbuster drop enters Double Spring Gap where one spring is on the east side of the gap and one is on the west side.  It's too good of a place to not camp so I set up by the east spring and call it a short day.


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My tent by the east spring in Double Spring Gap.


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Okay boys, Day 5 dawns cold and wet with another nonstop mountain rain so I yes sit put and pull a zero day to avoid hiking in a 35F rain.  My tent is in the gap but hiding near the east spring.  It's a great place to stay the night.


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Day 6 dawns cold and foggy but there's blue coming so I pack and leave Double Spring Gap and in 1.3 miles I'm on Hemp Top Mt which is covered in frost.


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In 3.3 miles I make it to Penitentiary Branch jct which goes to Jacks River in 3.5 miles.


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In 6 miles I make it here where the BMT intersects the Jacks River trail and so I keep hiking to the Bear Branch crossing but I don't find a good campsite so I double back and go down the Jacks trail a 100 feet and find a nice camp by water.

MORE TO COME DAY 7

9:15 a.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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DAY SEVEN



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On Day 7 I leave Bear Creek on the BMT going south and get to the old homestead on Mill Branch with this iced over footbridge.


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The BMT gets out of the woods here at Watson Gap.  There's no question about which forest you're in.


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My journey on the BMT is over as I reach the northern terminus of the Pinhoti trail which will take me to Cohutta thru the back door at Buddy Cove Gap and 3 Forks Mt.


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The neato blaze.


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A cold ford comes across the South Fork of the Jacks River.


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Bushed after a 7.4 mile day I call it quits on the Pinhoti trail right before reaching FS 64 and Buddy Cove Gap.  As soon as I set up a cold rain hits.


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Day 8---My day begins by cooking and priming in the tent vestibule.  Don't do it, boys.


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It's time to leave camp and the Pinhoti trail to FS road 64 at Buddy Cove Gap.  My long roadwalk to 3 Forks Mt begins.  It's cold so I'm hiking in full layers.


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The road is thankfully closed for the season so I have it all to myself but here is where it climbs.  Take your time and go slow.


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I make it to 3 Forks Mt but the climbing doesn't stop as I get on the East Cowpen trail.


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I wonder if the Sugar Cove trail is open??


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I make the climb on East Cowpen trail to this Rough Ridge trail jct.  There's water a quarter mile down this trail.


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The highest mountain in the Cohutta is Cowpen Mt at 4,149 feet and here is its main campsite not far off the trail.  It's very cold and windy.


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I make it to the jct of Panther Creek trail which is where I decide to camp after finding a water spring down the Panther trail a half mile.


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The Hilleberg on Panther Top and it looks to be my coldest night of the trip (Feb 16).


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Day 9 starts at 15F and it's a wake-up call of cold so I pack and hit the East Cowpen trail heading north thru the Cohut.  Cowpen merges with the Hickory Ridge trail which is a long involved path descending on 8 nasty pitches to Jacks River.


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Hickory Ridge trail ends here at the Jacks River crossing and it's usually midcalf deep, this time its crotch deep and ass-cold but I was prepared.


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Once across I hike the half mile to Jacks River Falls and have the wild kingdom all to myself.


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Part of the falls and just a third of it.


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I return a half mile upstream and set up camp on a beach by the Hickory Ridge crossing on the Jacks.  So ends a long day of humpage.

MORE TO COME DAY 10

9:52 a.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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DAY TEN

 



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Day 10 starts cold but then the sun comes out and it's a fine morning on the Jacks.  I return to the Jacks River Falls for a one mile detour in the trip and check out the lower part of the falls.


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Uncle Fungus at the Falls.  Are you talking to me??


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I leave the falls and do an easy rehab day to Beech Creek on the Beech Bottoms trail and cross the creek and it's easy.


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Two backpackers pass by my camp from the Beech Bottoms trailhead and we talk and then I watch them do the easy crossing, always a subject for great pics.


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Day 11 sees rain from midnight into the morning but by 10 I'm on the 4 mile Beech Bottoms trail and rise above the pretty bottoms area.


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The trailhead to the Beech Bottoms trail and the main access point for the summer day gawkers to the Falls although it's still a 9 mile round trip.  I take a break here and prepare to link up the Cohutta with the Big Frog on a 2 mile roadwalk of FS 62 east.


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I make it to the Chestnut Mt trailhead and back into the Big Frog and even find water nearby off the road.


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After a 7.5 mile day I make it to Nut Jct Camp where the Chestnut Mt trail ends.


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Day 12 dawns cold and windy at Nut Jct so I pack quickly and go .7 mile to the Grassy Gap trailhead near Bearpen Hill and get this shot of the Cohuttas.


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Here I am at the Grassy Gap jct on Wolf Ridge.


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I take Grassy Gap trail a couple miles and reach its jct with the Big Creek trail in this gap with this old sign.


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The Big Creek trail is a new one for me and it's another great creek valley with a trail.  Here I am camped near the bottom of the trail.


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On Day 13 I leave a cold camp on Big Creek and finish the trail to get on the Yellow Stand Lead trail.  Here's Big Creek.


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Yellow Stand Lead trail loops back into the Frog wilderness and here's the signage.


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Once again Low Gap is my home for the night as it was on Day 3 of the trip 10 days ago.  There's an all night windstorm which rivals anything I've seen.  Here's the tent in the morning at first light on Day 14.


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A group of 4 backpackers and a dog pass thru Low Gap on their way to Grassy Gap and points elsewhere.


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Day 14 is a day to shake off the doldrums of lonely soloing as Patman shows up and pulls a 3 mile nighthike on the Big Frog trail and comes into the tent as we study our maps.


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On the wet morning of Day 15 Patman's camp is close to mine as he prepares morning oatmeal.


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We hike together and make it 1.3 miles up to the Big Frog jct with Fork Ridge and take a break.


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Patman goes to the peak of ChimneyTop and returns.  I wait at the bottom.


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We reach the top of Frog Mt just as a college group of 6 backpackers arrive from the Wolf Ridge side and are from Kennesaw College.


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Patman uses his Sawyer squeeze filter at the Big Frog spring.


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Day 15 comes to an end on Big Frog Mountain.

MORE TO COME DAY 16

10:46 a.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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DAY SIXTEEN

 


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Day 16 dawns cold and windy so I go out with hot tea and get a glimpse of the Kennesaw camp.


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We're ready to shove off the mountain.  Here's Courtney with Patman.


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Patman and I leave the Frog and get on the level Tongue where we run into the Hunstville Sierra Club camp.  Patman introduces himself to the guys and knows one of them.


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Here I am with avid backpacker and trail friend Bob Butterfield who knows me from Trail Journals.


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Bob Butterfield, Patman and Kellie Hofer.


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Patman and I decide to hike out with the club and here's Kellie reaching the jct with Fork Ridge on the BMT.


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Two miles later we all take a break at the Fork Ridge/Rough Creek jct.


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We're heading down the Rough Creek trail with Kellie and friends checking out the map.


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I love creek crossing shots as the first crossing requires most to de-boot and wade.  It's cold.


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Kellie does her crossing on Rough Creek.


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Bob does his crossing.


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Patman and Kellie dry off and reboot.


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We split up at the Rough Creek trailpost and I continue down Rough Creek over 2 more crossings to this camp on the West Fork, the same place I was on Day 1.


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Day 17 begins with an inspection of my sorry crappy Asolo 520 boots.  They barely make it thru the trip.  What's the best repair glue for such a defect??


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I was gonna stay put on a rainy day but I decide to pack and move cuz I'm wired for it.  I want to be near Thunder Rock for my evac but I don't want to be too close and hear an Interstate highway all night so I cross FS 221 and almost reach FS 45 where I find this excellent campsite next to a creek by the trail where there's a pile of bricks and a cross denoting a possible grave.


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Day 18 starts in the rain and the rain follows me all the way out to Thunder Rock.


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I descend to the mighty Ocoee River and wait for my ride out.


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It's cold and raining but I find shelter in the campground kiosk and wait for Little Mitten to pick me up.  So ends a snowless winter trip.

11:09 a.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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Day 17 begins with an inspection of my sorry crappy Asolo 520 boots.  They barely make it thru the trip.  What's the best repair glue for such a defect??

I find Shoe Goo works well on these things.

Nice as usual trip report. Looks like nice "Spring" weather there?

11:26 a.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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Just as soon as I got back(yesterday)it starts snowing in the mountains.

11:44 a.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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How young are you this year Tipi Walter? I just turned 57 in mid January? I guess you are semi-retired or ? I have been semi-retired since I was 21 in 1977. I work only 6-12 weeks a year. I am in my vacation mode now since late August. In June I hope to start back to work in SW Utah. I am bicycle touring and backpacking thru New Mexico, northern Arizona and into southwest Utah leaving here in mid-April. I am in Tucson.

11:51 a.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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I'm 62 and I'm starting to feel it by slowing down even though my pack is getting heavier cuz I like my comforts and I like to read (and burn) thru books and stuff. 

Bicycling is a good way to go as there's nothing much better than a good touring bike and the freedom that comes with a set of panniers and all else.  I still have my touring bike and really need to get out on the roads but I am developing a real dislike for traffic and roads and the holy automobile, hence backpacking and foot trails.

12:41 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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 It lives~~!

 

Hey Tipi, thanks for inviting me out and showing me the Big Frog Wilderness, it was a really fun trip!

I know I bugged out somewhat awkwardly, but I needed a bit of solitude for the last day. I tried exploring up Rough Creek there on the side we crossed to but was stymied by the steep mountain side after a short way and had to cross it again three times in the brush and rhodo before coming back to the junction.

Great report as usual and nice to see where you went after we spit up.

Let’s not let the coming warm weather go by without hitting that Jacks River trail in the Cohutta.

12:49 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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The complete traverse of both the Jacks and the Conasauga is on the summer schedule but first comes a March trip into the Citico to see the Cranberries of Michigan as they pull their 10 day, 43rd or 44th annual wilderness trip.  I'll let you know of my jaunt with a message as I'll be embarking at Beech Gap, etc.

12:56 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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I travel (i.e. bike tour) mostly during the fall winter and spring months when most people are working. I tend to have the back roads I travel to myself with little traffic. I follow mostly secondary roads, old highways,and forestry roads, rarely having to get on a interstate or freeway (where legal) to get to where I can ride the old roads again.  I dislike cities and even some small towns are way too over run by motor vehicles.

I stop along the routes I follow to backpack a few days to a few weeks into various areas in between the places I ride most. (WY,UT,AZ and NM)

11:36 p.m. on March 8, 2013 (EST)
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Tipi, I can't believe I missed this one.

Your trips are so epic and I am living through them as well as others as of late(stupid job, stupid bills.) 

I haven't been in the hills since summer...

Ugghhhh.

I would say the best long term fix for those would be Gorilla Glue if ya plan on never having them resoled again or maybe barge cement. 

Or if ya do plan on having them resoled no better time than now right? Then again the TPS(520 & 535s) are tricky to resole so ya may be better off just doing what ya can and getting those Fugitives ya spoke of on another thread.

I have a friend that has a pair of them(brown & red) and he likes them.

Look at the bright side. If ya do decide to get them resoled ya may get a discount being you have done half of the removal yourself. ;)

11:21 a.m. on March 9, 2013 (EST)
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Nice report and photos - very enjoyable to read.  Sorry to hear about your Asolo 520's - I have a pair and they are among the best boots I have ever used.

9:58 p.m. on March 14, 2013 (EDT)
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Really enjoy your trip reports and this one is no exception.  I have had big frog on my  list for some time. 

I would like to add to what Terrapin said.  I had a pair of Asolo Fusion 90/s that were tough and comfy and lasted many a mile. 

Thanks again for sharing yet another of your interesting adventures. 

11:25 a.m. on March 31, 2013 (EDT)
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UPDATE---I used McNetts Freesole boot glue and placed the pair under a couple cinder blocks overnight and they look to be usable.  Trustworthy in the field?  Who knows.

5:24 p.m. on April 3, 2013 (EDT)
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That one shot of the stove lit in the leaves, surprised you didn't clear a spot first, Those leaves look like they could go up in a flash?

6:44 p.m. on April 3, 2013 (EDT)
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GaryPalmer said:

That one shot of the stove lit in the leaves, surprised you didn't clear a spot first, Those leaves look like they could go up in a flash?

Some of the time that can be a problem but those leaves were wet after a little bit of sleet.  Usually I clear a spot or if in dry brown grass will prime it atop a flat surface like a book.

7:29 p.m. on April 3, 2013 (EDT)
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I have'nt used one of those stoves since my winter camp in Jan to May in Yosemite 1980. I have used a MSR cannister stove most of the time since.

7:46 p.m. on April 3, 2013 (EDT)
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Since the last couple have been "mild"---not worse than 12F---my white gas system and a single 22 oz fuel bottle lasts me almost 14 to 17 days.  Usually on long winter trips with cold around 0F the same bottle will only last me 8-9 days.  I can't be burdened with a cannister stove and all the empties I would accumulate. (And whether it would work at 0F).

August 31, 2014
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