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  1. #1

    Default Miss Nature Shoots Me The Bird: 18 Days in Snowbird Wilderness

    Alternate Trip Titles:
    I Turn 70 With A 95 Lb Pack
    78 Creek Crossings: The Cleanest Feet in North Carolina

    I leave home at 85F and get to Hooper Bald (5,430 feet) in NC at 64F---it's my festive welcome to Trip 205 and Snowbird wilderness.

    All trip pics can be found here---
    https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backp...s-Me-the-Bird/

    MISS NATURE
    SHOOTS ME
    THE BIRD
    TRIP 205
    June 26--July 13, 2020

    HIGHLIGHTS
    ** 18 DAYS IN SNOWBIRD WILDERNESS
    ** 78 CREEK CROSSINGS: THE CLEANEST FEET IN NORTH CAROLINA
    ** 18 DAYS WITHOUT A SMARTPHONE
    ** I TURN 70 WITH A 95LB PACK
    ** 3 DAYS ON TRAIL 154
    ** 12 DAYS ON SNOWBIRD CREEK
    ** 7 CONSERVATION CORPS NC IN SASSAFRAS CAMP
    ** 3 DAYS ON KING'S MEADOW TRAIL
    ** PATMAN MEETS ME ON SNOWBIRD CREEK
    ** HAW MT BACKPACK
    ** BACKPACKING BUDDY GONZAN POPS IN ON WHIGGS MEADOW
    ** BACKPACKING BUDDY BRYAN DELAY PASSES THRU COLD GAP
    ** BMT THRUHIKER BRAD GIBSON IN COLD GAP

    TRAILS
    Entrance at Hooper Bald
    Hooper Trail/King's Meadow Trail(gravel road) Down
    Trail 154 Heading Southwest
    **154 Grass Camp**
    Trail 154 Down
    **154 Cove Camp**
    Trail 154 to Snowbird Creek Jct
    Snowbird Creek Trail Down
    **Crossing 7 Camp**
    Snowbird Creek Trail Down
    **Middle Falls Camp**
    Snowbird Creek Trail Up 1 Crossing
    Burnt Rock Trail Up and Over
    **Sassafras Creek Secret Camp**
    Sassafras Creek Trail Down
    Snowbird Creek Trail Down to Junction and King's Meadow Trail
    **Owlcamp Footbridge Camp**
    King's Meadow Trail Up
    **Deep Gap**
    King's Meadow Trail Up
    Trail 154 Southwest to Snowbird Creek Jct
    Snowbird Creek Trail Up
    **Little Bird Camp**
    Snowbird Creek Trail Down 13 Crossings
    **Burnt Rock/South Bank Camp**
    Burnt Rock Trail Up to Ridge
    **Burnt Rock Ridge Camp**
    Burnt Rock Trail Down to Sassafras Creek
    Sassafras Creek Down
    Snowbird Creek Trail Up to Footbridge
    **Mouse Knob Creek Camp by Footbridge**
    Snowbird 64A Alternate Trail
    Snowbird Creek Trail Up
    **Meadow Branch Camp**
    Snowbird Creek Trail Up 11 Crossings
    **Little Bird Camp**
    Snowbird Creek Trail Down 6 Crossings
    **Camp 7**
    Snowbird Creek Trail Up 6 Crossings
    Trail 154 Heading Northeast Up
    **154 Cove Camp**
    Trail 154 Up
    Old King's Meadow In-The-Woods Trail Up to Hooper Bald
    Skyturd Roadwalk from Hooper Bald to Big Junction
    Haw Mt Trail Up and Over
    BMT/Mud Gap Trail to Whiggs Meadow
    **Whiggs Meadow Camp**
    BMT/Mud Gap Trail Down
    Skyway BMT to Beech Gap
    BMT North to Cold Spring Gap
    **Cold Gap Camp**
    BMT South to Beech Gap
    Skywad Roadwalk to Jeffrey Hell Trailhead and OUT.



    All trips start with a map and this one is from the Hooper Bald kiosk where I start my trip going down 63 and cutting southwest down 154 to Snowbird Creek.


    After dropping off Hooper Bald I get to this trailpost on Trail 154 and so begins my June/July adventure.


    Before the trip I steamed up a bunch of sweet potatoes (and red potatoes) and dehydrated them to mix in my quinoa backpacking meals.


    I finish Trail 154 to where it junctions Snowbird Creek Trail 64 and head downstream 6 crossings to a campsite and another 5 crossings to Middle Falls.


    This is Crossing #4 from 154 jct---one of 78 total creek crossings I do on this trip. Snowbird Creek itself has exactly 25 creek crossings from top to bottom---or 11-12 crossings if you take the 64A detour trail around Middle Falls.


    After 6 crossings in crocs I reach Camp 7 (right next to crossing 7) and set up my 8 lb 10oz Hilleberg Keron 3 tent---a perfect solo backpacking tent.


    I leave Camp 7 and pull 5 more creek crossings down to Middle Falls where I set up the tent right on the trail by the falls.

  2. #2

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    Here's my campsite right next to Middle Falls (visible on left) and right next to tSnowbird Creek trail.


    I leave Middle Falls and immediately cross Snowbird Creek right above the falls---I barely make it across as it's a treacherous crossing and my pack is still around 90 lbs---and get on the south bank of the creek and the start up Burnt Rock Ridge trail---a moderately easy hump up and over to Sassafras Creek.


    Burnt Rock Ridge trail drops hard to Sassafras Creek where I run into 7 trail crew member of Conservation Corps NC out for 3 weeks to work area trails. This is Silas, trip leader. They "got my spot" but I went up Sassafras Creek a ways and found a nice level spot next to the creek.


    This is some of the crew's food load---makes my 18 day food supply look small.


    I leave my Sassafras Creek "secret" camp and tool down Sassafras Creek trail where I run into these girls working the trail.


    Sassafras Creek trail dumps me out on Snowbird Creek trail and I turn right and head downstream and have to croc-cross Sassafras Creek afterwhich I stop here to reboot. Every picture of every trip into the Birds has to include this jalopy.


    I reach the end of Snowbird Creek trail and start up King's Meadow trail which begins with this awesome steel footbridge over Bird Creek.

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    Here's the magnificent King's Meadow footbridge---vital for backpackers as Snowbird Creek is big, high and raging this far down the valley.


    Snowbird Creek as seen from the King's Meadow footbridge.


    King's Meadow trail is the nutbuster of the Birds and this one section is VERY STEEP altho my pic doesn't do it justice. It's straight up and fun with an 85-90 lb pack. Don't tumble backwards boys or you'll cartwheel off the mountain.


    After a tough hump up King's Meadow trail I reach Deep Gap where I set up the Keron tent in summer configuration with both fly vestibule ends lifted out of the way for better ventilation.


    Illegal ATV usage is rampant in the Birds and especially on King's Meadow trail. They do significant damage to the trails and of course add to more human noise pollution. It's in a wilderness study area but the Ranger district doesn't seem to care.


    I finish King's Meadow trail on a hard hump and return to Trail 154 all the way back to Snowbird Creek but instead of going down-creek I head up-creek to Little Bird Camp and the next day run into my backpacking buddy Patman who hiked 20 miles in the area looking for me. We have a grand reunion and hike together down 12 crossings to a South Bank camp above Middle Falls.


    Here is Patman pulling Crossing #3 heading down Snowbird Creek trail.

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    We reach a great CS and the next morning I find Patman in his TarpTent making breakfast. He shoves off on a 7 mile day back to his car on Hooper Bald and I return to Burnt Rock Ridge trail to camp.


    I leave Snowbird Creek in boots and climb to the top of Burnt Rock Ridge and set up camp at this pretty spot altho I stir up a yellow jacket nest and get popped on the right arm.


    As I prepare my CS on Burnt Rock Ridge I dislodge this hornet nest and it lands next to my tent but I move it away eventually.


    I leave Burnt Rock Ridge and return to Sassafras Creek and explore Sassafras Falls, a major landmark in the Birds.


    After my Sassafras adventure I reach Bird Creek and turn left up-creek and reach this beautiful footbridge which leads into a big CS and I find a "secret" one next to Mouse Knob Creek.


    I leave the wooden footbridge and hump up 64A detour which is dang steep and pass Middle Falls and get to Meadow Branch Camp where I find Little Jimmy on the trail and we talk.


    After a night in Meadow Branch Camp I pull 5 crossings up Bird Creek and spend another night in Camp 7 during a big rainstorm which causes the creek to get muddy and high.

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    By Day 16 it's time to leave the Birds and so I climb up to Hooper Bald and connect to Haw Knob on a bushwack trail which pops me out on the Benton MacKaye trail at Whiggs Meadow. Here is the top of Haw Knob at 5,500 feet.


    Once over Haw Knob I turn left and reach Whiggs Meadow at 5,000 feet where I set up camp and call it a day.


    As luck would have it I catch an illegal motorcyclist riding past the FS bar gate and up to the top of Whiggs Meadow so I take a video of his malfeasance.


    While I'm up on the Whigg I run into my old backpacking buddy Gonzan out on a dayhike with his brothers.


    I share my Whiggs Meadow CS with Alix and Drew---bike packers from Knoxville.


    All squared away for a great night atop the Whigg.


    I leave the Whigg on the BMT and in 7 miles I'm in Cold Spring Gap in Citico wilderness where I run into another old backpacking buddy Bryan DeLay and we talk for a couple hours about the Birds.

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    While I'm camping in Cold Gap a BMT thruhiker comes in and I show him where to get water and he decides to camp in the gap. His name is Brad Gibson.


    All squared away in Cold Gap on the BMT. Check out my white silk "pajama" bottoms. And Brad's tent in the gap.


    I leave Cold Gap on a backtrack and reach Beech Gap for my evac exit pickup to end a great trip.

  7. #7
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Well happy belated birthday tipi! Thanks for sharing, the best trip reports and pics out there. Them falls look pretty awesome, nice camp spot right next to them. You needed them falls and 72 creek crossings to stay cool. What temps did you experience?

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    i guess that little sign in picture 23 replaced the handwritten sign that was on a white piece of foam core....

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    that memorial cross on whigg meadow----the time i stayed up there, the guy's friends were coming in and checking it out......

    i was searching for firewood and ran across it and then turned around and there they were.......

  10. #10

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    Great report! Wow, the brothers Gonzan and Bryan Delay, very cool!

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Well happy belated birthday tipi! Thanks for sharing, the best trip reports and pics out there. Them falls look pretty awesome, nice camp spot right next to them. You needed them falls and 72 creek crossings to stay cool. What temps did you experience?
    The Birds seem to be unique because the big mountains to the north (Haw, Hooper, Huckleberry---all around 5,600 feet)---seem to keep the furnace temps of the East TN valley out---so my entire trip never got hot and nights were cool to cold.

    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    i guess that little sign in picture 23 replaced the handwritten sign that was on a white piece of foam core....
    Yes, I didn't see the old Bird sign you're talking about---



    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    Great report! Wow, the brothers Gonzan and Bryan Delay, very cool!
    Yes, I saw the whole crew. The last guy I saw, the BMT thruhiker---got really sick with bad water or food poisoning so he had to cancel out the rest of his hike.

  12. #12

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    Thanks for the inspiration Mr. Tipi Walter.I turn 68 next week and and doing good to go anywhere with a 30 pound load in winter,25 or so in summer.I don't know how you handle that pack but it's obvious you do it with Style.

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    Like Five Tango, as a 69 year old, about the max weight I can carry is 30 pounds in the winter and 25 in the summer. My biggest problem right now is that my beloved TarpTent has died. So I need a new tent, somewhere between Tipi's Hilleberg Keron 3 and Patman's TarpTent. In particular, I need something that will keep me warmer in cold windy weather than my old TarpTent, but won't make walking in the woods impossible. I've researched every tent I can think of, and some that I had never heard of, and have landed on either a Hilleberg Niak or Anjan 2 for the construction, space and weight, and the fact that they both are double walled tents that go up without having to erect the inner tent first. I'm leaning toward the Niak because of the smaller footprint. Given the price, it would probably have to be my last tent (and maybe passed on to my heirs when I die!). Any suggestions or other recommendations? Oh, and I am wildly claustrophobic, so some of the more popular light weight tents probably won't work for me.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Five Tango View Post
    Thanks for the inspiration Mr. Tipi Walter.I turn 68 next week and and doing good to go anywhere with a 30 pound load in winter,25 or so in summer.I don't know how you handle that pack but it's obvious you do it with Style.
    The way I handle a long trip with a heavy pack is to do low mile days---but still moving every day and not sitting put in "basecamp" mode like a car camper. I can do about 5 good miles with a 90+lb pack and that's about my daily limit---although when the pack lightens to 75 lbs I can punch out 8 to 12 mile days. I've been carrying heavy packs for the last 40 years which I think really helps as the body gets used to such loads over a lifetime of doing it.

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatDane View Post
    Like Five Tango, as a 69 year old, about the max weight I can carry is 30 pounds in the winter and 25 in the summer. My biggest problem right now is that my beloved TarpTent has died. So I need a new tent, somewhere between Tipi's Hilleberg Keron 3 and Patman's TarpTent. In particular, I need something that will keep me warmer in cold windy weather than my old TarpTent, but won't make walking in the woods impossible. I've researched every tent I can think of, and some that I had never heard of, and have landed on either a Hilleberg Niak or Anjan 2 for the construction, space and weight, and the fact that they both are double walled tents that go up without having to erect the inner tent first. I'm leaning toward the Niak because of the smaller footprint. Given the price, it would probably have to be my last tent (and maybe passed on to my heirs when I die!). Any suggestions or other recommendations? Oh, and I am wildly claustrophobic, so some of the more popular light weight tents probably won't work for me.
    It's really about how much tent weight you're willing to carry. The bigger the more comfort you'll have---the smaller the more compromises etc.

    The Niak is neato---
    10338618x1013039_zm.jpg
    The Anjan is like a tunnel and neato too---
    10338608x1013712_zm.jpg
    You could also research the new Anaris which uses two hiking poles and is very light. I almost bought one last month---although it's not a winter tent---

    hilleberg-anarisred.jpg
    For long term backpacking in the Southeast mountains a double wall tent is so much better than a single wall tent---for obvious reasons (rain misting, condensation etc).

    And then there's the bugaboo of tent companies using stinky and unhealthy flame retardant chemicals in their tents---as Big Agnes does. Hilleberg does not which is a big plus to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreatDane View Post
    Like Five Tango, as a 69 year old, about the max weight I can carry is 30 pounds in the winter and 25 in the summer. My biggest problem right now is that my beloved TarpTent has died. So I need a new tent, somewhere between Tipi's Hilleberg Keron 3 and Patman's TarpTent. In particular, I need something that will keep me warmer in cold windy weather than my old TarpTent, but won't make walking in the woods impossible. I've researched every tent I can think of, and some that I had never heard of, and have landed on either a Hilleberg Niak or Anjan 2 for the construction, space and weight, and the fact that they both are double walled tents that go up without having to erect the inner tent first. I'm leaning toward the Niak because of the smaller footprint. Given the price, it would probably have to be my last tent (and maybe passed on to my heirs when I die!). Any suggestions or other recommendations? Oh, and I am wildly claustrophobic, so some of the more popular light weight tents probably won't work for me.
    I have lusted a bit for Helleberg tents, and may get one someday, but an excellent tent I have found in the meantime is made by Big Sky International. Double wall, simultaneous pitch, under 4lbs max, and bomb proof. I have their Revolution 2P, and a Chinook 2P. The Chinook is a good 4-season tent with a solid material inner, but you can order a mesh inner for it. Indeed, you can mix 'n match inner & outer tents with a couple of their models. Makes a great, versatile system. I love mine.
    fortis fortuna adjuvat

  16. #16

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    I gave up on tents about 20 years ago due to low back pain and went to hammocks.They are not for everybody,that much is for sure but it works for me down to about 25 degrees F.When the weather gets that cold I would rather stay home.

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    Thank you all for the great input. I'm still leaning hard toward the Hilleberg tents. I think I'll get all my gear out this weekend, cull what I can, and see how much more tent weight I realistically think I can carry. And, thank you Tipi for the info regarding flame retardant chemicals. I hadn't thought about that, and it would probably be a serious issue for me both ecologically and health wise.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by GreatDane View Post
    Thank you all for the great input. I'm still leaning hard toward the Hilleberg tents. I think I'll get all my gear out this weekend, cull what I can, and see how much more tent weight I realistically think I can carry. And, thank you Tipi for the info regarding flame retardant chemicals. I hadn't thought about that, and it would probably be a serious issue for me both ecologically and health wise.
    Mt Hardwear has made a concerted effort to eliminate flame retardants in their new tents---and they make some very light backpacking tents like the Aspect 3---

    https://www.mountainhardwear.com/asp...t-1830091.html

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    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Mt Hardwear has made a concerted effort to eliminate flame retardants in their new tents---and they make some very light backpacking tents like the Aspect 3---

    https://www.mountainhardwear.com/asp...t-1830091.html
    So what does Mt Hardwear and Hilleburg do for flame retardants? I'm asking because I'm seriously considering a Hilleburg as well.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    So what does Mt Hardwear and Hilleburg do for flame retardants? I'm asking because I'm seriously considering a Hilleburg as well.
    They just don't use these chemicals in their tents. See below link---

    Apparently the CPAI-84 standard is only a recommended flame retardant "requirement" for tents and not required by law. Some companies will not sell tents without the use of these retardants---liability issues---but to my understanding it was never a law.

    BUT . . . Hilleberg does use DWR coatings on their inner tents which may be just as bad---more study needed.

    https://www.adventure-journal.com/20...n-their-tents/

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