18 Days in the Bald River Backcountry

6:53 p.m. on August 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Okay, boys, here we go again, this time in a little known TN wilderness called the Bald River and Upper Bald River backcountry. August 7-24, 2010.

My hot summer trip begins along the Tellico River in southeast Tennessee and the first night is spent in the Green Cove community by this old 1930's era cabin, used to be a school. If you must choose between sleeping in a cabin or a tent, always pick the tent.

What better way to start a backpacking trip than sharing a Tellico River swimhole with friends. Here's Little Mitten("short round")with friends and family enjoying the cool waters of the Tellico. She drops me off on Day 2 nearby at the entrance to Bald River wilderness.

Little Mitten also foregoes the cabin experience and wants me to set up her little Light Wedge tent and on the morning of Day 2 I take this fotog of the camp.

Near the end of Day 2 Little Mitten drives home and drops me off by Bald River Falls and the entrance to the wilderness. I hoof it up to this high rock overlook, the "gorge", and set down my 85 lb pack for a sweaty look-see. Why so enormous? Uh . . . . 18 days . . . . without resupply. That's a lot of food. I've got most of Shunka's food too, he's carrying a nearly empty dog pack as he likes his gear, too.

On Day 3 I make my way thru the wilderness and stop every once in a while to dump the pack and jump into the creek, much needed in the furnace of east TN.

On Day 4 I reach a distant camp in the wilderness and it's by the final waterfall called the Cascades. There's the little red dome tent.

These guys decide to visit me on a tree right next to my tent and chatter away all night long, but in the morning they want to sleep! Friendly little motards, and I leave on Day 5 with them still in the tree. Didn't get my food bag this time!

I leave Raccoon Camp and tie into the Upper Bald River area by passing Holly Flats campground on a short roadwalk. The gnats are bad again, and it's HOT AND SWEATY.

By Day 6 I'm up in the Brookshire Creek area and decide to camp close to the BMT at a place called Horse Camp. Check out the nice Cabelas silk baselayer, once white.

Up past Horse Camp on the Brookshire trail is mighty Fern Valley, one of the best places to camp in all of the Cherokee NF. It's also the place Shunka had his struggle on an earlier trip. Hilleberg should use this fotog in their catalog.

On Day 7 I hump up the Brookshire trail and near the top by Sled Runner Gap I set up camp and who do I run into but old Hootyhoo and his dog Rooty. He just pulled in and had a terrible day of endless hiking with little water. The full report is in my trail journals, etc. Check out his Kelty 50th Anniv pack.

Welcome to Gnat Valley. We had to try on our dual headnets for the world wide web. The dogs seem relaxed.

On Day 8 Hootyhoo goes one way down the Brookshire and I go up to State Line Ridge and into the Heart of Darkness. So long, buddy! (Check out how the Kelty pack rides).

Way past Sled Runner Gap I reach this great campsite near Moss Gap along State Line Ridge and get soaked fully two times before making it here. It's a great place to camp. Notice the little white diamond blaze on the tree, the sign of the Benton MacKaye trail.

On Day 9 we leave the BMT and the State Line Ridge and hump down the Kirkland Creek trail, which has a total of 11 crossings as seen above. The Kirkland is a swampy jungle and in the summer it's a hot exercise in sweat.

After Kikland I swing around and enter the Bald River wilderness thru the back door and reach the Cascades waterfall where I dump the pack and go for a much needed swim. I also wash out my socks and clean out my muddy Hiker water filter.

On Day 10 I leave Bald River and hump over the Cow Camp trail and it's a steep, hot and sweaty climb. I stop at the top and rest. Past it on the other side is a 4 mile Tellico River roadwalk which must be done to tie into the Brushy Ridge wilderness area.

As I'm pulling my hot slog along the Tellico River road, I run into Rick and Brenda Harris on a bicycle trip. Rick is one of the famous Crosscut Mountain Boys who's responsible for most of the good trailwork in my neck of the woods. Him and his boys keep the trails open so I can hike 'em.

Here's what the Tellico River road looks like when you're humping it. Brenda took this shot with my new camera, a nice Panasonic Lumix LX3.

I leave the Tellico River and hook onto the North River and off of it is the Long Branch trail, recently worked by the Crosscut Mt Boys. Here's a rarely seen view of the trail as it climbs up and up and up. I keep going but find no decent campsites so I turn around and go back down to camp at the bottom.

At the bottom of Long Branch trail I find this emergency campsite and set up in the rain. I stood out in the rain for 40 minutes and got soaked, a great feeling in this summer heat.

I leave Long Branch and go upstream on the North River and reach another fine trail in the Brushy Ridge backcountry called McNabb Creek where I find this campsite in the middle range for the night of Day 11.

Testing out my new camera with a tent fly and a leaf.

On Day 12 me and Shunka boy go up McNabb Creek and find all sorts of things, like this pretty view along the trail. There's water everywhere. But . . . . .

Further up McNabb there's this wonderful sign of poison water due to road construction of the Skyway and iron pyrite pollution. Another good reason to stop highway construction.


9:46 p.m. on August 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Wow, nice looking trip. I will be glad when I can afford to go out and do a hike again this fall when its cooler down here in around Flagstaff.

11:51 p.m. on August 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks Gary for the blurb. There's more:

I climb up out of McNabb valley(and there are a few kick butt steep sections)and end up at the trailhead in Grassy Gap, so I fall off the other side of the mountain down into the Citico wilderness for a night.

After a night down along Grassy Branch trail, on Day 13 I pull back up to Grassy Gap and fall right back down McNabb Creek for some more exploration and another night in the tent. This shows Grassy Gap.

I eyeballed this camp the day before on my way up the trail and so I decided on the way down to set up and make it my homebase for a night. Right behind the tent and to the left is a fine huge rock with a high waterfall coming off it.

On Day 14 I leave McNadd and retackle Long Branch again and find a hot scrub trail with just enough water to keep me from going nuts. At the top of some no-name gap I pull off the trail about 75 feet and set up this camp, the two-doored tent is fully ventilated. While in camp a visitor comes to talk.

I see this guy trotting up to camp way before he sees me so I pull out the camera and catch him just as he spotted me. POW! And he was gone. Coyote.

On Day 15 as my trip starts to wind down I leave the Brushy Ridge district and pull the long roadwalk back into the Bald River area but do a reststop first at this picnic area.

I pull back into the Bald River wilderness and finally run into some other backpackers, Casey and Chris from Alabama, and they feed me good with corn on the cob and grilled potatoes with onions. Wow. Check out their little tent in the back.

Casey and Chris and their dog Kate shove off upstream on Bald River and I pack up and go downstream and deeper into the wilderness.

On the last night of my trip I set up camp by Bald River at a place called the Black Cave.

The end of the trip comes atop the rock overlooking Bald River Falls and my pack almost looks like a tiny 40 lb daypack. It feels great.

Saying goodbye is the hardest part of the trip.

Little Mitten and I set my evac time and date long ago and so here is the place: The Bald River trailhead. Cooler weather is on the way.

10:57 a.m. on August 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Nice trip report Tipi, I wish I could get out there for longet stents. But for now I make do with 2-4 days at a go, and live the rest of my time vicariously through people like you out on their own adventures!

2:01 p.m. on August 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Great trip report Tipi sounds like you had a great time! I must say though, I was floored when you said your pack was 85lbs. I don't think I could carry that down my street much less on a hike. What kind of pack are you using and what capacity is it?

2:39 p.m. on August 30, 2010 (EDT)
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My first few days are always hard due to pack weight, and now that my dog is old and tired, I have to carry 90% of his food too. He used to carry all of his food for a 15 day trip but now it's up to me.

I'm using a Mystery Ranch G6000 pack, around 6,500 cubic inches, or a little bit less. The top lid slides up and can cover more than any person could need or want to carry. My pack was so heavy because:

** I like to eat.

** I like to read.

** I don't resupply(except possibly for a BearVault full of spare dog food).

2:03 p.m. on August 31, 2010 (EDT)
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Great stuff, Tipi. Thanks for sharing! I will get my photos from when we crossed paths up on the Bob up sometime!

Bald River Falls is quite a lot of fun- we went for a swim, and waterfall jumping on baby falls, too :)

2:57 p.m. on August 31, 2010 (EDT)
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Great report and pictures. That is a long trip withou a resupply.

9:09 p.m. on August 31, 2010 (EDT)
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What breed of dog is Shunka? I don't think I have seen a dog like him before.

10:29 a.m. on September 1, 2010 (EDT)
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We surmise him to be mostly chow with something else thrown in. Back in '95 he was left off the side of a road in NC in a litter of six puppies and so parental influences are unknown. I remember him as a tiny zygoat and he started his life living out in a tipi and slept by a woodstove. He had a peculiar habit of going to the edge of the ridge I lived on during winter storms and facing west into the blowing snows and just sitting there for 20 minutes looking out. He has a thick malamute-type coat which has served him well for the last 15 years.

1:10 p.m. on September 1, 2010 (EDT)
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He is a beautiful dog, I really didnt think he would have been a found by the road kind of dog, but that realy cool.

4:22 p.m. on September 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Very nice. I'm always inspired by your trip reports.

September 22, 2019
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