Trip 89 January 2009
BACKPACKING THE CITICO/SLICKROCK WILDERNESS OF TENNESSEE
January 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19 2009
INTO THE ICE FOREST
I gave fair warning on the Whiteblaze forum to the winter boys with twinkles in their eyes and told them, “Thar’s a cold a comin’!!”, but failed to give them the proper instructions on how to pack for zero temps and blowing snow, so once again I sit by my lonesome as an arctic air mass heads my way from Canada. The boys on Whiteblaze, well, a few of them might still join me tomorrow as they do a dayhike loop from Beech Gap along the Fodderstack to Pine Ridge and out. Pokey2006 will be their leader.
TOO MUCH FOOD TOO MANY BOOKS
I sit on leg four of a six leg journey from Beech Gap to Snow Camp and there’s a light snow falling as I write these words. My goal is Snow Camp which isn’t too much further though it’ll be another night in cold temps surrounded by ice-encrusted trees.
FIRST NIGHT AT SNOW CAMP
A late arrival and a late dinner means I’m already reading the first material I brought, Stephen J. McGuire’s blogspot entry of October 5, 2008 entitled Trip Reports: 2008 Last Hurrah. McGuire’s blog inspired me to set up a blog and so I did, entitling it humbly, “Backpacking With Tipi Walter” on tipiwalter.blogspot.com. Unlike these Trail Journals, it is more a rambling discussion of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s and uses much material from my backpacking autobiography PUMPING NYLON: MY LIFE AS A BACKPACKER. Yawn. I am also exploring a potential blog on WordPress.com.
On my blogspot I’m trying to describe with fotos the early days of backpacking and living out, the seven years of homelessness with nylon and the 15 following years of Tipi life, all with copious pictured descriptions. Sadly, there are very few photographs of the thousands of nights I spent camping out in hellish cold conditions. None of the church buttress, none of the cemetary, none at the Conehead and very few of Lost Valley or the Temple of the Gods. None of the State Farm Camps at -10 below zero, and none of the early Steels Creek or Pisgah trips with Hawk Woman and Big Don’s sister-in-law. None of the Harpers Creek trips with Harvard Ayers and Eustace Conway.
LET US THINK BACK
I didn’t start numbering these TN backpacking trips until 2002, and about a year after I left the Tipi in June of 2001. Now it is 2009 and what do I have to show for the last 8 years except these 89 trips and my nights down at the Chickasaw basecamp in the 12×12 tent? I miss the Tipi ridge and the freedom there, the hard winds and the cold winter storms, and I miss the fine old woodstove and the smell of wood smoke drifting across the ridge.
As I sit huddled in this Hilleberg it is easy to remember the old homeless camps, the 1979 house fire that got me out for good, and the dozens of stealth tentsites I used before building the Tipi in April of 1987. So my little blog will help to flesh out those years and help me to remember each and every one.
While I’m describing my years of boundless freedom, I’m reading a book about just the opposite, a life spent in prison called ‘LAZARUS AND THE HURRICANE: The Freeing of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton. It’s a depressing jailhouse tome of Trenton State Prison and the unjust plight of Rubin Carter. For those nervous types worried about their next speeding ticket, it’s not a fun read.
DAY TWO TRIP 89 2009
THE ERGOT ENEMA
I don’t know what I ate or what was in those bakery cookies but I had a series of terrible dreams that woke me up in a disturbed headrush. Although I’ve never taken LSD, it felt like one long bad trip in a small building full of strange people.
I was preparing for a backpacking trip and had to stash my pack in their little place and got totally disoriented and confused. I met people I thought I knew, one guy said his name was Snake Plisken, and when it came time to get my pack ready to hike, it was all in disarray and scattered.
I felt like I had full blown dementia. When I unzipped a pack pocket, four or five big metal butter knives fell out along with several stainless steel spoons and forks. I couldn’t find my tent poles and I was sure something would be missing. I looked down and had one boot on my right foot and a black sneaker on my left whilst holding the other boot.
I drove to a national park building to ask about a permit for the Citico and ended up with one for the Wind River district. Mercifully, I awoke and shook off the scenes, went outside to pee and mumbled incoherently for several minutes.
It almost sounds like I ate some bad wheat and got the Ergot Enfeeblement Enema–whatever that would be, but definitely not a natural high. Everybody needs a fresh hit of soothing endorphins but not a bottle of Liquid Plumber coursing thru the brain. I wonder if death is nothing more than a series of bad dreams with no waking up? To the Yogis, this whole waking life is one long dream and bad due to our ignorance of the fact. Sri Yukteswar said it best: “Ignorance is the perception of the nonexistent and the nonperception of the existent.”
KNOXVILLE MORNING FORECAST
Sunny day–upper 30s, about 20 degrees. Little colder by tomorrow morning with moisture, possible snow. Late Tuesday to Wednesday: Snow? But very little. Wed night to Sat afternoon: Arctic front with 10 degrees and never above 20 degrees for at least 3 days. Now add 5000 feet to these predictions and you’ll get a more accurate forecast.
THE COLD’S A COMIN’ BOYS!
Sadly, there won’t be any snow associated with this cold front? Yeah, right.
THE POKEY WAIT
After a small breakfast of oatmeal I hung the food and zipped up the tent for a walk down to the spring with the pot to get water and wait for a Pokey looksee. I tarried a bit and slowly hoofed my way back with a pot full of water.
HIKING THE AT WITH A TUBA
While I was hiking back with the full pot of water and trying not to spill a drop, I thought of the idiocy and futility of a certain group of AT hikers who attempt silly stunts like carrying a tuba the whole way or hiking barefoot or the craziest of all, the ultralight speed hikers. Why not do it carrying a full pot of water the whole way without spilling a drop?
Or here’s a good one: Do the whole thing as fast as possible with a 100 pound pack. Get some of the hotshot speed demons signed up with a 100 pound GoLite and then shoot for the speed record.
Or roll an upright piano while every hour stopping to sit down to play a Chopin etude or one of the Godowsky variants. Or hike while playing the Paganini Caprices for violin. Or hop on one foot. Or worse still, NOT going but staying in town working 40 hours a week and being a couch potato the rest of the time for 6 months. This would be the hardest of them all.
MOWGLI, WISENBUR AND POKEY2006 ARRIVE
Close to noon Pokey shows up with two other Whiteblazers in tow, Wisenber and old acquaintance trailguru Mowgli known from a recent Brookshire backpacking trip.
NIGHT OF THE BAYING HOUNDS
Shunka scared up a pack of hounds or maybe just a coyote and it’s wailing nonstop about 200 yards from my tent here at Crowder Camp. It’ll be another butt cold night under stars as the tent is already covered in outside dew ice and inside frozen condensation. It was good to see Pokey2006, Wisenber and Mowgli and I at first didn’t recognize Mowgli and was reluctant to call him by name as I wasn’t sure if it was even him. We could’ve talked for hours but I had to pack up camp and they had 8 more miles of trail to do.
By 12:30 I was on the trail toddering under the Titan Silverback with no hope of catching up, they were long gone and may not have even paused for lunch. Mowgli mentioned Trickster and filled in her trip report after Little Mitten and I saw her up on the Whigg on December 30 on Trip 88.
TRICKSTER: BMT THRUHIKER
He said she was in the Smokies during those long days of early January rain and had a hard time at a couple of creek crossings, one in which she soaked her new -30 degree synthetic bag and had to sleep at some shelter in it. So far, I’ve seen no indication of her BMT journal report on Trail Journals or any other site or blog, so I hope she starts one up or at least signs my guest book.
Pokey is a recent TN arrival from the northern latitudes around New Hampshire and came to east TN in part to get out more and avoid the difficult New England winters. I liked her balaclava face mask.
After Wisenbur related a recent trip he did with Hootyhoo down in the Citico, I remembered him and the fotogs of him crossing a cold creek carrying what only could be described as a rubberized duffel bag with shoulder straps and no hipbelt. He said it was an 8000 cubic inch bag w/o a hipbelt and came from Germany and a few weeks ago when I saw the fotos I couldn’t quite figure it out and wanted to make some kind of stinging rebuke. Now, maybe when I get back I will! “How dare he bring in such a piece of gear!!” Just kidding. But it gets me to thinking . . . . .
Dr. COLON FLACCID WORKS WITH THE GERMANS
In 1943, Dr. Flaccid joined an elite German team to develop large-load backpacks of rubberized canvas with no hipbelts and no shoulder straps and just a trump or tumpline, and what resulted were the Wehrmacht 10,000 cubic inch bladder packs called the Taglich Tumpline Sturm Array. The Germans discovered that tremendous weight could hang off a person’s head and neck using a goat intestine strap across the forehead with the weight hanging behind.
In thorough tests using unwilling volunteers, it was found a human forehead could dead-lift over 270 pounds when encouraged to do so at gun point, and even after many severe accidents and injuries, the tests continued thru ’43-’44-’45. Dr Colon Flaccid was there every step of the way.
THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINCTER
In 1945 Flaccid replaced the canvas bladder packbag with stretched and sewn cow stomachs and found them to be more waterproof than canvas and buoyant during water crossings. In addition, any food carried in the pack would be digested three different ways before reaching the first night’s camp and so no cooking was required as the food was already “cooked” and ready to consume in a sort of soupy, pungent form.
The quick German advance thru the Ardenne forest was in part due to Flaccid’s array which required no lengthy breaks for food preparation. Unfortunately, Flaccid’s pack had its flaws, one of which was the discovery that in wet rainy conditions the entire bladder grew a complete and a healthy coat covering of brown and white hair. In addition, one German soldier reported a single horn growing out the side of his pack and was disturbed by a poking sensation near his bunghole.
After the war, Flaccid worked with a secret German organization to develop flame retardant buttpacks using stretched and layered skunk stomachs and colons. Flaccid started the first Skunk Werks research and design team and with other German scientists finally solved the age old backpacker’s problem of having a truly waterproof pack.
THE MERCURY DIP
Flaccid discovered that by completely immersing a canvas or nylon pack in liquid mercury for a full day it would be completely impervious to water leaks and absorbtion. Flaccid expanded his product line and for every pack sold he included 50 gallons of mercury along with a dunk basket and called the set up the Flaccid Sheep Dip Array.
After the war, thousands of German scouts and school children wore the mercury soaked packs and it wasn’t long before American backpackers took up the cause. Even today it is still possible to find a whole generation of backpackers stumbling and lurching along the trail with severe neurological disorders but completely secure knowing their gear will be dry till the end of their trip.
THE SKUNK WERKS BECOMES THE POSSUM CONSORTIUM
After the Nuremburg trials, Flaccid emerged from court and from the near hangman’s noose a new man dedicated to advancing pack design no matter the cost. Flaccid first conceived of front hanging and front loading packs in the 1860s but it wasn’t until the late 1940s that he produced a bonafide marsupial pack that hung from hip straps and hung between the wearer’s legs in a pouch-like hang.
THE P8 ARRAY
Called the Possum 8000M Ballsac Array(P8), the pack revolutionized backpacking and took the standard hipbelt and shoulder strap pack and low slung it near crotch level between the thighs. Though it was most popular with bowlegged individuals and those with a history of childhood rickets, thousands of normal backpackers and outdoorsmen used the pack and it was common to see several men greet each other with their huge bulbous packs swinging between their legs.
Famous English vagabond and backpacker Nigel Smote Kingdavies had this to say: “Seeing a backpacker slowly coming towards me was like going back 80,000 years and entering the wonderful and mysterious world of well-endowed bowlegged chimpanzees approaching on some grassy wide open savannah.” American backpacker Turley Turdson had this to say of the pack during a 3 month climb of Annapurna: “Despite wearing my down suit, harness and rope, the P8 array hung well even with a load of over 80 pounds which I carried consistently above 26,000 feet. In fact, it saved my life in an open glacier when I broke thru a crevasse and was saved by the large bulbous mass between my legs as it was too large to pass thru the hole my boot made.”
Curman Redpeter, a hitchhiking bum and burnt-out old hippie, swore by the Fullsac P8 and had this to say: “When the Highway Patrol saw me hitching on the interstate, they gave me a wide berth and never stopped. One state tropper said he thought I had elephantitis.” TO BE CONTINUED.