Welcome to the New Year at -5F

1:14 p.m. on January 16, 2010 (EST)
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I just want to share a few fotogs of my last 15 day trip into the Bald River, Upper Bald River and Citico Creek Wilderness in Tennessee from Dec 31 to January 14. We had a record cold snap and I had temps at 10F for 10 days, a long time. Here I am on Day 3 climbing up and over Sugar Mountain on the Benton MacKaye trail.

I cross over Sugar and head up Sycamore Creek to 5,000 feet at Whiggs Meadow and get out of the wind by setting up by the frozen pond.

I wake up the next morning to 3F and a new batch of snow and so don the Feathered Friends Icefall parka which saved my butt for the time I was out.

I leave the Whigg at 5,000 feet and in about 8 miles I reach another 5,260 foot bald in arctic conditions called Bob Bald where I set up for the night.

I leave the Bob in preparation for a called-for Cold Snap, even worse than usual, and so I follow the ridge walk from the Bob to a gap camp called Naked Ground where I make my winter stand.

You gotta find a place to make your stand when the snow hits and the temps tip to -5F and I found it in a protected gap at around 5,000 feet. Here's the Hilleberg Staika tent giving me a cozy place to survive.

After 3 nights with frigid temps and not moving, I pack up and hit deep snow between 12 to 24 inches and several places waist deep, and so a normal 40 minute trek took me nearly 3 hours, and my dog couldn't get thru with his pack so I wore it.

I finally leave the high ground and drop down the Pine Ridge trail and climb up to Beehouse Gap and camp on the Flats Mountain trail for my last night before pick up. Here I am leaving Flats Mt at Beehouse Gap.

1:53 p.m. on January 16, 2010 (EST)
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As always thanks for sharing your trip with us.

I also winter camp in TN & NC, and up till last year did so with my trusty dog.

My dog backpacked with me until he was 13 years old and I really think that all the the exercise of backpacking along with a good diet is what made that possible.

You're never really alone when your dog is with you, and on solo trips it is great to have a dog to talk to, and hang out with. Dogs don't complain, whine, or have trouble keeping up in my experience.

I enjoyed the photos and really wish I had been able to do a trip during the recent cold snap. I love snowy, winter conditions and living in SC makes it a special treat to get to drive up to the NC or TN mountains during the winter to backpack and wade fish the many hidden mountain streams. I supplement my diet with fresh fish and crayfish on a lot of my trips, same for my dog.

Questions if you don't mind.....

Were you able to stash a food cache along your route, or did you pack everything in? If so are you burying, or just hiding the cache?

I am still saving up to get a Hilleberg tent, one consideration I have is accommodating a dog. I'm also saving up for a new pack dog. My dog used to sleep out in the vestibule on a pile of pine straw, leaves, etc. Keeping him in the tent was troublesome as he liked to venture out & about several times a night and interrupted my sleep. Um..so any thoughts on Hille tent models and dogs you may have would be appreciated. I prefer the larger northern breeds so vestibule size is a concern.

What kind of gloves did you use and what did you think of them? I'm still searching for a replacement to some gloves that I can no longer find.

Thanks Tipi, I read your Journals & respect your opinion.

2:30 p.m. on January 16, 2010 (EST)
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I have been following your trip reports over on Trail Journals for months, and have gotten so much out of them- thanks for sharing!

I am quite jealous of your whigg/bob snow trip- my brother and I were up at Big Stack Gap over the weekend before Christmas in a foot snow. I have yet to do a long trip like yours though.

I second TroutHunter's questions- I would love to hear your responses.

2:58 p.m. on January 16, 2010 (EST)
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A couple questions about how you are harvesting trout and crayfish in winter, if you don't mind.

For the trout, are you using fly and rod? What are your favorite streams in Cherokee?
Hunting the crayfish, are you just wading and flipping rocks? I have hunted crayfish all my life, but have never seen them active during the winter, but perhaps I just wasn't looking, or not in the right spots. Any suggestions?


4:35 p.m. on January 16, 2010 (EST)
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Hey gonzan,

Do you mean Cherokee National Forest?

I'm using both fly rod & spinning rods, I'm not one of those who prescribe to the notion that a fly rod is the only 'right way' to trout fish.

I use a combination of flies, beaded nymphs, lures like the Rapala Countdown, and natural bait. Young Crayfish make good Brown Trout bait at night, in my experience. They are certainly easier to catch in warmer months.

On the Crayfish in winter, sometimes I get lucky at night flipping rocks while using a ultraviolet headlamp to see, sometimes you need more light though. Crayfish do get less active during winter and some species seek deeper water and hide or burrow in the stream bed aggregate, and some species burrow in the stream bank.

The trout fishing is much better in the winter than the crayfish hunting is for sure, so I don't know that I have any secrets except that both Brown trout and Crayfish are nocturnal and night time is when I do the best for those.

I also think the crayfish populations are higher in streams that do not hold Brown trout, just Rainbows or Brookies, but that's just a hunch really, I have no way to prove it.

Hope that helps, there used to be a Crayfish forum believe it or not, but I can't recall the web address. There was a lot of good info on there.

4:44 p.m. on January 16, 2010 (EST)
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Walter: That was one bad-ass campout!

Read your blogspot pages and it occurred to me that living in the woods was actually among the only practical ways to get out there winter, given that the snowstorms paralyze all traffic movements into and out of the hills. Not like it's practical to bop up to a remote TH from down here in the flatlands after a big storm's gone through. Most of the roads up there will be closed.

The area around Lake Tahoe had tons of snow-clearing infrastructure because of the hundred-plus inches of snow and all the tourist traffic, so it was pretty easy for Bay Area types to do snow outings.

8:30 p.m. on January 16, 2010 (EST)
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Trouthunter--The only time I ever cached food was for a 23 day trip about two months ago, and I had two BearVaults hidden behind a fallen tree rootball with dead leaves and sticks. I find that I'm able to pull around 15 to 18 days w/o a food cache and so most of my longer trips are self contained with one pack load of food and fuel. And I always keep a couple emergency non-food caches near trailheads: a bag with a spare Thermarest, spare MSR stove and fuel pump, just in case, since I'm usually dropped off and can't easily bail for broken gear.

As far as a good Hilleberg tent for one person and a dog, well, the Staika would be near perfect though it weighs about 8lbs(the tent I use), and the Keron 3 is another big tent at 8.10lbs and has two big vestibules for gear and a dog, and the inside room is huge(37 sq feet).

Gonzan--It's neat you were out in the Slickrock area before Christmas as I was several miles away for 6 days in the Bald River area and in the snow, too.

Tommangan--On one of my recent trips my ride was snowed off my appointed pickup and so I walked to the icey road and hitched out and after walking about 1.5 miles caught a ride in a pickup truck. Sometimes the best times to hitch in or out are during blizzards as people will pick you up. The freedom of not having a car can sometimes be worth it.

As far as winter gloves go, I always take two pairs and always keep one pair dry just in case, like always having one dry pair of socks no matter what. I go thru gloves about like socks and recently found some nice fleece "Thermolite" gloves at Walmart for $5 each so I bought 3 pair and they're warm enough. Someday I may spring for those down mittens mountaineers use . . . maybe.

11:56 p.m. on January 16, 2010 (EST)
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Hey Tipi, I was lookin @ all of the pics on whiteblaze and I gotta say great stuff. I hope to get to alot of those places someday.

4:10 p.m. on January 17, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks Tipi, I would really like to do a trip up to the BOB this year.

I also want to do the BMT again, last time I got sick and had to stop short.

6:10 p.m. on January 17, 2010 (EST)
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Very nice trip report, Tipi. I enjoyed it and the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

9:38 p.m. on January 17, 2010 (EST)
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My husband is a winter camper but I am not. I have some real temperature control issues. I wonder what my girls are going to be like. I would love to go on a dog sled expedition but I am not sure if it would be possible for me.

10:34 a.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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Trout Hunter, yes I was meaning the Cherokee N F- Thanks for your reply!

11:09 a.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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I found some gloves that I really like- I'm wearing them in my profile pic. They are actually windproof liners made by a company called Becker Gloves and sold under the labels "Grand Sierra" and "BecTech". And they can be bought for between $6 and $12!

They are of course synthetic, very slim fitting, and are very warm, though not waterproof. Becaue the multi-layered fabric is very close fitting and slightly elastic, they provide much more dexterity, especially in the fingertips, than a fleece liner or glove.

I do not know if there are an major retailers that sell them, but you can order them online from Burnham Gloves. On their website they are just $5.50 a pair, but shipping is around $8, so it's best to order several pairs to make it worthwhile.


7:49 p.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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Trout Hunter, yes I was meaning the Cherokee N F- Thanks for your reply!

Streams in the Northern Section: Paint, Jennings, Broad Shoal, Laurel, Little Stoney.

Streams in the Southern Section: Sylco, Big Lost, Tieskee, Citico, North Telico, Bald, and last but not least, the Hiawassee (big water).

Here is a photo of the Hiawassee:

The Hiawasse is a tailwater and the water level is controlled by the amount of water released by the Appalachia Dam & Powerhouse. This photo show the water at minimum flow, at high flow the water level is 2-3 ft. above these rocks and is not wade-able.

This is a section called Big Bend, as you can see this is a large river, up to 900' across. More fish here than you can shake a stick at. I never go hungry backpacking in Cherokee!

9:52 p.m. on January 18, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks for the stream info! I intend on doing more stream fishing, and am familiar with a few you mentioned, foremost of course the Hiawassee. I used to go up there in the summer and float down with friends or family. Last time I was up there was about a year or so ago, and we got some nice underwater shots of some hellbenders.

10:04 p.m. on January 19, 2010 (EST)
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That's cool gonzan, so you and tipi had a near miss up around Citico?

I like tipi's tent.

10:45 a.m. on January 20, 2010 (EST)
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In the future when I plan a trip I will probably see if tipi or others are going to be in the same area- it would be great to meet some of the trail kings out in their element!

I am am extremely jealous of Tipi's Hilleberg tents- he has owned at least three of them- the Staika, the Nammatj, and the Keron.

A Hilleberge will definitely be one of my next large ticket items.

I have been wanting to ask Tipi for a review of the Keron and Nammy (he already reviewed Staika) for comparrison. I don't fully trust many reviews not knowing what kind of use the reviewer has given it or what standards they hold for their gear. But I am dying to hear Tipi's honest assesment!

Tipi- Can I be so brazen to beg for those reviews?

12:37 p.m. on January 20, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks for asking. I have a final(third)Staika review forthcoming and it will be fairly exhaustive and include some details not normally considered, like the longevity of the elastic tent connectors(used on most all Hilleberg tents to connect inner tents to the outer flies), and the discovery of finding that they permanently stretch over several years of hard use. I compared my old Staika to my new Staika and found the old elastic to be permanently about 1 inch longer due to use. No big deal, it just causes the inner tent to sag a bit.

Of course, it must be said that Petra Hilleberg emailed me and offered to send me new elastic strips for my own home repair, or to send in the tent for them to repair. This detail is not too important and won't stop me from using the thing, and even after many years of use it still has a good 5 years of life left.

I haven't done a Nammatj 3 review yet and there are some important things to consider with a Nammatj(or the short tunnels like the Nallos), the main one being its stubby shortness and the angled foot end. I have a sort of pet peeve against the inner tent resting up against the foot of my sleeping bag, and the short tunnels are known for doing this. In fact, Hilleberg in their Tent Handbook has this to say(with a picture): JACKET OVER YOUR BAG: "Before going to sleep, zip your waterproof/breathable jacket over the foot of your sleeping bag. This will help keep any condensation from getting to your insulation."

So, in other words, some of their tents could be considered "too short." Hence the purchase of the Keron which has vertical ends and no "bag rubbing." I just wrote up a long Pros/Cons of the Keron 3 in my trail journals and will post it here soon enough.

2:28 p.m. on January 22, 2010 (EST)
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Thanks for the quick review/comparison, and will look forward to the third Staika review! I hope you might do a full review on the Nammy and Keron as well sometime.

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