17 Days With Cool September Nights

2:56 p.m. on September 28, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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Strap on your mouse cuz here we go again, boys, into the TN and NC mountain forests. Citico/Slickrock Wilderness, Sept 7-23 2010.

Ya can't leave a car sitting somewhere for 17 days, so I get Little Mitten to drop me off and she says goodbye to Shunka dog as we prepare to shove off. Of course, on such a long trip you need to leave a hidden emergency cache and I did: extra Thermarest, extra stove and stove pump, BearVault full of dog food(cuz I can't carry all my food and his too). Shunka is carrying a nearly empty dog pack since his illness several months ago. He used to go in with at least 15 days worth himself but now I carry around 8 days of his food and pick up the next 8 days later from the cache.

The trip begins at Beech Gap and we go in the Citico on the Fodderstack trail which is also the BMT. My pack is as usual monstrous.

My first night is spent along the BMT at a place called Barrel Gap, and I got two liters of water further back even though there's a spring seep right below the tent--drought conditions though require earlier water collection.

The next day I leave Barrel Gap and head up the BMT connector to Fodderstack Ridge and decide that even with 85 lbs I can FLY!! I get off the ground and hover for several minutes and then return back to the trail. Who says ya need to go ultralight?

On Day 3 I climb up to this 5,300 foot bald and stop for a break before continuing along the ridge behind the pack and veer off on another ridge called Horse Cove.

When you leave the high bald, you go along a high narrow "wall" and reach a jct with two trails, one running down to Naked Ground and another heading down a long 9 mile ridge known as Horse Cove. This was taken as the trail descends several hundred feet and reaches another trail jct called Wolf Laurel. I'm checking out all the new trailwork put in by the SCA boys.

I decide to spent several days on the 9 mile Horse Cove Ridge and so I set up camp at the Wolf Laurel trail junction, a place I got snowed in at during a 3 day blizzard in January.

Here is one of the old timey signs scattered thru the Slickrock area. Many have been stolen but a few remain.

On this trip I decided to bring out some different meals, this time a few Hawk Vittles.

On Day 4 I shove off from Wolf Laurel Camp and get excited about following the long newly cleared trail of Horse Cove Ridge.

The best part of the Horse Cove trail is how it reaches this spot where the trail opens up completely and there's nothing at all on the right side of you but empty space. Nifty.

I had to prop my camera up in the weeds to get this shot. The mountain range behind me houses the Snowbird Backcountry(behind that far ridge).

Here's a great example of the trailwork being done by Christy Ralston and her SCA boys from Asheville.

3/4's down the Horse Cove trail you reach this little spur ridge and a place I call Jebediah Camp. It's a first time camp for me and very nice, although I went around in the bushes and found some litter. See next pic.

Trash found at Jeb Camp on the Horse Cove ridge.

When Shunka saw all the trash he got angry and I asked him how he felt and if would go out looking for the fools who trashed the campsite. He looked at me and I took this pic. What will you do when you catch them?, I asked. He said, "Hav U seene Sparticus Sande an Blud??" Uh oh.

On Day 5 I get caught in an all day rainstorm and after getting and staying soaked for several hours and chilling I decide to depack and layer up with the rain jacket. Warmth! I'm on my way down into the Kilmer memorial loops.

I made it into the Kilmer memorial loops and take a break from the rain under this portico. My goal is a low campsite on the Naked Ground trail by the Little Santeetlah Creek.

Here's a good example of some of the trailwork done by the SCA boys, on the Naked Ground trail.

A primeval rainforest, the Kilmer valley is 4,000 acres of never-logged southern appalachian land, a rarity for backpackers as the trail is an honest-to-god trail and not some blown out bulldozed logging cut-turned-to-trail. Here I am set up at the Low Dog Camps.



11:01 a.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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Let's continue . . . . .

On Day 6 I leave the Low Dog Camps and begin the long steep climb in the Little Santee valley. So far the trail looks very nice.

The lower Naked Ground trail offers some neat landmarks, this footbridge being one of them.

I always like humping past this fine rock.

Here the trail passes by the famous hollow poplar where people usually stop for a few fotogs, or step inside to peer out. I places my Sigg water bottle to show size.

My goal for Day 6 is High Dog Camp, a nice place by fresh water to camp.

On Day 7 I leave High Dog Camp and pull some very steep sections and finally get to Naked Ground gap and so swing right along Four Mile Ridge to reach the mighty Hangover overlook. Here I camp for the night.

On Day 8 I meet up with Coy Williams and we work our way down the real Nutbuster trail, the infamous Upper Slickrock #42 Nutbuster Supreme!

We fight our way down the trail and take a break above the worst, steepest section of trail, Lonesome Ridge. Here we get water at the little spring called High Tooth Creek.

This shows the wonderful Nutbuster trail in full bloom. Belly flops and squirting duck walks, all part of the wilderness experience.

A typical Nutbuster relic: a broken pole and a lost hiker's sock, the last vestige of life on the Nutbuster.

After coming down Lonesome Ridge, which is the steepest section of them all, you reach this great rock reststop where we sit and take a break.

Right in the middle of the worst of the Nutbuster trail there is this camp in the Open Cove section. Here Coy and I set up camp before gearing up the next day and heading back up.

Coy gets all set up with his Speer hammock.

Coy is fiddling with the gear.


11:52 a.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Great Shots Tipi :)

It has been awhile since I darkened the upper slickrock. I am thinking I might plan a trip for next spring that takes my through there.

I admired the work of the SCA boys when we came up to the Bob from Wolf Laurel back in July. There was some ambitous repair and maintenance. The wild boar were none too kind, though, coming behind and rooting up some of the logs that were freshly cross-set in the steepest sections of the trail.

When you camped at hangover, did you bed down out on the point, or backtrack a little and set up off to the side under the trees somehwere?

I am anxious to get out there, autumn is by far my favorite time of year in those dear mountains. I will be down at Rattler Ford with some friends for a little car camping on the night of Oct 16th, and then plan to head out somewhere on the trail for the night of the 17th. Will you be on trail around that time?

1:03 a.m. on September 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Another great one so far Tipi, and it seems as if we were in the same hills at the same time!

I was having that urge from wilderness withdrawals to get my butt away from the stress down here and get back up in the woods. So after a long week me and a buddy headed to The Citico Creek Wilderness for a couple nights alongside the South Fork for the weekend of the 17th. By that time, Im sure you were a little farther East trekking through the Slickrock. We started Friday at Grassy Gap a little before Beech on the skyway. From there it was a straight-shot plummit down to the South Fork Trail by the creek where we camped. I gotta say even with how dry its been the creek was a'flowing. it was muuch needed a refreshing trip.

next destination... The Bob to Hangover! woo

lookin forward to the rest of the report.. love this area!

10:27 a.m. on September 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Making me crave getting out there, Renegade :)

12:47 a.m. on October 2, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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I'm back! And let's start on Day 9:

On Day 9 we leave the open cove camp and climb back up the nutbuster trail. Somewhere along the way Coy decides to clown around with his trail tools. The Nutbuster trail will make people crazy.

On the way up to Naked Ground, Coy stops on Lonesome Ridge to filter water from High Tooth Creek.

Climbing up the Nutbuster is a real struggle but when you hit this spot, the Heath Overlook, you know you're almost at the top.

We make it to the high gap at Naked Ground and Coy sets up camp for another night in the wilderness. I thought this was his Speer hammock, but I think it's his Clark jungle hammock.

Check out the running tree. Probably running away from a hammock camper.

On Day 10 Coy packs up and we part ways, he to Wolf Laurel and out and me up to the Bob. Before we leave, a couple from Atlanta pass thru Naked Ground.

I leave Coy and travel over the Bob and head down a thousand feet to a high cold spot called Cold Spring Gap. Just after arriving I used the pack's top lid as a daypack and went to my BearVault cache for dog food resupply.

It doesn't look like it could hold all that much but it'll haul 15 pounds easy, and it's comfy.

On Day 11 I reload with another weeks worth of dog food and do trail 149 down to the North Fork Citico and descend all 20 plus crossings to the bottom.

Well, it's still September which means it's hot as heck and so I pull off the trail on the North Fork and jump into Johnny's Hole, a great swimhole near camp.

Right at the second North Fork crossing I set up camp after a long day of trudging down the mountain about 3,000 feet. The North Fork is a tough trail, but camp is by water and a favorite.

On Day 12 I leave Camp Two and hoof it around the North Fork/South Fork area and just take it easy until the Harvey Broome Sierra Club group comes in for a short one night backpacking trip.

The Harvey Broome Sierra Club comes in for a one night backpacking trip and I tie in with them on the North Fork. One guy has my old pack, a 1980-era North Face Back Magic. It's looks brand new after 30 years.

Here's a closeup of the old North Face pack, along with some of the Club members. I thought my pack looks massive . . . . .

And dang it but not only did I get to hobnob with some Sierra Club backpackers, but who shows up in the mix but old Hootyhoo! We all set up our camps in close proximity.

The North Fork fills up with people. This is my favorite fotog of the trip. It's got everything.

On Day 13 I leave the big camps of the lower North Fork and reclimb the trail 3,000 feet back up and here I sit at Cherry Log Gap after a tough haul.

Not far from Cherry Log is Snow Camp, so I head to it and go to the spring for my two liters for the night.


10:36 a.m. on October 2, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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Okay, let's wrap this up.

On Day 14 I leave Snow Camp on Fodderstack Ridge, which is below Bob's Bald by about 600 feet, and cross over the Bald where I see the two backpackers from Knoxville I saw earlier in the trip. They are Gary and Nan, and are about to finish up a 5 day trip.

Gary and Nan came in earlier and tried to link up with the Sierra Club group on the North Fork but didn't go far enough up the trail and so camped at a lower North Fork camp. This means they got to do the complete South Fork/North Fork loop, a good intro to the Citico wilderness.

Shunka keeps a careful eye on the sleeping bag and protects it at all costs.

I spent Day 14 atop the Bob and it's a wonderful place.

On Day 15 I pull a short 3 mile hike from the Bob along Four Mile Ridge and go over Haoe Peak and down a bit to Saddle Tree Gap and the Hangover spur trail. Here I set up camp.

Saddle Tree Gap is a good place to camp if you want to experience a 5,000 foot homebase which always gets the wind. And a half mile further is the Hangover rock overlook. Check out the two open doors on the Hilleberg--ventilation!

On Day 16 I leave Saddle Tree and hump back over the Bob and fall down again to Cold Gap where I set up and do the all important Mister Citico poses. There's a series of 5 power clenchings which I only mercifully include one here. It's my last night on the trail.

The morning of Day 17 gets me up with a soft early sun and so I go around the tent for the necessary fotog. This shows two trails, the one in front coming down from the Bob and the BMT on the right going north to Farr Gap.

Okay, my last day out and so I load up a very light 40 lb pack and head out to my extraction point. It feels like an ultralight buttpack.

I wait at Beech Gap for my ride out and do the ceremonial last fotog to end the trip. The nights are getting cooler and so my October trip promises to have some cold, a very good thing.

7:36 p.m. on October 2, 2010 (EDT)
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Hats off to you Tipi, a very nice trip & report.

I did the BMT quite a few years ago, before I knew the Cherokee NF area very well. At the time I had no idea I was in such a cool area to backpack. I still haven't been to a lot of the places you frequent, but your reports help me understand the area better.

I have backpacked mostly south of Citigo and north of Hiawassee.

I enjoyed all the photos, thanks for posting!

I always hate leaving.

2:02 p.m. on October 3, 2010 (EDT)
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How far is an average day for you? The thought of your 85 pound pack is making my back ache!

10:39 a.m. on October 4, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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Gonzan: Good to hear from you. The Hangover has two separate camps, the clearcut camps and the higher "Airjet" camps. There's no place to put a tent at the very end by the overlook rocks, but there's a great campsite about 50 yards back on the trail.

I could be out around Oct 16-17 but it won't be anywhere near Rattler Ford, unless you consider Beech Gap and the Fodderstack trail north to be close. It looks like I'll be missing you this time.

Renegade 887: I've gone in many times at Grassy Gap and pulled that fine little trail down to the South Fork valley. Coming out again is a mini-nutbuster and in the summer you can break a sweat.

dm1333: Well, you know, an 85 lb pack at the beginning of a 17 day trip gets much lighter as you go, and when I came out my pack was around 40 lbs. Some days I go 3 miles, other days I do 9 or 12 or 14. The thing with the Citico/Slickrock is that you won't go far before you have to pull a 3,000 foot climb, so the mileage seems low. Anyway, I like to start a trip with much food and several books, maybe four, which of course are burned along the way.

3:19 p.m. on October 4, 2010 (EDT)
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Most of the rest of the folk that will be at rattler ford on the 15th are leaving the next morning, so I I plan on hitting the trail somewhere on the afternoon of the 16th. I may just hoof it up to the Bob from Beech Gap. When I came through Beech Gap in July I saw a large American Chestnut in bloom, so I want to check on it to see if it is actaully fruiting or not.

9:12 a.m. on October 5, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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Yeah, I passed that same tree on my way out and picked up an opened prickly seed pod to show Little Mitten. There's another fully mature chestunut up on Bob's Wall, the trail running from the Bob to the Horse Cove split. Dr Hill Craddock and his Chestnut Mountain Boys know about these trees and are trying to save them and study them.

I may be atop the Bob on the 16th, so I may get to see you.

6:37 p.m. on October 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I meant to ask....how is Shunka doing Tipi?

Your a good dog owner, many people would just leave the older dog at home, too much trouble you know.

Even when my dog got older I took him along because it just wasn't the same without him. Now I'm glad I did while I could.

9:00 p.m. on October 5, 2010 (EDT)
Tipi Walter
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My dog is a little confused but he's fully mobile and hikes with me everywhere I go. The thing is, I'm going slower too, so we keep up with each other. Hey Trouthunter, where was that NF sign?

7:04 p.m. on October 6, 2010 (EDT)
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That NF sign is located on state road TN 30 along the Hiwassee river corridor, and along the Polk / McMinn county line.

That section of Cherokee has several campgrounds (Quinn Springs is one) designed to serve fishermen and rafters, I usually drive on through a ways before backpacking just to get some solitude. That particular time I had already finished a trip and was back in my street clothes and headed home. I just couldn't leave Cherokee without stopping and prolonging my stay.

Tell Shunka I said hi, he won't care of course, but I do. I love dogs.

8:09 p.m. on October 7, 2010 (EDT)
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dm1333: Well, you know, an 85 lb pack at the beginning of a 17 day trip gets much lighter as you go, and when I came out my pack was around 40 lbs. Some days I go 3 miles, other days I do 9 or 12 or 14. The thing with the Citico/Slickrock is that you won't go far before you have to pull a 3,000 foot climb, so the mileage seems low. Anyway, I like to start a trip with much food and several books, maybe four, which of course are burned along the way.

Tipi, I don't think those mileages are low at all. Some of the roughest climbs and descents I have had were on trails in New Hampshire and in northern Georgia. My impression of trail building in the USA is that back east they just went straight up or down the hill using whatever stream or game trail they could find and as the country moved west we slowly discovered things like switch backs and route planning!

I am pretty set on retiring from the Coast Guard to a place like Colorado or Oregon but I also love western NC and eastern TN. I always enjoy seeing your trip reports here.

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