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  1. #1

    Default 24 Days with the Cranberries

    I return to the mountains of TN and NC for a long 24 day winter trip---with one food/fuel load of about 60 lbs and a 100 lb pack including various winter items like a down parka and microspikes etc.

    Trip 203
    February 27--March 21, 2020.

    All trip pics can be seen here---

    https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backp...-A-Smartphone/

    I hiked in two wilderness areas---Citico Creek and Slickrock Creek---and here are the main trails hiked---

    **Flats Mt Up and Down (hiked it twice).
    **Brush Mt Up.
    **Seven Mile Ridge from Bob Bald to Hangover Mt.

    **Hangover Lead South/Big Fat Trails Down.
    **Nutbuster Trail aka Upper Slickrock Creek Trail Up (my 48th backpack of the thing).
    **Fodderstack Ridge Trail Heading North.

    **Pine Ridge Trail Down.
    **Flats Mt Trail Back Up and Out.


    My trip starts with a shuttle ride out of Tellico Plains and up to Flats Mt at 4,000 feet on February 27. This is the Flats trailhead and also shows my monster McHale pack loaded with too much crap.


    Nothing better than full leather goretex boots in the winter---and when hauling tremendous loads. These are Zamberlan Evo Lites.


    Flats Mt is a 6.25 mile trail and midway along I set up right off the trail at this new and never used CS---with my Hilleberg Keron 3 tent.


    In the morning new snow falls and it's cold enough to notice but I stay warm in my WM -15F Puma down bag and my down clothing.


    I lose thousands of feet of elevation off Flats Mt and end up on Citico Creek camping when I meet my backpacking friend Bryan DeLay out for a night on the South Fork Citico trail.


    Bryan's cuben tarp in a modified tipi configuration.


    I leave South Fork and cross the creek and head up the most remote and rugged trail in the Citico---Brush Mt. There are 7 easy creek crossings on the trail and this is number 1.

  2. #2

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    Here's a pic of pretty Brush Creek aka Ike Creek as seen from the Brush Mt trail.


    Day 4 is a tough day of backpacking as I pull alot of the Brush Mt trail in one go and stop at this little creek for camp water.


    As I fight my way up Brush Mt I reach this pesky blowdown which slows me down so I pull out the folding saw and cut a way through.


    Luckily the big log falls the right way and I get thru with my ginormous pack.


    I finally reach the top end of Brush Mt trail and it's cause for celebration as my campsite is only a couple hundred yards away---and it has water.


    Brush Mt pops me out on Trail 149 where I set up camp and around dusk I see my first Cranberries---backpacking kids from the Cranbrook School in Michigan---out for their 11 day wilderness expedition.


    I leave Barrel Gap Camp on Trail 149 and climb up to Bob Bald and set up camp and see my old friend Rob Bush with his son Ashton. It's a great surprise and makes my day. He's carrying his usual massive Dana Designs Astralplane pack.

  3. #3

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    And unbelievably Rob brings his giant Hilleberg Keron 4GT tent ---and just in time for a cold and windy and snowy night on a 5,300 foot NC bald.


    Rob's big Keron 4 tent which has a vestibule with its own zippered door. The vesti is big enough by itself to sleep two people.


    I take dinner from my camp and join Rob and Ash in their big tent during a very cold and windy night.


    Meanwhile my tiny little tent sits a hundred yards away in its own cocoon of warmth. It's a Keron 3.


    The next morning dawns cold and clear and Rob's tent looks nice.


    And another big surprise comes when my backpacking buddy Hoppin John from Alabama shows up and so it's a grand gathering of like minded souls. He's setting up his Big Agnes tent.


    Later 18 boy scouts show up on the Bob and we end up with 22 total people and many tents---for one night.

  4. #4
    Registered User Last Call's Avatar
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    Great report and pictures....how far is that from Savage Gulf/South Cumberland?
    Let's head for the roundhouse; they can't corner us there!

  5. #5

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    Rob slings on his favorite vintage Astralplane pack. Ashton watches in horror.



    And so it's time for the gathering to disperse---Rob and Ash hiking 9 miles out on the Stratton Ridge trail---Hoppin John hiking 3.5 miles down to Beech Gap.


    One of my favorite pics---of Hopping John taking off with his new McHale pack.


    I too leave the Bob on an 8 mile day and swing over to Hangover Mt and down Hangover Lead South/Big Fat trails to Slickrock Creek---a loss of about 3,200 feet.


    Since I'm on Slickrock Creek I cross it two times to set up camp here by Wildcat Falls.


    I leave Wildcat Falls and backtrack up Slickrock Creek 2 crossings and find Jim and Josh and Sherrye with their Cranberry kids.


    This is Jim's pack---a Fjallraven thing with a wooden frame.

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    Josh gives the kids tips on how to cross Slickrock Creek with big packs.


    A successful ford and Josh is happy.


    I say goodbye to Josh and his group and head up leg 1 of the Nutbuster trail---Upper Slickrock #42---and run into Gordon's group coming down the same trail.


    As I head up the Nutbuster trail I watch Gordon's group cross Hangover Creek.


    Unbelievably I run into yet another Cranbrook group on the Nutbuster trail---this time it's Jeff and Emma and Alex.


    Jeff is carrying a Mystery Ranch Terraplane pack.


    On leg 4 of the Nutbuster trail (there are 10 legs total) I run into my next Cranberry group led by Paul (front) and Audrey.

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    This is what makes the Nutbuster trail so fun, especially with an 80-95 lb pack---BLOWDOWNS. This is on Leg 5 of the beast. Supposedly the "hardest trail in the Southeast".


    The reward of backpacking up the Nutbuster trail is reaching this gap and looking down into NC towards Kilmer wilderness and Robbinsville.


    I leave the high gap and climb up to Bob's Wall and Bob Bald and stop for a breather.


    The last Cranberry group I see on my trip is Greg Miller's up on Bob's Wall at around 5,400 feet.


    After a long 10 mile day from Naked Ground Gap to Pine Ridge I reach Citico Creek in high water and put on my crocs for this ford.


    After crossing Citico Creek I head up North Fork Citico trail and camp here by this little waterfall above NF Creek.


    North Fork Creek connects to South Fork Creek trail and so I check out SF Creek in high water. Last year during a 2019 drought this is what SF Creek looked like---Next pic---

  8. #8

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    Same exact place on South Fork Creek---but during a drought.


    I leave South Fork Creek on a long day of backpackaging and climb up Flats Mt as shown.


    On Day 24 I leave Flats Mt and hike out to my shuttle pickup point.


    All trips must end and this one ends in a fog so thick my shuttle driver doesn't see me sitting on the side of the road---until later. And so ends another great trip.

  9. #9
    Registered User SoaknWet's Avatar
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    Dam Sir, for the first time ever I wish I was young again. Fantastic pictures and even greater outing.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Last Call View Post
    Great report and pictures....how far is that from Savage Gulf/South Cumberland?
    You got me but I'm sure someone will know.

    Quote Originally Posted by SoaknWet View Post
    Dam Sir, for the first time ever I wish I was young again. Fantastic pictures and even greater outing.
    Thanks for the comment. I wish I was young again too. Hit 70 in July---if I don't catch a bug before then.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Last Call View Post
    Great report and pictures....how far is that from Savage Gulf/South Cumberland?


    google maps has it at just over 2 hours 30 minutes....

  12. #12

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    As always, great trip report and photographs.

  13. #13
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    Is the Nutbuster part of the BMT?

    Great report, enjoyed as always.
    travelin’ light

  14. #14
    Registered User kestral's Avatar
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    Great photos. Thank you for sharing. Thems some Big packs!

  15. #15
    Registered User Last Call's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    google maps has it at just over 2 hours 30 minutes....
    Thanks! Just Googled mileage from my home to Stone Door, 312 miles; 4:48 hours/minutes....long ways from here, need to get back there when things are back to normal....where is the closest trailhead to Tipis' "Nutbuster" trail?
    Let's head for the roundhouse; they can't corner us there!

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slugg View Post
    Is the Nutbuster part of the BMT?

    The BMT passes thru Naked Ground Gap which is where the Nutbuster trail ends.

    Great report, enjoyed as always.
    Quote Originally Posted by Last Call View Post
    Thanks! Just Googled mileage from my home to Stone Door, 312 miles; 4:48 hours/minutes....long ways from here, need to get back there when things are back to normal....where is the closest trailhead to Tipis' "Nutbuster" trail?
    The closest trailhead---which I assume you mean road access---would be in Big Fat Gap where the Big Fat trail drops down 1,500 feet in 1.5 miles to access the bottom start of the Nutbuster trail.

    The other would be Wolf Laurel road which quickly accesses Stratton Ridge trail up to the BMT and then down to Naked Ground Gap and the top Nut trailhead.

  17. #17
    Rain Man's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing once again Tipi! Great photos. Great report! As always.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

    www.MeetUp.com/NashvilleBackpacker

    .

  18. #18

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    That Keron 4 is yuge! I don't think I've ever seen anyone camped in that area either. Is it just down from "fir grove" heading to the bald? I have to say, it looks perfectly in place in that morning pic.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
    Thanks for sharing once again Tipi! Great photos. Great report! As always.
    Thanks Rain Man.

    Quote Originally Posted by martinb View Post
    That Keron 4 is yuge! I don't think I've ever seen anyone camped in that area either. Is it just down from "fir grove" heading to the bald? I have to say, it looks perfectly in place in that morning pic.
    He chose that spot because it was out of a bitterly cold wind which is a normal feature of the bald.

  20. #20
    Registered User Ewker's Avatar
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    Tipi, Is that the most people you have seen out on your trips
    Conquest: It is not the Mountain we conquer but Ourselves

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