16 Days with the Cranberries

1:05 p.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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TRIP 143
March 8-23  2013

**  16 DAYS IN THE CITICO/SLICKROCK.

**  BEECH GAP IN THE SNOW.

**  WITH HOPPIN JOHN ON THE BOB.

**  THE RESCUED COUPLE FROM TRIP 137.

**  OUT OF THE WIND IN LITTLE COVE CAMP WITH HOPPIN JOHN.

**  DAVID'S CRANBERRIES IN THE WEDGE.

**  HYENA WINDSTORM IN BARREL GAP.

**  CAMPING IN NAKED GROUND WITH IAN AND KIM'S CRANBERRIES.

**  MEETING CHAD AND HIS GROUP.

**  MEETING GREG MILLER ON 54A.

**  WINDSTORM ON FOUR MILE RIDGE.

**  ON SLICKROCK CREEK WITH IAN AND KIM AT WILDCAT FALLS AND GREG MILLER AT NICHOLS COVE.

**  THUNDERSTORM AT CROWDERS HORSE CAMP.

**  BMT THRUHIKERS FLUGELHORN AND HOLLYWOOD.

**  SNOWSTORM IN COLD SPRING GAP.


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I catch the tail end of the big Southeast snowstorm everyone is talking about as Little Mitten drops me off at Beech Gap in the Citico wilderness and I immediately start postholing in a winter wonderland.


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Gaiters would help so instead I get wet socks.


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My old Asolo 520's are crap so I spring for a new pair of Fugitives and they are perfect.


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My camp for the night is not far from Beech Gap in Cold Spring Gap in the Citico. 


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Hilleberg tents have several big flaws and this is one of the biggest---Over time the elastic connectors stretch as above.  It sucks cuz then the inner yellow tent sags down from the fly poles and you're left with a smaller tent.  Hilleberg needs to get on the stick and redesign this engineering flaw.


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It's the morning of Day 2 at Cold Gap and Hoppin John pulls in.  It's good to see him as he left Alabama at 1:30 in the morning and 5 hours later he's at Beech Gap and ready with his Mystery Ranch pack and new Hilleberg Kaitum tent.  He sits watching me pack.  Our conversation as he approached my camp:

"Is that squirrel you got on the fire?"

"Why?  Grown par-tick-u-lar??"


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We trudge up a thousand foot climb in 6 to 12 inches of snow and it slows us down.


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Hoppin John in the snow.


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At the Bob Tee after the worst of the climb.


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The 2 backpackers who passed by my Cold Gap camp at midnight do a nighthike up to the bald and are camped by the Death Tree.  It's the same couple and the same woman who was hornet stung and rescued by the Graham County squad on Trip 138 and posted here on Trailspace.  She now carries an Epipen.


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Hoppin John pumping up his Exped downmat next to his new red Kaitum tent.


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Sunset on the Bob with my Keron tent.


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A stiff wind hits the Bob but Hoppin John has his tent all guyed out as the sun sets.


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It's the morning of Day 3 on the Bob and the wind increases.


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Abbi on the Bob by her tent.


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Uncle Fungus joins Abbi and Micheal for a fotog.


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We decide to bail off Bob Mt as a big windstorm is hitting and we rest on the trail down into the Wedge.


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Abbi and Michael aren't far behind and meet us in Cold Gap.


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We get down into the Wedge and in the protection of Little Cove Camp where Hoppin John shows how to set up the Kaitum.


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Kaitum setup part 2.


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Kaitum part 3.


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The first Cranberries (Cranbrook School) we run into are in the Wedge and are camping along Bob Creek.  Hoppin John checks out the leader's tarp.


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A typical Cranberry leader's tarp.


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Leader David of the Cranbrook School set up in the Wedge on Bob Creek.

DAY FOUR TO COME

1:51 p.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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DAY FOUR

 



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Hoppin John is ready to leave the Wedge and Little Cove Camp and battle the wind out to Beech Gap.  He just makes it before the rains hit.


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I leave the Wedge myself and get to Barrel Gap where I barely get the tent set up as a side wind wants to remove the tent from my hands before I get it staked out.


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David's Berries aren't far behind and are on their way to Snow Camp and the Bob.


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I follow behind them for a bit as they take the BMT Connector to Snow Camp and Fodderstack Ridge.


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I get thru a hellish storm on Day 5 and by morning it's time to pack a glazed donut of a tent and climb the BMT Connector to Snow Camp where I take a break.


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Resting in Snow Camp before the big climb up to the Bob.


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The trail from Snow Camp takes me several hundred feet to Bob Bald where I take the mandatory break and get a call out to Little Mitten and then after a 5 mile day I reach Naked Ground where I air out the gear and call it a day at 5,000 feet.


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Cranbrook leader Bryan comes thru the high gap with his kids and checks out the view.  They head over to Hangover Mt.


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On Day 6 I decide to pull a zero day under a winter sky in the high gap of Naked Ground.  The tent gets a very light dusting of snow.  Why not hang out the geese to air dry?


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A group of Cranberries led by Alan and Kim (and Ian) come up to Naked Ground and decide to set up their camp with me.  Here is Alan and Kim.


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Kim's group starts pulling in from Wolf Laurel and/or Bob's Bald.


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Trip leader Ian pulls in at the end of the line and consults his maps.


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"Will we stay or will we go?" 


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One of the students has a twisted ankle so the trip leaders make her comfy and apply first aid.  She determines that the group will stay put at Naked Ground for the night.


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Kim shows some landmarks of Kilmer valley from 5,000 feet.


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Another Berry group passes thru and it's 17 year veteran leader Chad and all the leaders gather round to talk.


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Chad doing the mountain shuffle.


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The leaders have their own tarp separate from the students.

DAY 7 TO COME

2:48 p.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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DAY SEVEN



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The night of Day 6 is butt cold with temps around 12F or so it seems because the wind is rough.  Here's the frosty student's tarp but everyone's still in bed.


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I leave NG and the Cranberries and climb to the Bob where I hang out with these 4 dogs for a while in the sun.  We all hang out in the grass like lions, occasionally lifting a head to look around.


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I leave the Bob and head down Trail 54A South to Mighty Oak Camp where I run into old acquaintance Greg Miller and his group coming up from Beech Gap and the Snowbirds.  They are headed down the Nutbsuter to the Open Cove Camp midway down.  Here is Joey, Greg and Chelsea.


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Joey and Greg take off to the Bob but I stay put in Mighty Oak Camp.


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Chelsea isn't far behind.


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Mighty Oak Camp is a level spot right above the Terrible Pitches of Trail 54A South.


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On Day 8 I leave Oak Camp and get to the Bob Tee for the usual fotog.


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A return visit to the Bob finds it very windy in the open meadow so I hoof it over to the South Col Camps and set up in the old N-Girl camp.  I have to bolt down the tent with 14 pegs as it's still windy here.


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By dawn on Day 9 the wind spends all night slapping the Hilleberg back and forth and brings in a sky full of rain clouds but they clear out and I'm the trail in some snow on Four Mile Ridge and rest here atop Haoe Peak.


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All set up on Hangover Mt in Airjet Camp near the rock overlook.


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The view off Hangover Mt is stupendous.  Behind me is Gregory Bald in the Smokies.


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Looking west off the Hangover you see Big Fodderstack Mt and Fodderstack/BMT Ridge, my eventual goal.


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On Day 10 the temps rise to warm so it's not hard packing and getting off the mountain.  In the clearcut camp I find Jeremy, Rob and Daniel all set up and were my neighbors the night before.


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Jeremy's hammock on Hangover Mt.


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Jeremy sitting at Daniel's Hilleberg tent on the Hangover. 


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Daniel's Unna tent---brand new. 


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Goodbye Hangover Mt.  The trail drops 3,000 feet and here is the beginning.


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I make it to Big Fat Gap for a break.  2,000 down, 1,000 to go.


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At the bottom I run into Greg Miller's group pulling a zero on Slickrock Creek.


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Greg's Berries at Bee Camp in the Slicnic Camps.


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I leave Greg's group and cross the low water of Slickrock Creek.


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At Wildcat Falls I run into Kim and Ian and Alan's group pulling a zero.


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Ian cooking dinner for the leaders at Wildcat Falls.


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I leave the falls and return upstream to Little West Camp next to the last crossing on Slickrock Creek.  So ends Day 10.


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Even tho a big storm is coming I can't sit put so I pack and get to the Big Stack Gap trail jct with Slickrock Creek where I begin a nutbuster climb of 1,500 feet in 2 miles.


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If you make it this far on the Big Stack trail you know you only got a little bit more to climb.


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My camp off the BMT ridge at Crowder Horse Camp where there's a spring.  The big lightning bolt storm hits me here but I'm off the ridge enough to be "safe".

DAY 12 TO COME

3:13 p.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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DAY TWELVE



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Day 13 dawns cold and crisp at 4,500 feet in Snow Camp so I pack and hike to an even colder place called Cold Gap which is a wind tunnel but the perfect place for a Hilleberg tent.


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A butt cold wind attacks the gap and the temps drop and then at 6pm two BMT thruhikers pass thru on their way south over Whiggs Meadow and beyond to Uniocoi Gap.  They are Stephen Eren Flugelhorn and Peter Reber Hollywood.  We talk for 15 minutes but the cold wind is too much.


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By midnight flurries hit my camp in Cold Gap so welcome to the first day of Spring.  I wonder where the UL BMT thruhikers are camping?  It's a butt cold morning with a butt cold wind.


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Do I have to pack up in this cold wind?? 


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The rhodo thermometer tells you the temp.


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I leave Cold Gap and find more Beech Gap vandalism as someone pullout out the wilderness sign.  But they didn't burn it.  I wonder why?


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After hiking 5 miles on the Cherohala Scarway a pickup stops and offers me a ride to the Long Branch trailhead and the trail I wanted to get to for my night's camp.


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Not far down the Long Branch trail I reach Turkey Feather Camp with its small creek.  It's home for the next 2 nights.


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In order to be positioned for my Day 16 evac I zero out Day 15 at Turkey Feather Camp.


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On Day 16 I leave Long Branch and hiked the Scarway to the Indian Boundary turnoff where Little Mitten finds me.


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Little Zoe Dog came out with me and this is what she looked like before the trip.


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Here's what she looked like after the trip. 

5:34 p.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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Good reading on a windy sleet-storm Sunday, thank you for letting me camp vicariously. It's all I got, right now.

Never been to Tennessee, but as a northerner I somehow imagined it would be spring there by now. Those rhododendrons say otherwise! Did you expect the cold and snow you had?

6:38 p.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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After some serious winters in 2009 and 2010 and 2011, I always expect something big in the Southeast during March.  We had the Blizzard of '93 too on March 12.  The 20th Anniversary happened while I was out with the Cranberries---and they have some real world blizzard stories of that storm as they were out in it and rescued.

But the last two winters here have been moderately mild to last year's hottest March on record.

7:02 p.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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In Newfoundland, the big storm in mid-March is so predictable that it even has a name: Sheila's Brush. Folklore says she does her spring cleaning around St. Patrick's Day, and raises quite the flurry while she's at it.

So it's a sure sign of spring. :)

10:51 a.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Nice report TW!

 

So where exactly is Barrel Gap? I've gone down the tractor road from the Bob, past at least one gate (that day you and I were caught in the big windstorm on the Bob) . I saw a couple trails on my right that could have been the way up to Cold Gap (but I didn't explore them). Is Barrel Gap between Cold Gap and the tractor road?

10:53 a.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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And three Hillebergs in the Slickrock Wilderness at the same time? unheard of....

1:06 p.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Barrel Gap is about 3 miles from Beech Gap on Trail 149/BMT just south of the Brush Mt trail jct on 149 in a gap where the BMT connects to Snow Camp and Cherry Log Gap.  There's an old rusted 55 gallon barrel in the gap and a water spring next to the trailpost in the gap.


A couple years ago we had 3 Hillebergs on the Bob at one time, 2 Allaks and a Keron.

If you go down the tractor road from the Bob you'll be entering the "wedge" and go thru a couple open meadows before descending to a creek culvert with a logging cut turning right and going up.  This logging cut parallels a creek and takes you thru Little Cove Camp and pops out in Cold Spring Gap.

5:27 p.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Ah OK, now I know where you mean. That camp caught my eye in the past but the two times I used that trail section I was going somewhere else and didn't stop. That area seems like a long extended slope of "Bob Stratton mountain (or whatever it's called)" and a perhaps a neat place to explore off trail. As I recall, there is an old logging type road not too far from that spot that seems to track up the slope.  

10:39 p.m. on March 27, 2013 (EDT)
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Sounds like fun.  I wish I could have been there.
I don't think I've ever run across that many people out in the area this time of year.

11:53 p.m. on March 27, 2013 (EDT)
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Great trip, Tipi!  I had planned on heading up there the weekend of the 16th to enjoy some cold and see if I could find you, but unfortunately my wife was rather sick. It's been months since I've been able to get out for more than a walk in the woods, and its starting to make me a little nuts :) 

Maybe next year I can get out there and meets some of the crazy Cranberries, ha! 

6:02 p.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Nice trip report as always.

December 25, 2014
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