16 Day Trip With Backpacking Friends

9:45 p.m. on August 1, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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Trip 112 July 11-26 2010

Citico/Slickrock Wilderness/TN--NC

I begin another long trip into the wilderness and enter at a place called Beech Gap where I lift and crawl under the Silverback Gorilla for 3 miles to my first camp at around 4,500 feet. Why the enormity? Cuz I'm carrying all of my dog's food(in the top green stuff sack). My pack and tent alone weigh in at 16 lbs.

WHEN ENTERING GNAT VALLEY--ALWAYS WEAR YOUR HEADNET! And so on Day 2 I move about in their world, and don't ever get between a mother gnat and her young.

On Day 3 I set up several miles further in at a place I call Snow Camp, another high elevation camp. While it's 100F down below, it's about 90F here, a cold snap.

A Boy Scout troop from Canton, NC and the Shining Rock boy scout camp pass thru on their way north on the Fodderstack trail.

THE SCOUTS ARE ON THE MOVE: And they leave Snow Camp and head north to Crowder Camp and down to Slickrock Creek on the Big Stack Gap trail.

KIM AND DAVID ON THE BOB: These guys came in with four backpacking border collies--all wearing packs.

Are these photos or just noise? Sorry for the dang pixel frenzy. Anyway, this shot shows David with his old vintage Jansport pack. And a couple of his family of border collies. God bless the Citico--they allow the almighty dog.

I'm moving all over the place, first up and over the Bob, then down to Naked Ground, then back up to the Bob where I capture this quick fotog.

I pass over the Bob and head down about a mile to this new tentsite on trail 54A. I call it Mighty Oak Camp because it's next to a big tree.

Talk about govt surveillance . . . . . . This mighty insect flew up to the Bob and proceeded to do a training landing and scooted off right before touchdown.

My buddy Coy Williams shows up on the Bob and we camp together for Day 6. He loves the woods and like to hang.

Later that night Medicine Man arrives from Beech Gap with his friend Wisenber and we planned a get-together for a couple days. They set up their hammocks nearby on the Bob. Check out Medicine Man's neato Aarn pack.

Wisenber and Medicine Man. Wisenber organized a hammock-hang trip and set the route to go down the dreaded Nutbuster, or the Upper Slickrock Creek trail #42. Going down is certainly much easier than coming up, but our next day travail turns out to be a butt kicker.

On the morning of Day 7, Coy is ready to hit the trail and leave the Bob for the high gap at Naked Ground.

WELCOME TO HELL: And welcome to the Nutbuster trail. Day 7 became a long 12 mile of backpacking down a treacherous and hellish trail from Naked Ground down to Slickrock Creek and then pulling the 10 crossings of the Slickrock until we reached Slisgah Camp and a get-together with Sgt Rock and his family.

What makes the Nutbuster so rough? Well, it's a steep motard coming up, and it's a dangerous briar filled, blowdown mess going down(or up for that matter). Coy wisely stayed back, and I got separated from Wisenber and Medicine Man who got hung up with an angry rattlesnake. We all eventually dragged into Sgt Rock's camp late on Day 7.

A welcomed relief found me in the camp and by the firepit of Sgt Rock and his Mom, his wife, and a late-arriving Medicine Man and Wisenber.

Here's a good shot of Medicine Man talking to Sgt Rock. Both are hammock experts and in camp that night I was in a tent surrounded by SEVEN HAMMOCKS!

On Day 8 Sgt Rock packs up and we all go our separate directions: Rock et.al. north on the BMT/Slickrock, Wisenber(above)and Medicine Man south up the Stiffknee to Farr Gap and out. I head over to the Stiffknee jct and set up for the night.

Everybody's loaded up for the 3 mile trek out to the Slickrock Creek trail via Ike Branch and the BMT.

If you do any backpacking on the Slickrock, this will be a common sight. Here's Medicine Man doing his thing.

Wisenber crossing the Slickrock. This fotog brings back a memory of an old Hootyhoo photo showing Wisenber crossing the South Fork of the Citico several years ago. Below is that photo taken by Hootyhoo in the Citico wilderness.

This Hootyhoo photo of Wisenber crossing the South Fork Citico several years ago has spawned endless discussions on German bladder packs and the HungWell Wehrmacht Array. BTW, the water was ice cold.

Summer backpacking trips should include numerous sheepdips and creek swimming. Here is Uncle Fungus at the Stiffknee trail jct.

The haul from Slickrock up the Stiffknee to Farr Gap is a hot slog and somewhat steep in places. Here I am at Farr Gap and ready to continue south on the Fodderstack trail to Crowder Camp.


10:09 p.m. on August 1, 2010 (EDT)
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Awesome........... do not even know what to say other than awesome.

9:09 a.m. on August 2, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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More of Trip 112:

I go south on Fodderstack Ridge from Farr Gap and it's a hot and sweaty climb but I reach this little spring right on the trail which never seems to dry up.

From Slickrock Creek to Crowder Camp is about 7 miles and it's a hot 7 miles, but Crowders is always a welcomed sight. We had a thunderstorm during the night and at one point there was complete silence and then BAM!!! An explosion came out of nowhere and right next to me. Lightning blast!

I leave Crowders and continue south on the Fodderstack trail(which is also the BMT)and reach an important top of a hill climb here at the junction with the Pine Ridge trail, a good place to take a break.

I return to Snow Camp which is on Fodderstack Ridge and about 1.5 miles below the Bob and while there set up this medicine wheel on a trailpost in camp.

I leave Snow Camp and cruise over to Cold Spring Gap where I set up a rare camp at the junction of many trails.

Cold Gap is a great place to set up the homebase for a night and wait out the big thunderstorms and lightning blasts a thousand feet higher and up a mile and a half on the Bob. Shunka looks to me for guidance.

Shunka and I leave Cold Gap and pull the thousand foot climb and swing past the Bob Tee and stop to fill our bone-dry jugs at the Tee Spring. Summer backpacking requires a constant IV drip of ingesting water.

Shunka pulls out his tunes and listens to his favorite songs as we take a rest up on Bob's Bald.

On Day 12 we get to the Bob and I set up at Hutnons Camp is empty and quiet.

Sunrise on the Bob on Day 13 and I catch this shot of the tent and the dog.

I leave the Bob and swing down to Naked Ground and then come up again and it's a hot sweaty climb so I take a break on the Butt Rock, the place where Bob's Wall starts and at the jct with the Horse Cove trail.

Does anyone recognize this guy? It's Trailspace member GONZAN! I swung up to the Bob from Naked Ground and ran into him with his brothers and other friends. He's playing around with a couple of his homemade alcohol stoves.

Gonzan brought several of his brothers up to the Bob for a weekend backpacking trip and he knows me from Trailspace. We all have a great shindig.

Later on in the day these two backpackers pass over the Bob and so I took a few fotogs of them coming in. This pic looks like something out of Backpacker Magazine.

Here's another view.

On Day 15 I return to Gonzan's camp and watch him prepare pancakes with blackberries.

I walk around the Bob and check out Gonzan's shelter, a poncho tarp.

Gonzan's friends Aline and Jesse show up on the Bob(and they came in on a nighthike the night before), and I get to meet these great people.

The boys are getting ready to shove off and they line up for a group photo.

Here's the full group shot of Gonzan and Jesse and Aline and all the rest. They head out and I have one more night before my trip ends.

I swing off the Bob for my last night and set up again at Cold Spring Gap.

The usually locked and gated road is sometimes opened for "trail maintenance" and so it happened that I was rudely awakened by a visitor on a mower.

KEN JONES TRAIL GURU: Once again I run into Ken Jones doing some BMT trailwork around Beech and Cold Gap. It's always good to see Ken and he's an area expert on trails and on working a crosscut saw.

I leave Cold Gap and get my buried cache and reach Beech Gap in the grass where I sit for my evac ride out. So ends another fantastic backpacking trip.

11:15 p.m. on August 2, 2010 (EDT)
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Your trip reports rock!!!

I have a question for you about Gonzan's poncho/tarp set up, did he have any bug netting or was it just open air?

7:49 a.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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It looked like open air with a bivy sac:

9:34 a.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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Yep, just a very simple, light, fast setup just intended for warm/cool weather use. It is actually the first time I have used it. Before now, even if alone, I have carried the green Eureka 3 man you see in the top right corner of that last pic. Virtually all of the places I am likely to go, on a regular basis, there is not much problem with bugs. But a small netting could very easily be strung up inside if needed or desired.

the "tarp" is a large silnylon poncho, so it serves multiple possible functions. It is "pitched" by either using an available branch or just using my hiking staff/pole as the vertical support. There are the three guy lines that meet at one spot on the vertical support: Two extend away from the pole and tarp at about a 120 degree angles from each other, and the third goes back in the apposing-force direction and provides centerline support for the tarp.

I complete the setup with a goretex military surplus bivy that I picked up for $50. The tarp in this arrangement only covers top 1/2 or 2/3 of my bag, so the bivy is needed in case a storm blows in.

I am at work at the moment, but I will post some more photos of it during lunch on my personal computer.

1:21 p.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for the additional pic. your awesome!!!


I would really like to see more pic's of your set up, I am getting ready do the GA section of the A.T. in Oct. and an still considering a light E shelter to take with me. If you don't mind me asking where did you get the bivy? and do you know its weight?

2:35 p.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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Here are a couple more shots of it:

A wide view from the front-

Heres a side/back view. Since there was only a chance of afternoon thunderstorms I didn't extend this side all the way to the ground to give me more head room. If I was expecting heavy rains or wind, I would just lower the vertical connection point to allow this third side to meet the ground as well.

Here's the "front"- I only had about1/3 to 1/2 of my bivy & bag up underneath so I could enjoy the stars and moonlight, but if it started raining, it would have been easy to get about 2/3 or more of the way under the tarp.

Here is a closer shot of the "inside". You can get a better idea of the scale by looking at my backpack, which is a full size 75+10L pack (@ 4500ci) as it fit easily all the way under the tarp next to me with room to spare.

The bivy is quite roomy, providing enough room to put my Thermarest Prolite 4 inside it underneath my sleeping bag.

I used one continuous 50ft length of para cord to rig it up.

Being that I have only used the setup once, and it never really rained, I can't really say how well it will work for your AT section hike. But unless it is throwing down cats and dogs, or it is raining sideways, it should be pretty adequate for most situations in late spring, summer, and early fall. At least in the mid and southern Appalachians. But even in a torrential, sideways downpour, you can still just close up the bivy and keep dry.

I bought the bivy from a friend in the military. It weights maybe between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds. He has some more for sale, I could probably hook you up with one for the same price.

I got the poncho tarp from Brainerd Army Navy Surplus for around $30 several years ago. It maybe weighs 1/3 of a pound.

3:51 p.m. on August 3, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for the pic's and info, I am definitely interested in the bivy and would like more info about it.


10:25 a.m. on August 4, 2010 (EDT)
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What a great trip report- I have learned as much practical trail info from reading your reports as any of the trail guides I own!

My brother and I were noticing there at Cold Spring Gap that they have changed the route of the trails. They now have the Fodderstack Trail/FS-95 following what was Cold Spring Gap Trail/FS-149 so that the Fodderstack, and I suppose the BMT, do not go right past the Bob anymore. I am guessing maybe they did that to divert traffic, especially horses, away from the Bob?

The Fodderstack trail marker had just been pulled up and moved over onto the Cold Spring trail, the wood junction post had been re-carved to show the change. There were brand spanking new signs declaring the lead up to the bob as now closed to horses, and it is now labeled as FS-54A as an extension of the Stratton Bald Trail/FS-54.

I looked like it had been done while we were up on the bald, or in the previous couple days. I just wondered if you knew anything about it or had noticed. I am sure others, like those highschoolers we tried to help, might get pretty turned around by the sudden reassignment of trails like that :)

10:35 a.m. on August 4, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't want to hijack Tipi's thread, just send me an email- the one in my profile- and I will get you some more info and photos of the bivy.

8:38 p.m. on August 4, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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I spent my last night right in Cold Spring Gap(on July 26)and noticed no brand new signs, although of course all the numbers have been changed and some new signs added in the last year. The old 95 Fodderstack trail used to go up and over the shoulder of the Bob(at the Tee)and return along Fodderstack Ridge to continue on to Cherry Log Gap and eventually Farr Gap, many miles away.

They changed that to Trail 54A(there's both a north and a south portion), and like you said rerouted Trail 95 left along the Cold Spring Gap trail #149. The reason for all this is because back in 2006 or so they cut a brand new BMT connector trail from near Brush Mt jct up to near Cherry Log Gap, so they redesignated Trail 95 as one continuous line running between Beech Gap, 149, and Cherry Log Gap.

Most maps do not show any of this. Most people don't even know about the new BMT connector off of Trail 149, but it's probably one of the best little sections of trails in the whole of the Citico/Slickrock as it passes by several clear flowing cold mountain creeks.

9:13 a.m. on August 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for the update and clarification, Tipi. I guess I/we missinterpreted the newness of the metal signs. Not one of the four maps I have from different sources show the changes.

Have you come accross the bodies of those four highschoolers yet? 'Cause I be thinkin' they got 'emselves kilt out thar.


4:20 p.m. on September 15, 2010 (EDT)
Alicia MacLeay @Alicia
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Great trip report! I liked seeing you guys meeting up on the trail.

The butterfly picture was beautiful.

May 25, 2020
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