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15 Days In The Fourth Season

I just got back from a neato backpacking trip in the mountains of Tennessee and so here are some of the fotogs:(Feb 2010)

My GF drops me off at the Bald River wilderness trailhead and I'm loaded down with 15 days of food and winter gear. The red thing's my tent and the top high sac is my third overflow food bag. Shunka dog also has some weight.

I set up in the wilderness and my first snowstorm of the trip begins. There will be two more before the trip is over. My tent of choice is a Hilleberg Staika.

I leave the wilderness at this Cow Camp trail junction and tie into the North River and a northeast trail called the Hemlock Creek trail #101.

I get ready to change into Crocs and have 7 total crossings of the creek but after the 4th crossing I reach a fine campsite for the night. For some reason these crossings kicked my butt and made my feet overly cold.

I call this place Snaketooth Camp cuz it reminds me of another campsite in NC called Lost Valley. You can see Hemlock Creek to the left.

Here's the trail up the ridge. I leave camp and pull 3 more crossings and then hit a 50 degree ravine climb which really kicked my butt and then I was faced with an unmaintained ridge walk with neverending blowdowns. It becomes the Poison Hemlock Trail. Yes, the trail goes straight up into that mess.

After pulling the Poison Hemlock trail I tie into the 6.2 mile Flats Mountain trail and decide to set up at the first clearing I find. Check out the nice WM down pants.

The Flat Mountain trail is a great way to tie in Brushy Ridge with the Citico wilderness and so here I am on the lower section by Beehouse Gap(see Hootyhoo's Brushy Ridge trip report). There's a lot of blowdowns all along this trail, but thankfully not many across the trail.

I get into the Citico and climb the Pine Ridge trail where it joins the Fodderstack trail(also the Benton MacKaye trail), and in this pic I'm climbing up and over Rockstack Mt. The yellow thing is my 3.10lb Base Camp Thermarest wrapped in a 8x10 silnylon tarp.

The 2nd snowstorm of the trip hits me at 5,300 feet on top of Bob Bald and I run into another backpacker and friend Hootyhoo hunkered in for the storm.

Here's where Hootyhoo spent 3 nights and close to my camp where I spent 2 nights. It was a cold place with nonstop sleet and snow. Paradise.

After the storm we get out to cook and here's Hootyhoo with his dog Rooty. We decide to leave the bald and I decide to follow.

I pack up and wait for Hootyhoo to join me. My boots are bricks of ice and so I have to wear my booties until they thaw.

He's packed and we're ready for a snowy slog off the mountain to Cold Spring Gap. Check out the Mt Washington type view.

We make it to a split in the trail and pose for this fotog. The next section of trail is a Hell Slog in brush and blowdowns and snowdowns--that stuff that leans over with the weight of the snow.

We reach Cold Gap and set up in the snow for another night of cold, my 12th.

We had ice and branches from the trees falling all around us. Hootyhoo and I looked at each other and figured we'd both be dead by morning.

I leave Hootyhoo and get back into the heart of the Citico and stop here at the Pine Ridge junction to camp.

I get down off the mountain and loop back up the North Fork Citico trail and pass by one of my favorite swimholes, Johnny's Hole. I camp right up past this spot.

On Day 14 my trip gets hit with another snowstorm and so we're back in the 14F temps again. This has been a very white winter. I'm camped on the North Fork by the first crossing.

On my last day I leave the North Fork on this fine bridge and decide to hitchhike out as my ride won't make it on the frozen roads.

In order to get out to a real road, I have to hike out on this snow covered road.

A friendly sort picked me up and gave me a ride all the way into town and so ends another great winter trip.

Wonderful pictures Tipi. But the pack in first picture does not look to be exactly UL. How much does you carry and how much on the dog?

Also interesting to see the conditions wary from lots of snow to almost none, all on the same tour.

Do you btw have some arrangment for the dog, like a bag or something to prevent him from freezing in the nights? He looked to be a content dog, I loved to see that.

My old dog was raised in the snow and seems to get excited when it falls, about like I do. He has an uncanny ability to dig in a leaf berm and set up for the night like a malamute. He won't stay in the tent as he's too concerned with outside activity. The only time I had him freak out on me during a trip was last winter during a -10F cold snap when the trees were popping like gunshots. Made him nervous.

Tellico is one of my favorite places in world to camp and hike, it is so beautiful and peaceful. It's also got the whitewater if your into that.

Thanks for the trip report and photos.

I was in the Bald River Gorge about 6 years ago, I'm trying to figure out if I used that same trailhead, seems to me there was both a northern & southern trailhead.

I remember a steep climb right off the bat leaving the parking area. Sound familiar?

Good to see you guys having a blast out there, doggies too!

Great report, Tipi,

Do you ever see much large wildlife in the snow? Last time i was out in it we saw the tracks from turkey, deer, coyote, grouse, and boar. A coyote or other largish animal inspected our tent in the middle of the night.I woke up with that vivid feeling of knowing something woke me up, but not knowing what it was, until the crunch of its footsteps resumed a couple inches from my head outside the tent. I'm still not certain what it was however, as the falling snow had obscured the tracks too much by morning.

Trouthunter: You're right, there's a northern entrance and a southern exit about 6 miles away. The trailhead by Bald River Falls is the start and climbs up and over to the top of the falls and then bisects the 4,000 acre Bald River valley. It's a great trail if you want to tie into the Upper Bald wilderness area, Brookshire Creek, Benton MacKaye trail, State Line Ridge, Kirkland Creek loop, and the BMT north over Sugar Mountain and all points north into the Citico and Slickrock.

Gonzan: On this trip I saw A LOT of turkey tracks, of course they show up good in snow. I've had several coyote encounters, one time a big coyote ran thru my camp in daylight and passed by me 10 feet away. My dog tends to keep wildlife at bay and away from the tent.

That was a good trip for me. Good TR.

Speaking of turkey tracks, out here on the Left Coast, we are seeing more and more wild turkeys. Some flocks are invading residential neighborhoods to the point of becoming a nuisance. There was a news report on this a few days ago that added some information that I, in my naivete, was unaware of. My innocent assumption was, that since Ben Franklin had proposed the turkey as the National Bird (he denigrated the bald eagle as an unworthy scavenger and praised the turkey as a noble bird), turkeys must be native to all of North America. Thus our local turkeys must be native. Alas, it turns out that our local wild turkeys, like our local wild pigs, are "invasive species" (along with certain voracious non-native fish and tiger mollusks). Like the pigs, they were introduced here for the sport of hunting, but are not hunted enough to control the population (ever eat wild turkey? It's like chewing on leather, quite unlike those "butterball" mushy things in the grocery stores at Thanksgiving or Christmas, which makes me doubt that the Pilgrims and local Native Americans really had turkey at their purported Thanksgiving feast).

Plus these guys are really aggressive and territorial. Just like the pigs, some of which stand 5 feet tall at the shoulder - really scary to run across them when night-hiking.

Bill, I didn't realize turkey were populous on the west coast. They used to be much less common in many areas of the South East, but they are found pretty much everywhere in this region now. Much like beaver, which were vehemently protected not too long ago, but are now so numerous they are becoming a major problem.

Interestingly enough, the wild (russian/european) boar was introduced not far from where I live, and in the area I backpack the most often.

"In 1911, a 500 to 600-acre hog lot was constructed, with a split rail fence nine rails high. In April 1912, [they recieved] a shipment of 14 European wild hogs...many escaped the lot ...[they] became established in the surrounding mountain terrain..." -excerpt from the the history of Graham County NC

So has anyone else been attacked by a turkey? When I was about 6 yrs old, I had a very territorial Tom turkey latch on to my back with its feet, and proceed to flog me with it's wings. It is hilarious to think about now, but was not funny at the time!

Over the past several years wild turkeys have popped up all over Minnesota. I don't recall seeing them 5 years ago and now they have invaded suburbia, similar to geese. I don't know what's changed, but turkeys are everywhere.

Walter, great photos, looks like a fun trip in an exhausting sort of way.

Turkeys were the first "wildlife" I saw upon arriving at my first state park in North Carolina. More like very large chickens on the loose.

I have to be careful when leaving my house on a bike in the mornings. One of these days a startled tom is going to charge me instead of running away and then it will be man vs. turkey!

As far as them being tough? That's what roaster bags are for, they are tastier and a lot moister when cooked in a bag.

October 28, 2020
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