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I hesitated to post this report because this area has been so well documented by Mr.Walter and Gonzan but I like the journaling for posterity.
I’d walked the touristy trails of giant trees at Joyce Kilmer several years ago with my wife and realized what an awesome forest that was; during that trip I spied a fellow heading off into the woods with a large external frame pack on. Since then I intended to go see that backcountry area at some point. Needing to test out some new trail shoes, I decided to check it out.
In my typical fashion I waited until the last minute to plan the outing; I tried to piece together a bit of a plan from TWs trip reports but needed to ask some questions. The district Ranger office was bafflingly ignorant of the trail system so I messaged Gonzan here on TS and he saved the day by consulting on the area; many thanks for the kindness Gonzan!
Amongst various helpful information, G gave me two good approach options; each allowing for a quick access hike to accommodate the Friday evening start.
After vacillating between a Northern and Southern approach, I decided to do a North approach and park at the Cheoah Dam trailhead and loop through the Slickrock area.
I was getting ready to start hiking about 7 PM.
After turning up trail 45 (Ike’s Branch) I came upon this neat spider; he was large (at least 3.5 inches across the leg span) and velvety looking.
Well, this picture is embarrassing because it’s so poor; there is actually an enormous rattlesnake with its tail lifted in the center of the photo (and it’s rattling like crazy at me). This was the largest one I’ve ever seen in the wild. The body was at least as big as the widest part of my forearm! It was truly fearsome. Lol
I wanted to get a good picture of it but I was put on edge by the super loud rattling and kept my distance. Not a good “calmness under pressure” moment for me. Oh well..It's hard to be cool with that rattle in your ear.
Only 20 yards past the snake I came to this campsite. I briefly considered it, listened to the snake still rattling for a moment and kept going.
After another half hour or so I came to trail 42 and Slickrock creek…what a surprisingly beautiful place to camp and I had it all to myself! This wasn’t my actual campsite…I went a little further up 42 and found an even more inviting site.
I was getting ready to splash around the creek in the dark; a nice way to relax and unwind for the evening.
After a quick breakfast, I packed up and shoved off. I wasn’t sure how long the days hike would be (my target was Bob’s Bald) so I was hiking a little before 8 AM. This is the first ford of Slickrock creek on my route.
Friendly little guy didn’t even move when I walked up.
I was stopped for my second (or third?) ford and decided to snap this pic of the shoes I was testing. Montrail AT Plus (supposedly water proof).
Nice random photos of Slickrock creek.
I met a group of Boy Scouts out on a six day backpack of the area and they told me of a “horrible” section of this trail (42) on which they all got stung by bees (one boy was stung 11 times), took several falls and had to fight through brambles and briars. That would be on the day three route for me. It’s always good to have something to look forward to.
After turning up trail 139, I pushed up to trail 95/2 and was greeted by this wonderful campsite. From here I would head South (and up) for quite some time as it turned out.
Trekking South on 95/2 (this is the Benton MacKaye route also). I do so love ridge top trails.
Hmmm, I wonder if the bears know this is the demarcation.
Canopy is a great thing on hot days.
Surveyor-graffiti I suppose.
A funky high altitude plant, somewhere past the intersection of 95/2 and 99.
So this brings me to the intersection of 95/2 and 54A. There are parts of 54A that to call a trail would be insulting to real trails. J
There was a hand scratched label on the sign post stating 54A with an arrow. I followed it but in retrospect I’m not sure that was the right thing to do. I’m not the most experienced backpacker by any stretch but I’m certainly not a new hiker; I lost the trail completely (once) and almost lost it a couple of more times. I would be bush-whacking along and all of sudden realize I wasn’t on any kind of path but just “in the woods”. I retraced my route as well as I could until I found what I thought was the trail and continued. Eventually I came out to the intersection of 54A, 54 and another trail I don’t recall the number for and was quite relieved.
I finally reached my destination: Bob’s Bald!
I dropped the pack and explored the area. Thanks to Gonzans description I easily found the water source.
I think this was the same campsite from a trip report last year where TW and G camped. Very nice spot. I was pretty whipped from the days journey so I laid back in the grass and just breathed it in for quite a while.
Last pic of day 2. (before the rains came).
Well during the night I was awakened by super bright lightning and the rain started coming down pretty hard and there a bit of wind. It was flashing really bad about 4AM and I couldn’t; go back to sleep. I rolled over and felt moisture on my hand. (I later discovered some very small abrasion holes in the bottom of my Big Agnes tent floor;^%$!.) So anyway I couldn’t sleep-in with water starting to pool so I got up and packed up a soggy rig and was hiking by 6 AM.
It was so foggy the morning of Day 3 that I really couldn’t get any good photos. I know I passed some great overlooks but it was just a wall of white fog and misty rain.
Here is the crazy sign post at the junction of 53, 55 and 42. I had some trouble getting started on 42; the sign seemed to indicate the trail was to the left of where I was facing when I arrived on 53 but that trail just went down to a tributary and ended. I thought maybe the trail followed the creek so I slogged down it for a ways before thinking that couldn’t be right. I went back up and tried it again this time following it around through the bush and came out to what I thought must have been the right path. (If I had started down 53 instead of 42 it would have added a considerable distance to my car at the dam).
This trail turned out to be a super fun and challenging route! It was quite an obstacle course with rock faces to slide down and trees to go over and around. A great work out all in all. However, like the scout troop I met the day before I did not escape the bees. One of those little suckers got under my bandana and stung me on the top of my head! I had to fish him out and was so in pain I became angry and squished him in my fingers before dropping him.
Well, I took at lot more photos but it was too foggy and they didn’t turn out. Here was where I made it down to the next intersection of 42, 41 and 44. I decided to take 44 to 49 and then 45 back to back my car.
This is a shot going out 49 from Nichols Cove.
And I finally made it back to the Cheoah Dam!
This was an incredible trip; I can see why TW and G love this place so much. It’s a beautiful but rugged wilderness. This was an exploratory trip for me. I really went too fast to take in such an amazing place but now that I have some idea of the lay of the land I’ll be back!
Post trip record:
There are my “souvenirs” from trail 54A or maybe I should call them “Kilmer tattoos”:
Hats off to the Slickrock/ Kilmer wilderness!