Fall is the best (backpacking blog, last 2 weekends)

6:40 p.m. on October 21, 2013 (EDT)
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All seasons are good for backpacking but my favorite season in East Tennessee is autumn.

There is a certain point at which the summers irritations (heat, mosquitoes, gnats, flies and such) go away and you begin to detect the sweetish scent of gently decaying leaves (uh, not stinky Rhodo) and the natural colors catch your eye.

My goal every year is to maximize all fall weekends and must temper my reaction to those who may float suggestions of weekend plans sans backpacking.






So I was off to the non-shutdown Citico wilderness of TN. I got some excellent directions to take a new driving route from Trailspace member kevinumberger. Thanks Kevin!






This was the quick but wet start to trail 105 as accessed from Wardens Field. I had only done a bit of this trail in the past (strange since it's a main attraction trail in the area)






I wasn't sure how many crossing there were so I wore some old running shoes but packed a dry pair of hikers in a grocery bag at the top of my pack.








A ways past the intersection with Grassy Branch the trail seemed to dead-end into a campsite and I thought it crossed the river again so I crossed and followed a "sort-of" trail maybe a 1/4 mile into a really old campsite near the river. I could tell it wasn't the right path but it was getting dark so I went ahead and camped there.






This pic has a good color contrast even though taken after dark with a flash.






This old relic was in the camp area.


The next morning I looked at the map and verified that I was on the wrong side of the river so I backtracked to what had looked to be a dead end the night before and sure enough found a narrow footpath leading up the draw.






This trail tunnel is brought to you by the hand pruning of one Tipi Walter. I know from his blog that he just cut this passage out of the overgrowth on his last trip. Thank you sir.






I was enthralled by the rich beauty of the South Fork. I could not believe I had skipped this area for so long. I've hiked around this valley from every angle but never really into it.






The area known as Jeffery Hell on the map is outstanding.






A brief peek through the trees was all there was on this route. I was supposed to meet up with Bob Butterfield near Crowder's but later found out I just missed him.






The last shot is a chimney on the Rocky Flats trail which I was unable to follow a little ways past this spot. Having a bunch-o-miles on the day I added some more by road hiking back to Wardens Field. Whew! (more than a 20 mile day)






And the next day brought me out with Susan to Max Patch, NC.






A shame to be there in a cloud bank but it was still cool in a way.










There was lots of color hiding in the clouds.






And the final stop of the day was a hike to the Smokies boundary (still shutdown) where we stopped at this cool old spring house.





Now the blog moves to the following weekend for a social trip with many friends....






Started from Big Fat Gap in Slick Rock wilderness; this shot was catching the sunset from the Hangover Lead South trail as I ascended the mountain after work last Friday.

That night was wonderful as the moon was bright enough to hike with no headlamp out to the overlook.






The next morning I snapped a photo of my base camp for the weekend. A double wall tent was used instead of the preferred tarp due to anticipated wind.






Bear food (Ash berries) framing a nice view.






After day hiking out to Bobs Bald, this weird guy with a giant backpack followed me back to the Hangover.






Mike, Tipi, John

And not long after arriving back at the Hangover we were joined by John Quillen and Jerky Mike of the Southern Highlanders.

 John is famous in these parts as an intrepid mountaineer and most public opponent of the Smokies Backpacking fee. Check out this link to an article about Johns rescue of his friend back in June which occurred while climbing Broad Peak in Pakistan.





Later in the day, the winds blew in Trailspace moderator Gonzan and brother Josh who had just hiked up the nutbuster and across the ridge to us.








The next morning brought blue skies and clouds below us.






(Bob, Tipi, Me, Jerome)

And the weekend was topped off for me by getting to visit with trail friends Bob and Jerome who arrived as I was leaving and then hiking out with Gonzan, Josh and Tipi.

Ah, good times.....

Hope you enjoyed the blog, and as always Happy Trails!

10:54 p.m. on October 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Always nice to see fellow TSers hiking together! Nice shots, sir!

7:49 a.m. on October 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Very nice trip report! I like the shots and especially the ones of the old chimney showing someone had stayed out there a long time and the trail up the slope with the log steps and the old spring house!

Fall is to me the first best time of the year to be outdoors with spring the second when flowers and tree's are coming back to life, animals are coming out of hibernation. But with the fall colors and cooling temps brings great photo shots and water either ice cold or freezing and the lack of bugs from Horse flies and mosquito's biting, makes fall definitely the nicest time of the seasons!

10:57 a.m. on October 22, 2013 (EDT)
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I agree with Gary's post. Oct is the best month of the year in Nevada. We floated a suggestion and did a 5 day canoe trip in Sept on the Sacramento River in CA during the king salmon run.

11:02 a.m. on October 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Very nice report, Patrick!

I hate that Max Patch was so cloudy and foggy for y'all! :(

I love all of the Hangover pictures. They are beautiful! Sounds like y'all had a great time.

12:05 p.m. on October 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Ah, what a wonderful weekend! I don't think any of us were expecting to see so many people up there, but it was a great group of folks. 

It's funny you mention having never hiked warden fields before, as I somehow have managed to unintentionally avoid it as well :) 

3:20 p.m. on October 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks all....



Well I've actually started from wardens field a couple times to hike Pine Ridge, North Fork and a just a bit of South Fork but had never actually done the South Fork all the way up. 

The North Fork has about 18 crossings and i had assumed the South Fork was similar but it only had a few (although one was nearly waist deep, but I'm short :)).

I had commented to Walt that if a crowd of people had showed up like that near where I was camped I would normally have packed up and moved but in this case I knew most of them!

It really was a lot of fun and it was great to catch up with you a bit that evening. I also really enjoyed meeting Josh. You still have a few brothers I haven't met yet but you guys are all really good company. I especially enjoyed meeting your dad last year (or is it two years ago?) on Roan Mountain.


3:36 p.m. on October 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Oh and Gonzan,

I heard the last time you came to a Highlanders gathering you were bearing fresh brown trout. So I feel slighted.

6:45 p.m. on October 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Great photos! Thanks for sharing.

7:59 p.m. on October 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Great trip reports Patrick..Glad you and Your wife are spending quality time hiking..

11:03 a.m. on October 23, 2013 (EDT)
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Patman said:

Oh and Gonzan,

I heard the last time you came to a Highlanders gathering you were bearing fresh brown trout. So I feel slighted.

 Haha! I tried, I really did :) 
Maybe next year when I spend a few days just fishing on the slickrock you can come by one night for a fish fry :) 

 I also really enjoyed meeting Josh. You still have a few brothers I haven't met yet but you guys are all really good company. I especially enjoyed meeting your dad last year (or is it two years ago?) on Roan Mountain. 

 Thanks, I'm certainly blessed with a great family! I'm pretty sure the mutual regard for you has been shared those of us that have met you, as well. 

5:53 p.m. on October 23, 2013 (EDT)
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GREAT trip report. Thanks for sharing the mountains with us via pictures.

10:16 p.m. on October 27, 2013 (EDT)
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Looks like a good time out!

Although I love being close to the Sierra, I grew up in upstate NY and at this time of the year I miss walking in the forest during crisp fall days with the trees blazing in color.

1:18 p.m. on November 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for the pics.  I just got back and pulled pretty much your whole route---a couple times.  Trip report forthcoming. 

Of course, October is peak backpacking season in the southern Appalachians because it's not too cold and not too hot so it pulls in the "fair weather" crowd.  At least that's my theory.  Come out with me in November at 20F and we'll probably see no one, or very few.  This is as God intended.


Showing up on the Bob.


In the high gap of Naked Ground.


Early on---you're the only person on the Hangover just before the onslaught---


Bob Butterfield even shows up with Jerome and Patsy.


Pointing out the start of the Upper Slickrock Nutbuster trail, a fave.

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