Citico trip with Tipi

7:22 p.m. on December 19, 2012 (EST)
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I was itching to get out last weekend and arranged a wilderness intercept with Legendary Backpacker Tipi Walter.

He was out in the Tennessee and North Carolina wilds for some crazy long trip no doubt.

I didn’t get off work until after 5:00 PM last Friday and so didn’t make the trailhead until about 7:15 PM.  I don’t mind night hikes in familiar areas.

The trip starts at Beech Gap on the Cherohala Skyway. This was my first use of a new balaclava. As it turned out it wasn’t near cold enough to use such a garment. I pulled it off and the fleece after a mere 10 minutes of hiking.  I was tired before starting: I pretty much hiked up to Bob Stratton Bald, looked around (I was alone), pitched my tent, and started snoring. Only took this one night picture:








I slept in (7AM is sleeping in for me) and made breakfast just outside of the short vestibule. I like how the Britt’s call them porches, seems more appropriate.








Muggin’ on the Bob before searching for Tipi:








I headed out towards Naked Ground and passed a view of foreboding sky:








And before long, whoop there he is! Wow that was a dated reference. My famous backpacking friend Tipi Walter!




We stopped and gabbed for a while. And really, once Tipi loses momentum he has to go ahead and bring that gargantuan pack to rest on solid terra.

We were going in opposite directions and I was still stretching my legs so I decided to hike around for a while and then return to camp with TW on the bald.

I passed a favorite view at Naked Ground:


“Click on picture to enlarge.”

After going almost to Haoe Peak, I returned and then went down trail 42 to the Heath Bald for fun:


“Click on picture to enlarge.”

Moss and Rhodo lined trail:



An inadvertent drawing filter applied to a pic:








A classic backpacking pose at NG:



After retuning to make camp and hanging out in the Keron for a while with Tipi, I decided to hike the “tractor road” and back having never done so.

Here is a funny hair picture (just removed a beanie) at one of the tractor road balds:



I found TW roaming the bald upon my return several hours later:


“Click on picture to enlarge.”

Tipi’s base camp:



I had dinner with my friend and shot the breeze for a while and eventually returned to my little coffin of a tent. It sure seems that way after hanging out in the Hilleberg Keron for a while, anyhow.

Well that evening was remarkable. A ferocious windstorm swept the mountain and it started slamming my tent so hard that I did in fact organize my gear for quick evacuation. I had some anxiety about the poles breaking and or the fabric tearing under such stress but thankfully all components held fast.

I didn’t sleep well however and decided to make an early exit at first light. After packing up in the drizzling downpour I made a quick stop by TW tent to say goodbye. He asked if I made it through the night OK, and I replied nonchalantly “oh yeah, no problem”. But in truth it was pretty darn scary.


My last (blurry) picture of the trip is the dry spot left behind by my tent:



As usual, getting out there and roaming with my house on my back was "good for me head!”

Variable weather notwithstanding, a healthy thing was done and enjoyed!

Happy Trails everyone!

12:26 p.m. on December 20, 2012 (EST)
Tipi Walter
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Here's what I wrote in my journal, or something like it---

"Patman is probably wide awake and clutching onto his headlamp with white knuckles."

Here's the jist of it---from the Journal---

SURVIVING IN A HILLEBERG---Anyone who wants to get his anus handed to him on a regular basis should most certainly camp in the open meadow of Bob's Bald during any random storm which comes into the area.  Sometime around 10 or 11pm the rain started and by midnight the wind joins in the hoe-down and brings a one-two punch of tough conditions whereby a Hilleberg tent either makes it or doesn't.

The rain slices across the tent in that old familiar velcro-ripping way which means it's coming down in horizontal sheets in a furious display of buckets poured and a deluge desired.

At exactly midnight I get up.  I know I have to do it and donned the rain jacket and rain pants with the headlamp and went out into the beast and tightened all 6 guylines and one end line and the 4 vestibule pulls, making the tent tight again and then doubled checked the peg seatings to make sure they were not pulling out of the ground, always a possibility in a mean blow.

I half expect Patman to call out my name needing shelter from the storm as his BA tent turns ugly and snaps.  Let's hope he's not wide awake gripping his headlamp with white knuckles.  Some gusts are reminiscent of past hell storms when I was camped in Raven Camp in worst conditions and got pulled pegs and bent poles---this in a Hilleberg.

His tent should be okay if he keeps his Y pegs seated and it would help if he uses separate pegs for all guyouts instead of 2 lines sharing the same pegs.  Like any storm, this one hasn't yet reached its critical mass or climax---that 1 or 2 or 3 gusts which are worse than the others and which herald the peak of severity.

It's not a pretty place to go but Miss Nature's storms read like a novel thriller with a beginning, a middle, a climax and an end.  Thankfully so far there's no lightning associated with this woolly mammoth (but it comes later).

Why did I decide to set up here in the death zone?  Why did Patman?  Well for one thing this storm while nasty sounding is mostly all bark and few bites---it won't rip your lungs out, Jim.

None of us want to have a Hoppin John experience up here.  That's when his Hilleberg Allak ripped apart and collapsed and he had to resort to some oh dark thirty hypothermic in-the-rain scramblings with a necessary bail off down the mountain.  We don't want this to happen.  We want our tents to keep us safe."


We meet on Four Mile Ridge before Miss Nature's Saturday night party.


Patman shows off his new Mt Hardwear down mittens which I tried to steal and almost succeeded.  After the storm he left with these on and so a question---did they stay dry, Pat?


Patman is comfy and safe on the Bob at 5,300 feet.  Soon the dark blue poem comes to interrupt.


Inside the Keron tent during the midnight storm.


Around 7 in the morning Patman is packed and ready to go.  It stayed wet and crappy for the whole of the day and so I zeroed it out and listened to my radio about the Sandy Hook shootings.


At the end of the trip on Day 15 I leave the Bob and reach Beech Gap where I find the last remaining piece of poor Patman---his head.

1:49 p.m. on December 20, 2012 (EST)
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Yeah that was one crazy storm. I’ve never had the tent flex like that before. It was a nervous affair.

I wondered if you moved or not on my last day; I made it to within a mile of Beech before the sky really opened up on me. If I hadn’t been so close I would have “turtled-up” under a tree to wait it out.

Remarkably those gloves did in fact keep my hands dry while I was wearing them in the downpour. But it was raining so hard that some water got into them during the few seconds it took to remove them and open the car doors. So far so good, but like you said I will probably limit the exposure to rain. They were a big investment for gloves but hey my hands stayed warm!

Thanks for finding my beanie! I had assumed I lost it on the Bob in the wind.

1:52 p.m. on December 21, 2012 (EST)
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This is great with both perspectives. I realised as I was reading though, that I actually enjoyed your suffering, Patman, in the face of adversity, far more than was proper. Thank you for the schadenfreude, nevertheless.

4:24 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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As usual vicariously enjoyed your trip report.  I must get up there soon.  One thing caught my eye.   Is a "drizzling downpour" anything like a "jumbo shrimp"?

Very nice mits, I have some old OR gore tex over mits that come in very handy on the few occasions I venture out in the cold wild. 

July 6, 2020
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