BACKPACKING THE CITICO/SLICKROCK WILDERNESS
May 25--June 5 2009
THE TRIP OF THE 6 RED EFTS
THE BRUSH MOUNTAIN HELL RIDE
TRAILPOST VANDALS ON THE SOUTH FORK
TWELVE ON THE BOB
THE DEEP CREEK/HAOE RIDGE LOOP
BUG NIGHT AT BUG CAMP
My trip begins off the Cherohala Skyway in Tennessee at the Grassy Branch trailhead where I saddle up with a 12 day load and start my journey down the Grassy Branch trail with its nine creek crossings, and arrive at the South Fork trail where I throw off the pack and take a lunch break with a Tomato Head restaurant burrito as shown posing on a trailpost on the South Fork.
Further along the trail I pass by this fantastic shelf mushroom.
My route takes me from the South Fork and ties me into the North Fork Citico where I spend all of Day 2 climbing up the steep North Fork trail and veer off right onto the Cold Spring Gap trail number 149 where I find this campsite, a favorite, near Barrel Gap.
While at Barrel Gap I wander around in a giddy state and point out the face of God which I see in the treetops.
On Day 5, after exploring different areas of the Citico and camping up on Bob's Bald, I descend off the ridge and get on the most rugged and wild trail of the Citico, the Brush Mountain trail. Along the way down (the trail connects Trail 149 to the South Fork trail) I run into the Crosscut Mountain Boys with Rick Harris doing much-needed trailwork on the Brush.
After leaving the boys I reach the South Fork where I set up camp and see this little rattlesnake on the trail in the rocks. We talk for awhile and I try to scare him off the trail so he will associate humans with fear, otherwise the local boys will just kill him.
On Day 6 I leave a lower camp on the South Fork and climb 2,000 feet to this spot called Cold Spring Gap where I have another thousand feet to climb to get up to Bob's Bald, the highest point around at 5,300 feet.
I set up camp on top of the Bob (you can see my little Hilleberg tent at the top of the picture) and we get caught in a bad windstorm which blows another person's tent down.
Also on the Bob and in the trees of South Col camp I find this slack and sagging TarpTent after a night of stormy weather with rain. I use this picture as an example of how TarpTents can deform and wet the foot of a sleeping bag, not good.
On Day 7 I leave the Bob and stay on Four Mile Ridge which is the ridge with a trail that connects the high ground from the Bob all the way to Hangover Mt. I pass thru the high gap at Naked Ground and climb up to Haoe Ridge and descend to Saddle Tree Gap where I approach the Hangover but veer off right on the little used Deep Creek trail, one of the wildest trails in the Slickrock wilderness. Near the bottom of the trail you cross Deep Creek and find this great campsite.
The next day I finish the Deep Creek trail and tie into the Haoe Ridge trail which is probably the worst trail in the Slickrock as it has long sections of nothing but briars and walls of briars. Along the way I found this garter snake and we talked.
On Day 8 I reach Toad Camp which is a great level campsite on Haoe Ridge in what was once the old Jenkins Meadows. This pic shows how my tent can be amply ventilated.
Here I am on Day 10 after returning over Bob's Bald and falling off it to tie back into the Brush Mt trail again as I saw a campsite near the middle of the trail I wanted to stay at for the night, and so here I am on the trail.
Shunka dog takes refuge in the tent during a bad thunderstorm with buckets of rain on the Brush Mt trail.
Here I am near the top of the Brush Mountain trail as it sticks to Brush Mt Ridge and follows a great trail in some big rocks. The trail soon leaves the ridge and drops down into a series of difficult areas where the path seems to disappear and there's a lot of brush to fight through. I am actually on my way up and out of the Brush Mt valley and trying to get back to Cold Spring Gap and my pickup at Beech Gap.
My trip ends with me hiking out to Beech Gap in the rain, using my old blue Marmot gtx rain jacket.
An all night steady rain tapers off by 9am and I get up to survey a wet and foggy mountaintop. I'll let you know when the sun comes out and starts drying my world. I have 6 hours here before I have to pack up and get off the bald to points south on the BMT to Beech Gap, where I hope to meet LM around 4:30 or 5. If I leave too early it becomes a long waiting game by the national forest sign, so this time I'll hunker down and put off eating the last of my food until after noon. The good thing about not having much food is the fact that you won't lose any to rodents, possums, raccoons or bears.
WET BOB RECON
I went out to check on the saturated meadow and found it wet and empty, so I came back to the tent and now wait for my last meal in the woods.
A LAST LUNCH
I went to get a liter of water and cook up a last pot meal of Jodhpur lentils with olive oil and 3 oz of sockeye salmon--a new addition to a usually vegetarian diet.
THE ARRIVAL OF TWO SO CALLED SCIENTISTS
A couple of days ago I ran into a geologist and his botonist wife scoping out the bald and leaving some surveyor ribbon here and there and now I see their back with 4 surveyor stakes and figure the missionaries are back to tame what's left. I swear, people just cant leave well enough alone. Scientists are the worst. They have some kind of manifest destiny mandate to label, divide, tame and convert the primitive into the categorized and annotated, in part to beef up doctoral resumes and in part to pigeon hole what's left.
Their report will go to the next authority who in turn will turn theirs into the state hiway department and plans will be made to run a hiway across one last green acre of mother's breat. It always starts with scientists and surveyors. Like the christian missionaries in the Amazon, the first hint of chaos, greed, displacement and logging comes with the missionaries of eithe rreligion or science, both the same in my opinion. The hardest thing for a human to do is leave nature alone. Seven billion people have their thumbs stuck in Miss Nature's eye--and you can include me in that number. Solution? Well, we're not gonna stop poking her in the eye, and it looks like we're not gonna lower our numbers, so the solution will have to be worked out between Miss Nature and her planet, she sure can't get thru to us.
HOW TO END A BACKPACKING TRIP
The only way to end a backpacking trip is to put on a backpack and hike out of the woods. Very simple and very depressing, but the world calls and things need to be done. I left the Bob and fell a thousand feet off the mountain to a gap and pushed another 1.5 miles to another gap where I found my girlfriend Little Mitten sitting in the black Toyota waiting for me with a banana.
THERE'S A TIME TO BE IN A TOWN AND THERE'S A TIME TO BE OUT IN THE WOODS. WE'VE ALL BEEN TO A TOWN, HOW MANY CAN SAY THEY'VE SLEPT IN THE WOODS FOR A WEEK? SEE YOU GUYS ON THE TRAIL.