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  1. #1

    Default 24 Day Expedition to Wildcat Creek

    AN EXPOSITION ON EXPEDITION:

    What is Expedition Backpacking?

    It is an extended backpacking trip requiring a so-called "expedition" pack. My definition of Expedition means one food load and one fuel load for the trip with no opportunity or desire for resupplies, caches or town visits. For other ideas on Expedition Backpacking, see---

    https://www.theoutbound.com/megan-ma...ing-expedition

    https://www.backpacker.com/stories/t...-an-expedition

    This trip gave me time to backpack into four wilderness areas in NC and TN---the Citico, the Kilmer, the Slickrock and the Upper Bald River. In the 24 days I was out I spent 10 of the days on the BMT which allowed me to connect the Kilmer side to the Slickrock side and the Citico side to the Upper Bald side.

    USFA prescribed burns and forest fire smoke made the trip suck for a couple days---Days 13-14---but then by Day 15 it was smooth sailing in beautiful weather and cold enough to keep the bugs away even though I brought my headnet (but no Deet).

    I saw three BMT specific backpackers and all were heading north. They were Plug It In---thruhiking all of the BMT; Sean---section hiking from Unicoi Gap to Tapoco; and U-Turn---pulling all of the Alabama/Georgia Pinhoti to its northern terminus and then taking the BMT north to its end. Oddly I saw all 3 on the same day and in the same place (around Whiggs Meadow).

    In addition, my friends from the Cranbrook School in Michigan were pulling their 50th Anniversary 11 day wilderness backpacking trip into both the Citico/Slickrock/Kilmer and the Snowbird backcountry---and were comprised of high school kids in groups of 7 with 3 leaders per group. Not counting the Cranberries I saw only 5 backpackers on the entire trip including my buddy Patman who I invited out on Days 3-4. (He can tell you about the wind hellstorm we camped in on the Brush Mt trail in Citico---loudest winds I ever heard).

    24 DAY EXPEDITION
    TO
    WILDCAT CREEK

    TRIP 196
    March 7--March 30, 2019

    HIGHLIGHTS
    ** FIRST CRANBROOK LEADERS GORDON, JEFF AND TOM IN BARREL GAP
    ** 49 HOUR RAINSTORM STARTS AND STALLS THE TRIP IN BARREL GAP
    ** PATMAN FINDS ME IN BARREL GAP AND WE BACKPACK DOWN THE BRUSH MT TRAIL TO BRUSH RIDGE GAP AND CAMP
    ** 70MPH WIND HELLSTORM ON BRUSH MT RIDGE
    ** TRAIL 54A NORTH COMPLETELY CLEARED
    ** THE HELL SLOG DOWN STRATTON RIDGE AND SEEING JEFF AND TOM'S GROUP COMING UP
    ** VISITING CRANBERRY HEADQUARTERS IN RATTLER FORD FOR 50TH ANNIVERSARY
    ** THE HELLSLOG UP NAKED GROUND TRAIL WITH BEAUCOUP TRAILWORK
    ** CAMPING WITH THE CRANBERRIES IN BIG FAT/SLICKROCK
    ** GREG AND LEXI'S GROUP ON LEG 1 NUTBUSTER TRAIL
    ** IAN'S GROUP ON LEG 2 NUTBUSTER
    ** 46TH NUTBUSTER CLIMB WITH GREG AND LEXI'S GROUP
    ** IN NAKED GROUND GAP WITH HANNAH'S GROUP
    ** PLUG IT IN, BMT THRUHIKER
    ** SEAN, BMT SECTION HIKER
    ** U-TURN, PINHOTI/BMT THRUHIKER
    ** BACKPACKING IN USFS FOREST FIRE SMOKE
    ** 30 CREEK CROSSINGS
    ** TRAILWORKED KIRKLAND CREEK 70%
    ** THE WILD BLUFFS OF WILDCAT CREEK FOR FINAL NIGHT


    TRAILS (**overnight camps)
    Entrance at Unicoi Crest on Cherohala Skyway NC/TN State Line
    Fodderstack/Seven Mile Ridge North
    Trail 149
    **Barrel Gap (2)**
    Brush Mt Down
    **Brush Ridge Gap**
    Brush Mt Backtrack Up
    Trail 149
    BMT Connector Up
    **Snow Camp**
    54A North Up to Seven Mile Ridge
    **Bob Bald Open Meadow**
    Seven Mile Ridge East
    Stratton Ridge Trail Down
    **Jebediah Camp**
    Stratton Ridge Down
    Rattler Ford Side Trip
    Kilmer Memorial Roadwalk
    Naked Ground Trail Up
    **Creekside Camp Low Dog Camps**
    Naked Ground Trail Up
    **Mid Dog Camps**
    Naked Ground Trail Up
    **Landon Camp Naked Ground Gap**
    Seven Mile Ridge East
    Hangover Lead South Down to Big Fat Gap
    Big Fat Trail Down
    **Slicnic Camps on Slickrock Creek**
    Nutbuster Trail up Leg 3
    **Buckeye Camp**
    46th Nutbuster Trail Climb Up to Naked Ground
    **Landon Camp Naked Ground Gap**
    Seven Mile Ridge West
    **Cold Spring Gap**
    BMT/Fodderstack South to Beech Gap
    Skyway BMT to Mud Gap
    Mud Gap Trail up to Whiggs Meadow
    BMT/Sycamore Creek Trail Down
    **Hobo Camp**
    Sycamore Creek Down
    **Sycamore Bear Camp**
    Sycamore Creek Down to Fish Hatchery
    Sugar Mt Trail Up and Down
    Brookshire Creek Trail
    **Brook Horse Camp**
    Brookshire Creek Down
    Holly Flats Roadwalk
    Kirkland Creek Trail Up
    **Kirk 7 Camp aka Gutpile Camp**
    Kirkland Creek Trail Up
    **Kirk 12 Camp**
    Kirk Trail Up
    **Kirk Spring Camp**
    Kirk Trail Up to Sandy Gap
    BMT South
    **Six Mile Gap**
    Waucheesi Manway Up to Mountaintop
    Waucheesi Roadwalk Down
    Warrior's Passage Down
    **Tobe Creek**
    Warrior's Passage Down
    **Wildcat Creek**
    Finish Warrior's Passage
    Old Furnace Roadwalk
    Gold Chute Logging Cut Down
    **Wildcat Bluff Camp**
    Gold Chute Cut Up
    Old Furnace Roadwalk Up to Tellico Beach and OUT


    All backpacking trips for me start with the Seven Holy Nylons---clothing (hopefully), food, shelter, pack (or duffel bag or grocery bags or hobo bindle stick), sleeping bag (or blankets or buffalo robe), water container and sleeping pad(s).

    My Mchale pack is at its most monstrous at about 95 lbs but it'll shrink up tremendously in the next 3 weeks. Compare the height of my pack on Day 1 with the height on Day 10 below---

    Trip 196 (239).JPG

    I'm standing at my ingress point at Beech Gap in TN and the entrance to Citico Creek wilderness.


    I make it in about 3.5 miles and set up camp in Barrel Gap on Trail 149 and hear voices and it's 3 trip leaders from the Cranbrook school pulling their shake-down trip before all the high school kids come out later that week. This is the school's 50th Anniversary wilderness trip. Jeff on the left is carrying a Mystery Ranch pack.


    On Day 3 my buddy Patman finds me on Trail 149 so we backpack together down the toughest trail in the Citico---Brush Mountain. We stop at my favorite rock for a break. It's slow going for me cuz the trail has terrible footing and my pack weight sucks.


    We set up at 4,000 feet in a gap on Brush Mt Ridge and get walloped by a terrible storm which produces the loudest winds I've ever heard. In the 70mph range. The rain comes in horizontally and slaps against my wet tent fly which gets plastered against the inner yellow tent canopy. Luckily while it looks bad no actual water comes inside the tent.


    On Day 4 Patman wants to try on my unloaded McHale pack before he shoves off back to Beech Gap and I slowly pack and go up to Fodderstack Ridge.


    After Patman leaves I backtrack up Brush Mt because I have to change my route itinerary due to all the rain causing Citico creeks to get too high to cross. I climb 1,300 feet in about 4 miles and pass over Bob Bald and begin my 9 mile journey down the Stratton Ridge trail---as I stand at the top trailhead near the Butt Rock. It's a rough long trail and one big thicket of weeds and brush.

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    As I make my way down Stratton Ridge I see my first Cranberry students coming the up Nut that is this trail. It's Tom and Jeff and a senior student leader.


    After I finish the Stratton hump I circle back into the Kilmer side of the wilderness and prepare to climb up Little Santeetlah Creek valley and pass this FS kiosk with the creek behind.


    After a long day of backpackaging I set up off the Naked Ground trail right next to Little Santee Creek, a favorite spot.


    On Day 9 I climb up the Nutbuster trail that is the Naked Ground trail (a gain of 3,000 feet in about 4.5 miles) and reach Seven Mile Ridge and hike 1.5 miles to Hangover Mt and begin my 6 mile descent of 3,250 feet to Slickrock Creek. I stop on the Hangover Lead South trail in the Heath tunnel and look out towards the Citico side and the mt peaks on Fodderstack Ridge.


    Once on Slickrock Creek I run into several Cranbrook groups and talk to Paul about his big Arcteryx pack.


    I camp with the Cranberries and watch Dave and his group cross Big Fat Creek on their trek up to Big Fat Gap and I take the official Nutbuster trail (Upper Slickrock 42) up to Naked Ground Gap.


    As I make my way up the Nutbuster trail I run into Ian's group stealth camping in a hidden spot off of old Trail 42A.

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    This is a typical Cranberry kid's pack---with the tin water can (crushed from trying to get up the Nutbuster trail), climbing rope for the tarps, big silver tarp etc.


    As I pull my 46th backpack of the infamous Nutbuster trail I am followed by Greg's group as shown. We all hang out together near the end of the trail in the Heath Overlook area. The Nutbuster also reaches Naked Ground Gap but from the other side, the north side. It's a tough trail, boys. "Hardest in the Southeast" they say.


    Once I punch out the Nutbuster I reach Naked Ground Gap and find another Cranbrook group set up with their low tarps. This group is led by Hannah.


    On Day 13 I finally leave the Cranberries (they return to Michigan) and the forest service decides to burn part of the Citico forest and the smoke is terrible so I stay on the BMT and start my trek south towards Whiggs Meadow and Sugar Mt. On Day 14 I meet 3 BMT backpackers and this is Plug It In heading north to Tapoco.


    About 5 miles beyond I meet Sean, a BMT section hiker who's doing Unicoi Gap north to Tapoco. He's heading into the smoke---I ain't!!


    Just before reaching Whiggs Meadow I pass the third BMT backpacker and it's U-Turn who pulled all of the Pinhoti and got on the BMT north into the Smokies.


    I finally reach the Whigg after a 7 mile day but the FS sets another fire nearby and it's biting me in the butt because I wanted to camp on the Whigg but you can see the smoke pouring over the bald---so I continue another 3 miles down to Sycamore Creek for a 10 mile day.

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    Once I fall off Whiggs Meadow at 5,000 feet and enter Sycamore Creek valley the smoke is gone and I'm back to normal---Happy. Here is my camp on the creek.


    I'm still on the BMT and leave Sycamore Creek and hump up and over Sugar Mt and after a 6 mile day camp on Brookshire Creek trail near Upper Bald River. The next day I finish Brookshire trail and loop back up the Kirkland Creek trail with its 11 creek crossings and stop at this pretty spot along the trail.


    I spend a couple nights climbing Kirkland Creek valley and on Day 19 my weather radio reports "Thunderstorms and 90% rain" but like an idiot I decide to pack up and finish Kirkland and get caught in a BUTT COLD thunderstorm which soaks me to the bone and turns my hands into blocks of woods---the usual scenario. I finally get set up here at the top end of Kirkland Creek trail near Sandy Gap.


    The weather turns pretty so I leave Kirkland Creek to Sandy Gap and pull two miles to Six Mile Gap (back on the BMT) and pass over Waucheesi Mt and hike one mile to this trailpost---the top trailhead to Warrior's Passage trail. It leads to my Expedition's goal---Wildcat Creek.


    After a couple more days of hiking I reach the goal of the trip---Wildcat Creek. It's an easy ford.


    Recent trailwork on Wildcat Creek included someone stringing up a tight climbing rope across this old rotted tree bridge. Too risky for me with my big pack so I waded the creek.


    On Day 23 I finish Warrior's Passage and bushwack down creek to this awesome spot where I find a spot for my tent for my last night. I call it Wildcat Creek Bluff Camp.

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    Day 24!!! And I'm standing at my "secret" spot on Wildcat Creek most people have never seen. Now it's time to climb out of the valley and hike to my evac point.


    All trips must end and so I lay out the pad and wait for my ride. See you guys in April? Or May? Hopefully.

  6. #6
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    While you have a vastly different style of backpacking than me, I always get excited when I see one of your trip reports posted and never fail to enjoy them. It helps that you hike in a lot of the same areas I do and you've given me a lot of ideas for future trips, so thanks!

    I'm hoping to do a trip in May either starting or ending around where you ended this jaunt - on the BMT River Road road crossing around the Tellico Trout Hatchery to the Northern terminus in the Smokies.

    Good stuff man.
    Last edited by Slugg; 04-04-2019 at 14:54.

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    what do the cranbrook students use the metal bucket for?

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    what do the cranbrook students use the metal bucket for?
    For kitchen duty to get a bunch of water to cook up big pots of food.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slugg View Post
    While you have a vastly different style of backpacking than me, I always get excited when I see one of your trip reports posted and never fail to enjoy them. It helps that you hike in a lot of the same areas I do and you've given me a lot of ideas for future trips, so thanks!

    I'm hoping to do a trip in May either starting or ending around where you ended this jaunt - on the BMT River Road road crossing around the Tellico Trout Hatchery to the Northern terminus in the Smokies.

    Good stuff man.
    Thanks for the input. The fish hatchery is a decent place for a shuttle and is close to Green Cove and the motel if needed.

  10. #10
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    Great trip report and loved the pictures. Other hikers used to laugh at my 43 pound backpack when I first started hiking the AT in 2016. My backpack is now below 30 pounds but I sure wish I had a picture of your backpack to show them when they were laughing at me back then.
    Trail Name - Slapshot
    "One step at a time."
    Blog - www.tonysadventure.com

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by ldsailor View Post
    Great trip report and loved the pictures. Other hikers used to laugh at my 43 pound backpack when I first started hiking the AT in 2016. My backpack is now below 30 pounds but I sure wish I had a picture of your backpack to show them when they were laughing at me back then.
    Choose any picture you want from my Heavy Pack collection---and copy it to show your friends

    Here are some of my favorites---

    TRIP 106 007-L.jpg

    TRIP 115 006-L.jpg

    TRIP 117 009-L.jpg

    TRIP 127 034-L.jpg



    https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/keyword/heavy%20packs/






  12. #12
    Registered User Crossup's Avatar
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    After checking out this latest report, I was sitting here wondering if you had any idea how much fuel your trip reports put on the desire fire(to get back out there) for those of us who hike a shorter season.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slugg View Post
    I'm hoping to do a trip in May either starting or ending around where you ended this jaunt - on the BMT River Road road crossing around the Tellico Trout Hatchery to the Northern terminus in the Smokies.
    Sounds like you and I have the same section of the BMT to do. I went from Springer to the Tellico River Road in '14 but haven't been able to get back since. Maybe next year - this one isn't going to happen.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crossup View Post
    After checking out this latest report, I was sitting here wondering if you had any idea how much fuel your trip reports put on the desire fire(to get back out there) for those of us who hike a shorter season.
    I'm just sorry my report didn't include a couple blizzard pics of the tent in the snow. But you should be good to go now because April may be the first month of the "shorter" season when you can go out. Then July/August/September hits when the pit vipers and the midges and the heat comes out. My least favorite season.

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    See that large flat rock on the right? I slept there, no shart.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    See that large flat rock on the right? I slept there, no shart.
    That's incredible. How did you access this spot????

  17. #17
    Registered User John B's Avatar
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    So how did you recharge your cellphone or did you just turn it on a couple of times a day to "check in" with the significant other?

    Did you take care of your emails and Facebooking all from the same device? Do you carry Beats headphones or just blast out the tunes for all to hear since, after all, everything is HYOH?

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    Quote Originally Posted by John B View Post
    So how did you recharge your cellphone or did you just turn it on a couple of times a day to "check in" with the significant other?

    Did you take care of your emails and Facebooking all from the same device? Do you carry Beats headphones or just blast out the tunes for all to hear since, after all, everything is HYOH?
    I think tipi is still rocking the Nokia circa 2000. Those bad boys will keep a charge for days anyway, and he knows all the cell service sweet spots from his years in this area.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by John B View Post
    So how did you recharge your cellphone or did you just turn it on a couple of times a day to "check in" with the significant other?

    Did you take care of your emails and Facebooking all from the same device? Do you carry Beats headphones or just blast out the tunes for all to hear since, after all, everything is HYOH?
    tvance is correct below---I'm still rocking my Nokia Tracfone circa 2000 and bought a spare battery for $6 on Amazon and only used the spare on Day 22-24 at the end of the trip. The secret to a cellphone I have found is to remove the battery when not in use---completely disable the little Gadget---and then the battery lasts for weeks with infrequent sweet spot dialing.

    You're probably joking about emails and Facebook, right?

    I do carry a little Sangean DT400 WX radio and some Sony headphones---works great to block out frequent overhead Jet traffic coming from the Atlanta and Chattanooga and Knoxville airports. Along with the proper foam earplugs at night.

    Quote Originally Posted by tvance0645 View Post
    I think tipi is still rocking the Nokia circa 2000. Those bad boys will keep a charge for days anyway, and he knows all the cell service sweet spots from his years in this area.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Yes, the beloved and old Nokia---

    Trip 192 (82)-XL.jpg

  20. #20
    Registered User John B's Avatar
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    Yes, kidding about Facebook and emails.
    Somewhat surprised you carry a cell, but then your trips are much, much longer than mine (I'm out usually for a max of 5-6 nights).
    I still use my original cell as my home phone and for work. It has the ability to make and receive phone calls, which is all I expect a phone to do.
    20190408_060840_resized.jpg

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