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  1. #1

    Default 18 Days in a December Blizzard

    November/December, 2020.

    All pics here---
    https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backp...mber-Blizzard/

    18 DAYS
    IN A
    DECEMBER
    BLIZZARD
    TRIP 208
    November 18--December 5, 2020

    HIGHLIGHTS
    **BACKPACKER AARON BROWN COMES UP BRUSH MT TRAIL
    **29TH BACKPACK OF BRUSH MT TRAIL
    **ANIMAL CHEW HOLE IN TENT VESTIBULE
    **HOPPIN JOHN AND PATMAN ON BOB BALD
    **BACKPACKING AND CAMPING WITH PATMAN ON HANGOVER MT
    **3,200 FOOT DROP IN 5 MILES FROM HANGOVER MT TO SLICKROCK CREEK
    **BLIZZARD ON SLICKROCK CREEK
    **10F MY COLDEST MORNING ON DAY 15
    **DAY 15 HELLSLOG IN 10 INCHES OF SNOW WITH A GAIN OF 1,500 FEET IN 1.8 MILES
    **DAY 16 SEVEN MILE HELLSLOG IN 16 INCH SNOW DRIFTS
    **BUTT COLD RAINSTORM ON CITICO CREEK ON DAY 17
    **FAMILY COVID EMERGENCY SHORTENS TRIP FROM 21 DAYS TO 18 DAYS

    TRAILS (**denotes overnight camps)
    Entrance at Jeffrey Hell Trailhead
    Jeffrey Hell Trail Down to South Fork Creek
    **Camp 28 on South Fork Creek**
    South Fork Trail Down
    **White Rock Camp on South Fork Creek**
    South Fork Trail to Brush Mt/SF Creek Crossing
    **South Fork/Brush Camp**
    Brush Mt Trail Up
    **Low Audrey Camp**
    Brush Mt Up
    **Bug Hollow Camp**
    Brush Mt Up
    **Brush Ridge Gap Camp**
    Brush Mt Up to Trail 149
    **Barrel Gap (2)**
    BMT Connector to Fodderstack Ridge
    **Snow Camp**
    54A North Up to Bob Tee and Seven Mile Ridge
    **Raven Camp Bob Bald**
    Seven Mile Ridge Heading East
    **Airjet Camp on Hangover Mt**
    Hangover Lead South Trail to Big Fat Gap
    Big Fat Trail Down to Slickrock Creek Trail
    **Big Stack/Crossing 11 Camp (3)**
    Big Stack Trail Up to Crowder Camp
    **Crow Horse Camp**
    Fodderstack Ridge Heading South
    Pine Ridge Trail Down to Warden's Field
    South Fork Trail Up
    **Donner Camp (2)**
    South Fork Out
    Citico Creek Roadwalk to Indian Boundary Lake Roadwalk and OUT.


    My trip begins on Jeffrey Hell Trail #196 in Citico Creek Wilderness in the mountains of Tennessee. I eventually swing into North Carolina too.


    This pic shows Jeffrey Hell trail as it descends to South Fork Citico trail.


    Before the trip I weighed my pack on the bathroom scale and it comes to a verified 93 lbs for a 21 day winter trip---shortened to 18 days due to a family emergency. The pack is a custom made Dan McHale load hauler able to comfortably carry such loads.


    South Fork trail descends (dangerously so in places) to this mandatory SF crossing with yellow showing my preferred fording route. I'm looking back in this pic after the crossing.


    South Fork is a 9 mile long trail and eventually I reach the trailhead to Brush Mt trail which requires another SF crossing. This pic shows the ford after it's done with the Brush Mt trailhead on the opposite creek bank.


    People wonder if we should carry microspikes in the winter and heck I carry microspikes all year long---as the tip of my hiking pole is a micro spike. It aids in traction and balance.


    Once I cross South Fork Creek on Brush Mt trail I reach a great CS and set up and discover some previous campers have been busy around the fire ring.

  2. #2

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    On Day 4 I leave South Fork Creek and start up the most remote and rugged trail in Citico---Brush Mt. It's my 29th backpack of the thing. The last time it was maintained by a crew was in 2009 but I leave ribbon and do what I can to keep it open. This pic shows the first of seven Brush Creek crossings.


    I hit this minor blowdown on Brush Mt trail and dump the pack to get my folding saw.


    VOILA---fixed for an easy stepover.


    Most backpackers including me get lost on Brush Mt trail and here's on spot where the trail follows the yellow line up to Overlook Rock.


    After a couple miles of backpacking on Brush Mt I stop to get a two day water supply and while resting this backpacker surprises me as you rarely see other backpackers on Brush. His name is Aaron Brown.


    Here is Aaron's homemade pack.


    After leaving Brush Creek with its climb to Ike's Peak I reach Bug Hollow Gap and climb Satan's Tit and on the other side is Mother Blowdown requiring I dump the big pack and slide it underneath which of course sucks.

  3. #3

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    Brush trail eventually climbs to Brush Mt Ridge and I stop at this pretty rock for a break.


    SUCCESS! I pop out on Trail 149 at the top end of Brush Mt and feel good about all the work I did to place ribbon and keep it open.


    Trail 149 takes me to Barrel Gap where I spend a zero day in a hellish windstorm and rainstorm. There's a spring water source nearby for fluids.


    My Hilleberg tent gets a Love Bite from a black bear late at night on the early morning of Thanksgiving Day. Oops.


    Luckily I'm carrying a silnylon patch and a tube of McNett's silnet seam sealer and once I get the fabric dry I do a field repair.


    I leave Barrel Gap and climb to Fodderstack Ridge and set up in Snow Camp just south of Cherry Log Gap. I'm wearing my 1980s vintage North Face vest which I stuffed with extra goose down from a broken Exped downmat. It's very warm.


    I leave Snow Camp and climb hard on Trail 54A (North) to Bob Bald at 5,300 feet and meet my backpacking buddies Patman and Hoppin John. We hobnob for a night on the Bob and then the next day Patman (in pic) and I backpack along Seven Mile Ridge to Hangover Mt.

  4. #4

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    Hoppin John's Big Agnes tent on Bob Bald.


    A cold morning on Bob Bald showing John's camp as he packs up his nifty McHale pack made with full spectra.


    John takes off Bob Bald to Beech Gap on a mostly downhill trek.


    Patman and I backpack Seven Mile Ridge heading East to Hangover Mt and stop along the ridge for this neato pic.


    Patman on Hangover Mt. The best view in the South?? Yes. He's looking into the GSMNP and a faintly visible Gregory Bald.


    On Day 12 it's time for me and Patman to split up---he backpacks 7 miles west to Beech Gap and out and I backpack 5 miles to Slickrock Creek with an elevation loss of 3,200 feet.


    I reach Slickrock Creek at crossing 11 (above Wildcat Falls) and hunker in on Nov 30 for a big snowstorm hitting the NC mountains. I stay in this campsite a couple days and endure some cold temps at around 12F.

  5. #5

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    The storm finally ends and I gotta hang out my WM Puma bag to "sublimate" shell moisture from in-tent condensation.


    I have several tough days of backpacking---first by leaving Slickrock Creek on a 1.8 mile pull with a 1,500 foot elevation gain in ever deepening snow---and then leaving Crowder Branch Camp on Fodderstack Ridge and starting out in too many warmth layers.


    30 minutes down the trail I look like this---shorts and t-shirt over silk baselayer. I'm standing in Mill Gap and climbing hard up Big Fodderstack Mt.


    Don't do this in trail runners, boys. Full leather goretex boots for me. Zamberlan Evo Lites.


    I pass by Big Fodderstack Mt and lose all my elevation down Pine Ridge trail to camp at this spot on Citico Creek where I burn my trash.


    A butt cold December rainstorm keeps me pinned in camp on Citico Creek and this shivering abandoned hunting dog takes shelter in my tent vestibule and stays the night.


    On Day 18 I leave Citico on South Fork trail #105 and pull a 4 mile roadwalk to my evac spot to wait for my ride. So ends the trip.

  6. #6
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    Default

    Tied to the house for days for various reasons, I really apprecciate your trip report.
    Thank you, Walter!

  7. #7
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    Tipi, we did the slickrock loop back in May, around Memorial Day. It was neat to see the places I've read about so many times in your reports. And now I get to see some of them again, but this time I can say I've been there!

    Really enjoyed Hangover. I'd enjoy hiking more in that area. Wish it wasn't such a pain to get there from where I live (NE of K'ville).

    Thank you for sharing your space with the pup.

  8. #8

  9. #9

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    Good job on the tent repair! Considering the size of the hole that patch seems to have worked well.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    Tied to the house for days for various reasons, I really apprecciate your trip report.
    Thank you, Walter!
    Thanks for the post.

    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    Tipi, we did the slickrock loop back in May, around Memorial Day. It was neat to see the places I've read about so many times in your reports. And now I get to see some of them again, but this time I can say I've been there!

    Really enjoyed Hangover. I'd enjoy hiking more in that area. Wish it wasn't such a pain to get there from where I live (NE of K'ville).

    Thank you for sharing your space with the pup.
    There are several good loops in Kilmer/Slickrock---and the best ones include Slickrock Creek.

    Quote Originally Posted by CalebJ View Post
    Good job on the tent repair! Considering the size of the hole that patch seems to have worked well.
    It's a permanent fix as McNett's silnet is the best stuff ever for a Hilleberg Kerlon tent fly.

  11. #11

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    Terrific pictures and splendid narration of your adventure. I'm in awe!

  12. #12
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    Aha! Those must have been your tracks we saw around Big Fodderstack. Those were the only signs of humans that we saw on our trip. Great trip report and pictures!. We did an overnight loop from Big Fat Gap up Hangover Lead and down Fodderstack Ridge. We had a glorious day of sun and hiking through good snow up and over Stratton Bald. Love the scrunch, scrunch, scrunch of nice dry snow under the boots.

    Hangover Lead Trail by Patrick Harris, on Flickr

    Didn't know that it was called Snow Camp before looking at your photos, but it seems appropriate. We had a night of howling winds up on the ridge line, but the temps never got below the upper 30s.


    Morning at camp above Cherry Log Gap by Patrick Harris, on Flickr

    After making a side trip to the summit of Big Fodderstack, we hiked back to Big Fat Gap in the cold rain (and even sleet for a while). Not as nice as the previous day, but a day in the woods is always better than being elsewhere...



    Creek Crossing by Patrick Harris, on Flickr

  13. #13

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    Great pics on your Flickr site. What was your exact route?? Your flickr pics seem to not be in chronological order---like they start out with the Big Fat Gap wilderness sign and then the next pic shows you coming up Big Fat trail (at the crossing) and then you're in Snow Camp by Fodderstack Ridge etc etc.

    Big Fat up to Hangover---over to Bob Bald---down 54A (North) to Snow Camp---north on Fodderstack Ridge to Crowders---Down Big Stack to Slickrock Creek---up Big Fat trail back to Big Fat Gap???

    Screenshot_2020-12-15 Creek Crossing.png
    I know this crossing---it's the bottom Big Fat Creek crossing (the first of two when heading up to Big Fat Gap). I came down from Hangover Mt to Slickrock Creek and crossed here before the big Nov 30---Dec 2nd storm.

    Screenshot_2020-12-15 Hangover Lead Trail.png
    And I think I recognize this pic---up on the ridge between Hangover Mt and Bob Bald. I call it Seven Mile Ridge as it runs 7 miles from Hangover Mt to Beech Gap.

  14. #14
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    Yep, you have the route and picture locations correct. The pictures are from my camera as well as my buddies and there were some issues getting all the times from the different cameras in sync. Most of them should be in order, but I think the last ones (or sounds like the ones you started with) got stripped of their timestamps somewhere along the way. We were up there on Dec 3-4. It has been probably 25 years since the last time I had been backpacking there, but definitely won't be that long before I get back up there.

  15. #15
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    I always enjoy your reports. I wish I lived closer to the mountains to get out like you do.

    Curious as to what the bear was going after. I had several holes in my tent this summer on the Colorado Trail. Darn Marmots went after a bag of trash i failed to put outside the tent one night.
    Trail Name - Slapshot
    "One step at a time."
    Blog - www.tonysadventure.com

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by ldsailor View Post
    I always enjoy your reports. I wish I lived closer to the mountains to get out like you do.

    Curious as to what the bear was going after. I had several holes in my tent this summer on the Colorado Trail. Darn Marmots went after a bag of trash i failed to put outside the tent one night.
    The bears in our area like to bite stuff and run away---and so they take chunks out of trail posts or trail kiosks or tents---their goal not being so much to score food but to claim territory.

  17. #17

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    Great trip.

    I hope your family covid emergency resolved/resolves without complication.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by PennyPincher View Post
    Great trip.

    I hope your family covid emergency resolved/resolves without complication.
    Thanks for the thoughts. The quarantines are about over.

  19. #19
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    Thanks for posting the report and pics Tipi - always fun to follow your adventures!

    I'm curious if you ever have any knee issues carrying such heavy loads and, if so, how do you manage them? I recently started having some chronic knee pain (from years of running no doubt) and am hoping it won't interfere too much with my backpacking.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by fudgefoot View Post
    Thanks for posting the report and pics Tipi - always fun to follow your adventures!

    I'm curious if you ever have any knee issues carrying such heavy loads and, if so, how do you manage them? I recently started having some chronic knee pain (from years of running no doubt) and am hoping it won't interfere too much with my backpacking.
    Good question. Last year my right knee "blew out" but I think it was bursitis etc and so I started carrying a long elastic bandage wrap and used on it a couple trips. Then it "self-healed" as usual.

    Then recently my left knee started barking and I slapped on the bandage and it too self healed---this pic shows the bandage on a trip to Hangover Mt in October 2020.

    I'm a firm believer in "walking out" aches and pains---and I've had plenty over the years---ankles, knees,etc---something popped in my right calf muscle on one trip---"walked" it out. My right knee used to "pop" out of place on occasion etc etc. One year my left shoulder killed me and I couldn't lift my left arm much---self-healed once again. Another time my left wrist went bonkers but I kept moving. "Keep moving" as Snake Plissken used to say. Best advice ever.


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