12 Days of Trailwork

12:35 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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Okay boys, another trip comes and this time it's in September---a tease before an October blowout.  Here's the link followed by a few pertinent pics---



My trip begins in the Citico wilderness of TN at the Jeffrey Hell trailhead which drops down to South Fork creek and crosses.


I head down the South Fork trail and do extensive trailwork on the Thicket on the SF logging cut detour.  Hellish.  Then I turned up the North Fork trail and camped on a Saturday and ran into these folks.


I climb the North Fork while doing trailwork and get on Fodderstack Ridge and go to Crowders and come down the Big Stack Gap trail (which is worked) and descend in 2 miles to Slickrock Creek.


I head up Slickrock Creek and pull out the tools to rework Leg 5 in the terrible open cove section and while camping and working I run into Chris from NC who is camping below in Buckeye Camp and doing a ranging dayhike up the Nutbuster trail.


The next day after camping on Leg 5 of the Nutbuster, I pack and pull the hardest hump on Leg 6 atop Lonesome Ridge.  Since this blowdown step is too high for most backpackers, I find the old discarded wedge and lock it in with a couple 2 foot long rhodo trunks cut with my saw and pounded in with a bigger rhodo trunk.  Secure!


I finish my 32nd climb of the Nutbuster trail and reach the high gap at Naked Ground and run into Lalo from Detroit.


I leave NG and going over Bob Mt and head down to Cold Gap and swing up Trail 149 to this trailhead to the dreaded and unworked Brush Mt trail, the most remote and rugged in the Citico backcountry.  Time for more trailwork on a fave trail.


Midway down the Brush Mt trail I stay at a familiar place I call Bug Hollow, right below Satan's Teat.  I got lost twice getting to this spot and then it rained all the next day so I pulled a zero.  The goal was to work Brush all the way down to the South Fork crossing but higher water got me spooked so I backtracked and reworked the trail again back to 149.


I climb back up Brush and take 149 to Cold Gap and fall down the South Fork trail which needs a lot of rhodo work with the saw and camp near the Jeffrey Hell bottom trailhead on my last night---pulling out the next day to the Scarway road for evac.

2:28 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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Nice report Tipi..


Looks like Chris Lawrence used the spot I inherited from Johnny B at Buckeye Camp. Did he hang a hammock under the tarp?

2:31 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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ive been meaning to post some compare and contrast shots of the jeffrey hell cement bridge that is within the first mile or so.....

it got really washed out in those early august storms and is really torn up.....

it looked really good when i passed by there earleir in the spring, but man, did that flooding event really tear the thing up...

thanks for the work on brush mountain.....

i agree--it was definitely the most rugged and remote of the trails down there....

i had a barrel of fun going up it this past memorial day......at one point, for about 2 hours, i didnt move more than a mile as i was trying to find trail.....

2:36 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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alright then, next time I hit the Citico I've got to get my Brush Mtn initiation....do you get a badge or is it just the mental trauma and briar cuts?

2:51 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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Kevin---Yeah, that Falls Branch culvert-bridge got walloped recently in high water and washed out a good portion of the rock work.  There was also a pesky blowdown there but easily removed with the saw, as pictured, etc.

Brush Mt---I don't really know the trail well as I've only done it about 7 times in the last 12 years and so of course I got lost a couple times going down from the top.  Bug Hollow Camp is in the middle of the trail where the trail crosses a little sandbar creek which makes Bug Gap an excellent campsite on Brush as it has water.

The upper part of Brush is where most people get lost because the trail stays on the right side of Brush Ridge and then w/o warning climbs up to the left and gets on the ridge and then ZAP you're heading back down to the sidehill path.  Confusing.

And someone came in recently and tried to make sense of it with orange ribbon but missed the uphill/downhill part and so in October I'll be heading back to beloved Brush with ample ribbon of my own and mark it profusely.

Patman---There IS a badge for Brush Mt but only one person has earned it and survived---Kevin.  You can easily get the Brush Badge if you get out alive---no badge accrues if dead.  But first you have to climb and descend Satan's Teat and struggle to Testicle Creek and then battle thru sawbriar to Ike's Dogleg and somehow survive the long drop to the Engine Block (next to the human ribcage) and then you're out.  Good luck.

BTW, Chris did not use a hammock.

3:20 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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I always think of Owen Wilson as Hansel in Zoolander when I think of the Brush Mt (or the Nutbuster Slickrock) trail---as these trails always say to me---

" Who are you tryin' to get crazy with, ese? Don't you know I'm loco?"

Let's go back in time to see what a mean nasty trail will do to people.  Here is my backpacking buddy Coy losing it on the Upper Slickrock Nutbuster trail---


Of course he recovers but barely. (Just kidding.  Just a joke folks.  Don't get your codpiece in a wad).  This is right above the wedge step with the stakes on the most rugged section of the Nut Eater Trail.

3:21 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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i can post picture of my scars if you'd like...

oh wait---one of them is from the lower part of slickrock creek trail.

anyways.....yeah---my legs got torn up pretty good.......i hike in shorts and i was getting cut left and right...

i went down cold spring gap trail to north fork after climbing brush mountain, and when i tried to go to sleep that night---my legs were in severe pain....and not just the muscles but the skin from all the briar cuts....

cold spring gap was pretty overgrown as well, but not as brutal as brush mountain...

i went up brush mountain from south fork and for the first two miles or so, the trail is a breeze.....so much so that i thought---geez, not sure why the guidebook and everyone else has said that this trail is hard to follow...

it was shortly after one of the upper creek campsites---the one with the fire ring that had a rock shield to block wind----that i found out about this trail...

that's when the trail was pretty much obscured but could still see a little bit, with help of ribbon...

then there was a sectioin of rhodo tunnel that was nicely cut that went up and down a couple of hills before going down to a rivulet of water...

after that---that's when the intensity of this trail really picked up....

i was basically following ribbons in the tree from point to point......and not really heavily marked---just one or two along the way.....

there was one last campground before another hill---a campsite that was to my right that had firering and a distince tree that was cut into a stump that was maybe 3 foot tall......

after that----oh, my.......that was the most difficult section....

at one ponit, i spend about 2 hours going back and forth trying to find ribbon or some other marking...

that was the ridge point....

hey tipi---how new did that ribbon look?    i was following ones that looked a couple of years old was wondering if someone had come after memorial day and marked it with new ribbon....

3:32 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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It's brand new ribbon which may herald a trail crew coming out since no organized crew has done Brush since 2009---a long time in Citico years.  But as I said, they got confused a bit at the ridge swing-up and drop-down but my mind is clear and when I return in October I'll mark it right.  Plus, there are natural blazes too on the trees updated by the Crosscut Mt Boys in 2009.  Before that the forest service closed the trail and left it go to crap for 10 years, but the Mt Boys wanted to keep it open and now so do I.

The only place I get confused on the lower Brush is where it starts to leave the creek on a right turn and then veers left up to Ike Peak dogleg which climbs up and down to that little creek you mentioned.

Your "there was one last campground before another hill" is pictured as Bug Hollow Camp in my report.  The hill beyond is Satan's Teat cuz it's steep.  As you say, from the top of His Teat to the top trailhead the thing gets confusing.

BTW, I don't know if I posted this or not recently but here's the lower campsite on Brush by the creek (not the lowest one by the South Fork and not the one a little higher above the falls)---


A mid level Brush Mt campsite which looks pretty good although it's not totally level.

4:03 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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I did see a few of the marks on the trees as well....

Interesting that its a new ribbon.....

Yup...that means someone other than you is trying or thinking about cutting it....

And meant to say earlier---that yeah---it's the most rugged and remote of all the trails in the Joyce Kilmer Citico Slickrock area...

Only other one that can compare is the naked ground alternative which for being so short, one would wonder why the that trail doesn't exist.....

4:33 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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I hear you Kevin...every summer trip to the Citico/Slickrock leaves me with temporary tatts:


Here is from my first summer trip to the area in 2011:





This is a later trip:





I have simliar cuts right now aquired last weekend from hiking the "open" trails.


I never see these on Walts legs. He is too leathery I guess. :)



4:50 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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my arms werent like that but legs certainly were....

i added a pretty good double gash on my left shin after slicing it open on a razor sharp rock on slickrock creek traul......

and as for those crosscut marks on trees----saw them on the indian valley trail that i was describing in another post just after the makeshift bridge on north fork trail that tipi recently took care of....

i plan on doing that one in the next couple of weeks or so.....wanna see where it goes and puts out,.......saw brush cut, ribbons, and trees marked on that route so i have a somewhat of a good feeling about it...


9:20 p.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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Hey Kevin, I may have to actually take my Citico topo map for that one---the Indian Branch thing off the North Fork.


Yup, I get hit just like everyone else since I wear shorts 95% of the time.  This one was coming down the South Fork.


Don't posthole in deep snow in shorts!  I spend all day hiking up Hangover Mt in deep snow and crossing over to Naked Ground in 35+ inches and got a nasty road-rash on my right calf.  Should've worn pants, rain pants.


Then there's the common arm strikes, no big deal.


My backpacking friend Generoll came off Beaverdam Bald (the manway) to Sled Runner Gap---we all did---and he got kissed by Miss Nature.


If that's not bad enough, you have to worry about death from above---in the Bald River wilderness.

2:06 p.m. on September 29, 2013 (EDT)
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This all seems very masochistic to me. Try some canvas long pants and shirts and avoid all the mess. Hiking in rough country without trails is a way of life for people like surveyors and foresters. Hike through Devil's Club once and you will never wear shorts again.

2:16 p.m. on September 29, 2013 (EDT)
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At forestry field camp in the 1970s, at the U of WA it started to become a popular program. There wasn't room for everyone. We had a world renowned professor of forest ecology named DRM Scott now deceased, RIP. His first order of business was a field survey on overgrown north slopes. Our feet were off the ground a lot of the time. Plenty of Devil's Club and other thorny plants. At least ten kids left in the first three days and many after that. No more shorts, ever.

2:23 p.m. on September 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Much cooler in shorts and easier for stride, etc.  Another reason to carry a pair of hand pruners---to cut Devil's Club.  It's thankfully fairly rare where I backpack although on Trail 149 there's a big patch of it but it's easy to cut.  It's fairly nasty but for me the worst is a wall of brairs or a wall of sawbriars. 

Sawbriars can suck because unlike simple briars they can wrap around your neck or worse and do not break easily.  Ergo the hand pruners.  ALL BACKPACKERS ARE NOW REQUIRED BY LAW TO CARRY HAND PRUNERS---Sheriff Fungus.

There are two times I consider wearing pants when backpacking---

**  In deep snow to avoid snow rash and ice cuts.

**  In a long patch of stinging nettle.  A report could be written on the different types of nettle but there is one kind that really hurts like hell and it's different than your normal nettle stings.  The little plant is a darker green and is angry.  Rain pants come in handy but heck I'm too lazy to stop and put them on so I usually wack the nettle out of the way with my hiking pole.

Beyond all this, backpacking thru bad thorns (including young locust trees and the sometimes-terrible hawthorn trees) is gonna eat up the face and the hands and the arms and the clothing and the legs.  Pants would help if you can stand the heat.  My theory is, the more cuts and scars you have on your legs, the tougher they become, ergo you've always got on a pair of "leather chaps" which can take abuse.  For me the worse bloodloss doesn't come from briars or sawbriars or all the rest but from deep cuts from sharp rocks or angled sharp blowdown branches.  And really, it's all about total bloodloss. 

And canvas pants and shirts??  No way---too dang hot.

10:32 a.m. on September 30, 2013 (EDT)
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ppine said:

This all seems very masochistic to me. Try some canvas long pants and shirts and avoid all the mess. Hiking in rough country without trails is a way of life for people like surveyors and foresters. Hike through Devil's Club once and you will never wear shorts again.



I could see where it could seem masochistic, but at least in my case it’s more about absent mindedness. After every trip to these areas with unmaintained trails, I mentally kick myself and say, “I’m wearing pants and gaiters next time no matter how hot it is”. And then I forget or deceive myself before I go again. I often think, “well maybe someone cleared that trail”, or “I won’t be going on those really overgrown routes” and “I hate wearing pants and hot gaiters” and inevitably I do go on those trails.

Around here, the areas classified as “wilderness” have lots of weird laws and regulations that sometimes prevent good maintenance like the one stating that no motorized devices can be used, so no chainsaws allowed (or some wording as to such).

But really even the more remote sections of the Smokies (national park as opposed to wilderness classification) get little professional trailwork. A couple months ago I backpacked a supposedly maintained trail in the Smokies (Jenkins Ridge) and one section was so completely overgrown that I had to abandon it and find my own route. I know the area well and knew where the trail picked up under canopy and found it fairly easily but that could have been bad for someone seeing it for the first time.

It does wear me out from time to time but around here it’s kind of the tradeoff you make for not dealing with too many people and using designated campsites or risking fines for not camping in the designated spots. It’s not a bad trade but I could certainly prepare better and limit the blood loss as Tipi says.

Interesting note about canvas…in the warmer months the only long sleeve garment I bring is a rain jacket but I don’t want to put it on in those areas and risk getting it shredded by briars. Also, I just ran into an actual paid trail crew last Friday and noted that they indeed wore high canvas gaiters over long pants.

11:06 a.m. on September 30, 2013 (EDT)
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The scratches look like something I'd go out of my way to avoid, but I've also had nasty insect bites on unprotected legs. It's rarely so hot here that I need to wear shorts. I'll wear zip-offs in summer just because the material breathes well, and find that at the end of the season, I haven't taken them off. 

12:30 p.m. on September 30, 2013 (EDT)
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In the West it is rarely hot in the mountains. It is often wet and cool which part of the attraction for going there. Wilderness areas often have trail maintenance for the first 15 or maybe 25 miles due to the efforts of people like the Backcountry Horsemen of America. To me it is a big deal to "get in" far enough so that there is no trail maintenance. That is when it starts to feel like God's Country where the evidence of man is absent.

11:08 a.m. on October 1, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the trail work you do Tipi. Great pics as always. 

5:56 a.m. on October 3, 2013 (EDT)
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U are not the first one , even last one who have scars on surface skin from trees , rocks or else no one can have two or few good tings in wild ha, ha , ha, much luck next time and remember nature strikes back after FUKUSHIMA!!!!

9:05 p.m. on October 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:


If that's not bad enough, you have to worry about death from above---in the Bald River wilderness.

 Love this photo! Baby raccoons? 

PS: Thanks for all your hard work. 

9:48 a.m. on October 8, 2013 (EDT)
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GREAT Report and fun read! I always look forward to your reports, Tipi.  I don't get cut up by overgrowth, but a few times I ahve glisaded down shale...that leaves a mark or two!

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