20 Days In Late October

2:07 p.m. on November 7, 2010 (EST)
Tipi Walter
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I pulled another backpacking trip in the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests and it was my longest trip without resupply, although I did have a BearVault full of dog food for my dog Shunka.

The trip dates were October 14 to November 2, 2010, and started on the Cherohala Skyway by getting dropped off at Beech Gap in the Citico Wilderness of Tennessee.  Here are the highlights of the trip:

**  Three BMT Thruhikers on Day 1

**  Camping With Hootyhoo On Day 2

**  On The Bob With Hootyhoo, Gonzan and Nashville Randy

**  Six Days on Four Mile Ridge

**  BMT Thruhikers Squirrel and Smack

**  Bearpaw on the BMT at Slickrock Creek

**  Seven Days with the BMTA Crew

**  Big Windstorm at Cold Springs Gap

**  Huddled in a Mud Gap Rainstorm with Sgt Rock

This trip starts out on October 14 at 4,600 feet in a cold fog.  My pack has never been heavier but it's loaded with enough food and fuel for 20 days including 12 days worth of food for my dog.  Oh, and several books.  At my feet is the single BearVault and emergency Thermarest cache to be hidden somewhere along the trail.

As I make my way along the BMT on Fodderstack Ridge I run into these two backpackers pulling a six day trip.  Their names are Jim and John.

On Day 2 after camping at Barrel Gap Camp I hump up a few hills to the high spine called Fodderstack Ridge and set up camp at a place called Snow Camp.  The orange back-sac is my North Face down jacket stuffed.  The boots are my usual winter Asolo 520s.  I got some new shorts for the trip, North Face Flight, like them.

Before the trip I email Hootyhoo a tentative route and so he shows up to camp with me for a couple days as he crosses over Bob Bald and descends around 700 feet to Snow Camp. 

Hooty said that when he woke up in the morning he had ice in his cooking pot, a top lid of ice over the water, so thank God it was beginning to get cold again.  Why backpack if it's not cold??  Hooty is using his Kelty pack and his red Marmot rain jacket.

Hooty sets up his Integral Designs tarp and he's been using it for the summer and will upgrade to his tent when winter really hits.  In the back is my Staika.

It's not often you find a dog that can read, and Rooty is one special dog.  Here he is reading thru a Campmor catalog.

On Day 3 a solo backpacker passes thru Snow Camp and he's a friendly sort so we invite him to join us on a round-about route up to Bob's Bald.  Notice the "circle of trust" created by the dogs, including Randy's dog Zoe.  On the other hand, it could be called the "Circle of Anuses" ha ha ha.

On Day 3 Hootyhoo leads us back to Cold Spring Gap and a "secret" way to the Bob by way of the Wedge, a series of old logging cuts and hidden trails.  Here we are along Bob Creek as it makes it's way up the mountain.

After a round-about course, we near the top of 5,300 foot Bob Bald and run into Trailspace member Gonzan out for a couple nights.  It was good to run into him and I remember him from a recent Bob trip when he was with his brothers.  This was taken near the first Bob springhead.

We get all set up on the Bob and Randy's dog gets outfitted in her Top Gun jacket for the cold, a weird sight for sure.

Here's a fotog of Hootyhoo's tarp camp on the Bob.  Check out the Marmot Couloir bag and the tyvek ground cloth.

A cold morning starts Day 4 as does the rising Sun in the back. My pad is a Prolite Plus and a WM Puma sleeping bag.

It's wake-up time on the Bob and Hootyhoo starts breakfast and then packs up.  We all split up on Day 4, them out to Beech Gap and me along Four Mile Ridge to Naked Ground.

Here's a group shot of the crew:  Gonzan, Randy and Hootyhoo.

Uncle Fungus joins in the fun.

The boys leave the Bob on the old tractor road and back down into the Wedge.  I go the other way towards the Hangover.

There's no better camp than Watauga Camp, and it's located a couple yards past Naked Ground and is around 5,000 feet. 

On Day 5 I cruise over to Saddle Tree Gap and the Hangover and run into a guy who reads my trail journals, Chris Phillips.  A friendly sort, he's pulling a 4 day 60 mile trip and is doing most of the trails in the Citico/Slickrock.

On Day 6 I drop of Hangover mountain and take a secret side trail down a few hundred feet and reach this special place I call Table Rock.  Behind me is Fodderstack Ridge and the BMT which runs along the ridge.

I had to add this neat shot showing the rock and the open space below looking down into Slickrock Creek valley and the wilderness.  On the back of the pack is my Icebreaker merino zip neck tops.

Below the Hangover about a thousand feet is a long level gap I call Elysium Fields, and it's one of my favorite camps although it has no water.  Ya gotta get it on the way down.

A solo backpacker from St Louis passes thru and he offers me some food which I take for Shunka as his supply always needs to be increased. 

On the morning of Day 7 I get caught in a pleasant and cold Autumn rain and I like the look of the water and the leaves.  We're preparing to pack up and move.

I leave Elysium Fields and fall another thousand feet to Big Fat Gap and get ready to fall another thousand feet to the valley of Slickrock Creek.

I reach Slickrock Creek and set up a camp but first I have to bring down a rotted and dead birch leaning over my tentsite.  It was about 25 feet high and weighed around 800 lbs, but with a little swaying it fell right where my tent is set up.

On Day 8 I spend all day backpacking in my crocs on the 10 crossings of Slickrock Creek(out of 12 total).  Here's a nice scene at one of the crossings.

On Day 9 my camp is passed by these two BMT thruhikers, Squirrel and Smack.  They are moving fast and doing 20 mile days and will be atop Whiggs Meadow for the night, a long way's off.  They look like they have very little food and almost no extra clothing(and it got in the 20s up top the Whigg the next day).

Here's Smack crossing the mighty Slickrock, at low water levels, of course.

Squirrel and Smack mentioned something about a "lost" backpacker and he sounded familiar, and then after Squirrel and Smack leave who passes thru camp but Bearpaw doing a slackpack after he got a bit "confused" the day before.  He's a Whiteblaze and Hammock Forum member.

On Day 9 we leave the Slickrock and head up the Nichols Cove trail where we set up camp.  Here's Shunka hanging out by Nichols Cove Creek.

On Day 10 I climb the rest of the way up Nichols Cove and get on the Yellowhammer trail which passes by a little gravesite and gets to a nice little gap for camping.  I gotta be at that gap to link up with a planned 12 day backpacking trip sponsored by the BMTA.

So I spend Saturday night here at Wild Bird Camp which is above Calderwood Lake and right on the BMT.  The next day I will link up with Rick Harris, Regina Reiter, Sgt Rock and the BMTA crew.



3:36 p.m. on November 7, 2010 (EST)
Tipi Walter
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Okay, on Day 11 I get up to greet the BMTA hikers.

The BMTA crew arrives for their 98 mile trip.  They start at Deals Gap and will end up on the Ocoee River near Georgia.  It's Regina Reiter, Rick Harris, CB, and Brock.

Multiple thruhiker Regina Reiter poses for a shot on the Ike Branch portion of the BMT.  She's hike the trail at least three times, and I ran into her last winter somewhere near Snow Camp.

Here she is crossing Slickrock Creek and we're on our way to Stiffknee Camp.

Just about the time we reach our camp at the Stiffknee jct who shows up to backpack with us but Sgt Rock of Whiteblaze and his Hiking Headquarters fame.

On Day 11 I set up with the crew at the Stiffknee trail junction on Slickrock Creek and we gather for a meal.  The guy in the red right is Don.

On Day 12 we climb the steep pull out of the Little Slickrock Creek valley and reach Stiffknee Gap where we stop to rest before pulling the hardest climb of the trip to Farr Gap.

Halfway done with the hardest hike of the whole trip, we stop at Farr Gap for lunch.

After a long day the crew camps down by the spring on Crowder Branch and I go up about 200 yards to camp at a favorite spot on Fodderstack Ridge.  Crowder Camp.

On Day 13 we leave Crowders and pull Fodderstack Ridge all the way past Snow Camp and down the new BMT connector trail and stop for water while Sgt Rock checks his GPS toy.

We hit trail 149 in a fierce windstorm with toppling trees(notice the recent blowdown they're sitting atop), and our goal is Cold Spring Gap but before we tank up on water.  At the gap we head down into the Wedge to get out of the wind and I show them a new neat campsite with water.  This shows Brock and Rick Harris resting.

We bail off the ridge and find this protected spot in the Wedge of the Bob, it even has a real fast flowing creek, Bob's Creek.  On this trip a couple guys had TarpTents(one leaked so bad a guy had to bail for a day).  Rick's tent was an old MSR hoop that also leaked and he had to get his wife to take our his bag to dry and bring another tent, a Big Agnes 3-Wire bivy sac.  Regina used a Jardine tarp and Rock had his homemade hammock which ripped during the night and threw him to the ground.  But this happens later . . . . .




7:34 p.m. on November 7, 2010 (EST)
Tipi Walter
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There's more:

On Day 14 I take a little movie of the backpackers climbing the stiff but short hump out of the Wedge and so here's Don huffing up to Cold Spring Gap.  This is a still shot from the video.

Here's Regina coming up from the Wedge.  It turns out to be a very windy day and the night before there were weather warnings all over the place.  Chattanooga had a tornado.

The mighty Rock emerges from the Wedge.

Up in Cold Spring Gap we stop for a brief rest while cellphones are whipped out for some logistics.  Brock is bailing due to a bad knee.  Rick's tent leaked and so his wife is meeting us at Beech Gap to take his wet WM bag home to dry and meeting us up on the Whigg later in the day to give him a new bivy sac and a dried bag.

We pass thru Beech Gap and I retrieve a BearVault dog food cache while the others speed into the gap for some trail angel-ing.  Afterwards, we pull the North River section and the Rock Quarry part and end up at Mud Gap in a 40 minute cold rainstorm.  Here I am with Sgt Rock huddled under his Cuben tarp connected to a tiny bulletin board eave.  It lets up and I book it the 1.5 mile hill to Whiggs Meadow but get caught in more cold rain and find the top of the Whigg at 5,000 feet to be wind whipped, cold and wet.  Perfect!

I knew once we got to the Whigg that no one else would be camping on the very top due to the high winds and pelting sleet-like rain, so I pulled out all of my 12 stakes and bolted down the Hilleberg in conditions it was made for.  Everyone else was a hundred yards back in the treeline by a creek.  Rick's wife came up later to the deadend parking lot on the fringe of the Whigg and brought Rick his new tent and took out Don who bailed due to a leaking TartTent which soaked his bag.

Here's the group's campsite on the Whigg and shows Don getting ready to bail for one night to dry his gear.  He'll rejoin us down on the Tellico River the next day.

Rick replaced his old leaking MSR hoop tent with this new Big Agnes 3-Wire Bivy sac.  Anything to stay dry, brother.

On the morning of my 15th day I wake up to a calm but foggy Whigg and so we pack up and head down 3,000 feet along Sycamore Creek trail.

But wait!  The sky clears and we get some great views on a cool morning at 5,000 feet.  We are headed to the distance mountain range in the middle of the fotog.  Rick looks good geared up.

We make it down the Sycamore and take a break.  Here's a pic of Sgt Rock's pack with the floppy hammock pad.  Last night on top of the Whigg his homemade hammock ripped apart and dumped him to the ground around 10pm, so he had to go into Tellico to meet his wife who was bringing another hammock for the rest of the trip.  Interesting.

The rest of the group camps down by the Tellico River and I stay about a mile up the Sycamore and start the day off in some cold temps.  Icebreaker merinos tops and bottoms.  After 16 days my pack is getting smaller.

I catch up with the crew by the Fish Hatchery and we get ready to climb the switchbacked Sugar Mt up and over to tie in with the Brookshire trail.

We pass over Sugar and Regina rock hops the tiny Upper Bald which eventually becomes Bald River Falls.

Below the Brookshire Creek crossing there's this set of falls I call Wild Dog and here we take a break while Rock looks thru his fotogs.  It's a good place in the summer to swim and it's close to the BMT.

Here's Sgt Rock in his hammock somewhere in the middle of the Brookshire trail below Sled Runner Gap.  I spend my last night with the group and the next day head back down the Brookshire and tie into the back door of the Bald River wilderness.

On Day 17 I say goodbye to the B Mackers and check out Regina loaded up and ready to climb to Sled Runner Gap and the State Line Trail.

Rick Harris, Sgt Rock, Regina Reiter, and Don all equipped and ready for the rest of the trail.  We say our goodbyes and they're off.

On Day 18 I head into the Bald River wilderness and stop by a trail junction to take a last fotog.  Check out my nice Icebreaker merino t-shirt--cool and light.  I had it in my BearVault for a mid-trip treat.

To unwind from a long trip with many different people, I set up camp in the wilderness and spend two days by the Bald River in my little Hilleberg tent.  It's a good place to think, read, and write.

On my last day I brew up some hot tea from creek water and get ready to pack up.

November camps are always great.  Bald River is to the left.

On Day 20 I packed up and follow Bald River out to the trailhead but stop at a few nice places for a few final fotogs.

And so the trip ends at an overlook rock scanning the Bald River in low water.  It was a long trip with a lot of weight, food weight mostly, but as usual the weight is worth all the freedom that goes with it. 

7:04 a.m. on November 8, 2010 (EST)
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Very nice Tipi.

11:30 a.m. on November 8, 2010 (EST)
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Fantastic report, Tipi. It was great running into Hootyhoo, Randy and you up at the Bob. I hadn't met hooty out on the trail before, and that was an unexpected pleasure.

  I am envious of your long trips. I absolutely love the cold, wet, fragrant autumn days out there in late October.

11:53 a.m. on November 8, 2010 (EST)
Tipi Walter
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Yeah, we had a good time and later in the trip it rained, especially up on the Whigg and it really felt like winter was on its way.

11:12 a.m. on November 9, 2010 (EST)
Speedy Gonzales
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It was really great hanging out with all of you at the Bob's Bald.   I could not have asked for a better birthday weekend.  

Me and Zoe really loved the off trail experience. 

Great trip report, and pictures Tipi.

I am also so envious of your long trips Tipi.

A friend called me Speedy Gonzales last weekend and it stuck, guess I finally got a trail name after all my years of hiking.

11:22 a.m. on November 9, 2010 (EST)
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Hey Randy, Welcome to Trailspace! Or should I call you Speedy, now? :)

It's great to see you've joined trailspace, there is a great community of people here, and a wealth of experience to glean from.

I also posted a bunch of photos a few weeks back from that trip, there are a couple good ones of you and fiesty little Zoe.  You can see them here:


6:30 p.m. on November 9, 2010 (EST)
Tipi Walter
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Welcome to the world wide interweb.  Your first post too!  Now if only Nan would join us here online we've have the whole family back.  And where is Hootyhoo to round out the crew?  BTW Randy, here's a shot of Nan I took up on the Bob a month before on another trip:


6:56 p.m. on November 10, 2010 (EST)
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Looks like another amazing trip Tipi. Thanks for sharing!

3:58 a.m. on November 13, 2010 (EST)
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Great shots and dog humor!

10:30 p.m. on November 13, 2010 (EST)
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Good text and great pics. One can definitely see the change in the pack size from picture 1 to the last. Btw I tried to find the total weight, but I did'nt. Did I oversee it? Just curious, I know you are a big guy.

How much food did you take for the dog? I see he too has a pack, how much weight there?  


June 5, 2020
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