Trip 89 January 2009
BACKPACKING THE CITICO/SLICKROCK WILDERNESS
January 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19 2009
MORNING AT NAKED GROUND
At 7am I’m up to pee into the pot and then put on the down jacket so I can sit up in the bag with a lit candle and wait for the sun. I did a quick morning floss while listening to a new arrival here at Naked Ground: the wind, a real wind this time and with wind there comes change, this time a movement from arctic cold to normal winter temps, a warming trend in other words. But it’s not a “trend” as in weatherman pinhead speak, but an actual upcoming occurence. A trend is a leaning towards and never the actual event, maybe this is why the willful wretched wankers use the word cuz they never actually know what is actually going to happen. An “event”, in other words.
DAY 7 PLANS
There’s a good trend today that I will slowly pack up and move to even higher ground along Bob’s Wall to the bald itself where I’ll do my final pull for an anybody looksee. Just to see some fellow backpackers would be nice, a change o’ pace from this solitary winter backpack. I don’t mind seeing nylon pumpers on a trip, especially the hardy winter types, it breaks up the monotony and takes away my internal “rattlesnake” always ready to strike, that “what if” reptile fatter and longer when alone.
My old rule of backpacking is: Conditions always seem worse when alone, add another person and what was a near death epic day in the wild becomes with another person a jovial laugh-it-up butt slapping goof around the fire. This is especially true when temps go south off the scale and a fellow backpacker pops up in your world and you know there’s someone close by enduring their own night of hell. It’s all mental, in other words.
Forget about this kind of cold keeping ULers away, it keeps EVERYONE away. In fair weather there’s always a glut of backpackers around this side of the wilderness, the “fair weather crowd”, so many in fact that it can be a bit much. But even on a big holiday weekend like July 4th I still know where to go to find complete solitude.
When temps hit zero though, I can go wherever I want cuz I know the majority of my brother backpackers and nature lovers are the fair weather types and would in no way shape or form come out in these conditions. This trip is a good example as I haven’t seen a single backpacker in 7 days but this is not a record as once I went 15 days w/o seeing a single human. That’s a long time and something out of another world, like backpacking in the Yukon or something. Or stealth camping under a bush in the woods behind a Walmart. It’s all relative.
Well, on Day 7 my pack will be considerably lighter as most of my books have been burned and alot of the fuel has been used(over 22 ounces gone with 11 remaining), and 1/3 of the food is gone, at least. There’s still a heavy bag of cooked brown rice ready to eat(and frozen solid), but all of the eggs are gone as are the three apples and one big pear. My cookables bag now contains two teryiaki ramen meals and 7 or 8 more veggie patties along with one last Kashi veggie pocket. The main thing is to get moving and take the pot down to the spring and get a Sigg full of water to boil with enough pot water to heat to clean the pot. Then the cooking begins. Let’s get back to Dr. Colon Flaccid!
THE PACK WARS AND THE BITE-ME ARRAY
Dr. Flaccid told the President to send in an elite Army Airborne force and have them dropped behind “enemy lines” and this was accomplished two days later by a massive air drop. Unfortunately, the paratroopers were somehow given BITE ME packs and were eaten before they reached the ground. Later Flaccid formed elite teams of veteran backpackers who knew backpacking habits and understood how enemy packs would behave, “send a guerrilla to catch a guerrilla” was how Flaccid called it. They were eaten almost immediately. By the time Flaccid organized his teams, over 5 billion packs were hungry and on the move, heading east across New Mexico and Colorado and into Oklahoma and Texas. A few days later Flaccid organized a roving band of ultralight backpackers, people who could move fast and light(the HungWell battalion), and positioned them on the flanks of the enemy packs. They were eaten immediately and the packs almost ate Flaccid as he scurried thru the flanks of his beloved HungWells in retreat.
FROM ONE COLD CAMP TO ANOTHER
The daughters of the frigid forest turned away for a moment and gave me the chance to pack up and get away w/o them seeing me. Sneaking off and thinking I was successful, I made it to the Bob to set up at the South Col Camp but was surprised to find they knew all along where I was headed and beat me to it. So once again here I sit in a butt cold tent atop hard packed snow but with a new winter twist: I sit beneath a windy gray blue sky with some snow in my near future. Of course, the Bob is empty of people, backpackers or otherwise.
NINE BOY SCOUTS PASS THRU
Troop 6 from Ohio sent out 9 scouts including several leaders to Beech Gap and they passed thru on their way to Naked Ground to camp. They seemed a jovial happy bunch and one of the leaders lives here in Tellico off the Skyway. One small boy was very happy and had a captivating smile with a pint-sized pack on his back. We didn’t talk for long as a wicked wind was blowing and it was late in the day. They’ll find my two day campsite at Naked and I hope I covered up all my old pee stains with fresh snow at the main firepit, otherwise . . .
Or they may find the eggshells I flung way down the overlook bank . . . or the assorted teabags around the firepit . . . or the apple peel sitting where Shunka spent the night. It’s bad when a group of boy scouts make you worry about leaving-no-trace camping, or about leaving one heck of a trace.
SLEET STORM AT SOUTH COL
South Col lives up to its namesake Himalayan counterpart at least in some degree as there’s a stiff cold wind blowing spindrift and ice crystals with some actual snow mixed in to produce a foggy whiteout and a winter’s Raven’s Yard. I pegged out the tent with all but one of the guylines and now sit in the tent after a hot noodle meal finished with some hard 60% cocoa bars. The sleet and snow hits the tent fly and it sounds almost too good to be true.
WHO DO I KNOW?
I was able earlier to filter a liter of water and so save a few ounces of fuel for what might be an extended trip in coldest conditions. If I had a real set of gonads I’d run down to the scout’s camp and do a nighthike back, it would happen if there was someone I knew down there, like Little River Jody or Rcarver or any of the Whiteblazers, like envirodiver, generoll, mowgli, two speed, spiritwind, sgt rock, cuffs, eman, troll, ed “stretch”, nightwalker. Or amy willow or johnny b. Since I don’t really know the scouts all that well, my presence might be considered awkward.
Oh well, saves me a 3 mile dayhike in awesome conditions. Heck, if I knew any of them then one of them would’ve stayed up here with me and we would’ve had a fine time. It’s sort of sad that after 30 plus years of backpacking and 30 years of going out with hundreds of different people, I’ve got no one now from those years that wants to go out with me or loves it enough to stay in touch. “Loves it enough” is the key phrase.
When I first started living out it was CampTrails Bob who shared my interest the most, and we hiked a lot of trails together around Boone. Around the same time I met my most loyal backpacking friend Big Don and he followed me for several years to different places like Horn Hill, Pisgah Upper Creek, Lost Valley, Winklers, Sky Ranch and the Conehead. He was often on trips with me and Bob and later with Johnny B and others. The third backpacking buddy I had and definitely the most dedicated was Johnny B.
We met in 1985 and went on hundreds of trips together, mainly to Pisgah, Horn Hill, Rainbows, the Tipi and in the Citico/Slickrock. When I lost Johnny B for a backpacking buddy, I lost my most motivated and inspired brother of nature. I haven’t really lost Johnny B as a friend, and we’ve done some very recent trips together, but the once-a-month outings of yesteryear are long gone.
THE WOMEN OF BACKPACKING
Along with CampTrails Bob and Big Don and Johnny B, many women backpackers joined us for many different trips. At first it was me myself and irene as what woman wanted to sleep in a cemetary or next to a church thru the winter? My first backpacking companion was Beckola and although she only went out on a few trips, she was a loyal friend.
In 1981 I did a trip with Hawk Woman and Big Don’s sister-in-law Nancy and we went to Pisgah for several days along Steels Creek. I remember Nancy crossing a fast moving creek and losing her glasses in the water. Hawk Woman and I also did a trip to Winklers and another up to a hidden site north of the Sky Ranch camps. She even did a nighthike up to the #9 Tipi in ice cold snowy conditions and surprised me and some others camping nearby.
In 1984 I discovered Upper Creek in Pisgah for the first time on a exploratory trip with BB and her friend James. After this, BB and I did an extensive hitching and camping trip to Lost Valley, Blowing Rock, Greensboro, Chapel Hill and the Duke Forest, Hiway 54, Pilot Mt, Lake Junaluska, walked hiway 209 to Hot Springs and got on the AT north to Watauga Lake and hitched back to Boone for some nights in the Conehead. It was a long good trip.
In 1985 I took out Amal Willow and then met Johnny B and so a whole crew of people went out to Pisgah including Willow and a hundred others.
NIGHT FALLS ON THE SOUTH COL
A brisk hard wind hits the bald and with it comes blown snow sliding off the kerlon tent sides. I am protected and warm inside this wonderful 36 sq foot dome tent and unlike the ID single wall, when I open the door to this tent I am not covered with snow blowing in. Despite the two nights I spent at Naked, the cloud blanket that is spitting out this snow is responsible for upping the temps enough to make it around zero degrees, a big change from Thursday night and Friday morning’s -10 below.
I like to be inside a tent at 5240 feet in a snowstorm at night, it has all the elements of winter and all the elements of shelter, the best of both worlds.
BOY SCOUTS TROOP 6
I’d like to look into their camp right now and see how they’re set up and ask where they’re headed next. Sunday night at the Hangover and out Monday? Up here tomorrow night instead?
DAY EIGHT TRIP 89 2009
DAY 8 MIDNIGHT REPORT
The weather outside is frightful, let’s get this straight right off. It’s hard to believe I can stay warm, dry and totally snow free while outside is a real mess. I bet there’s some excited kids down there at the gap, maybe this was the smiling boy’s first real experience out in blessed conditions, maybe he’s getting what I got in Oklahoma in 1957, that first real rush of Mother Nature’s power. If so, he’ll remember it for the rest of his life. And maybe he’ll go thru high school crazy about the girls and filled with poetry to their beauty, and maybe he’ll end up serving 4 years in the military to get away from home and help find himself, and maybe he’ll even go to college when he gets out, a college in the mountains somewhere.
And then maybe he’ll remember today and yesterday up on the high ground in the snow in his heart of hearts and get some gear again and start sleeping out under snow and in conditions exactly like this. And maybe he’ll still write poetry to the girls but save himself for the Woman In White and her arctic daughters and run from humans one by one into the arms of his forest family. If he can somehow reach age 25 w/o bringing forth his own child, he’ll step into a wilderness world a true smiling boy with freedom written anew on his smiling face into stone age wonderment and into the neolithic sanctuary.
The results of an all night sleet storm greeted me this morning when I got up and so I spent several minutes scrapping off ice from the tent fly and resetting guylines. Later I went to get a pot of water and boiled it up for hot Sigg tea storage and had a little breakfast of whole wheat bread with figs and chips and cheese. I’m thinking I shoud of used the water filter and saved a bit of gas as I may be stuck out here longer than planned. Believe it or not but a cold front is scheduled to come in tonight followed by yet more snow thru Tuesday, my planned day of departure.
SIX GEORGIA BACKPACKERS
A group of 6 backpackers pass thru with two dogs and they came up from Kilmer yesterday and stayed with the boy scouts at Naked last night. Today they are hoofing it on the Fodderstack to Crowders and down Big Stack to the Slickrock where they’ll turn right and pull the one crossing and basically duplicate my earlier route by going up the Nutbuster. They’ll camp somewhere around Burnthouse or Buckeye or maybe lower by Slicnic and then tomorrow will pull up the rugged Nutbuster to shoot the gap at Naked and head back down to Kilmer. No fotogs of this happy group, sad to say. 15 backpackers altogether, then.
FRESH SNOW ON THE BOB
At midday the sky clouds over and a new batch of snow comes down in swirling beauty to captivate and imprison. I could move today to points down but I’ll give Spiritwind and HH one last chance to link up and what better place to do it than here on the winter white encrusted Bob.
NAKED GROUND STORY
The 9 boy scouts I saw yesterday passed back over the Bob on their quick way out and told me it was -1 degree at the high gap this morning. I thought it felt higher but after the cold snap of 3 days ago anything’s possible. They also said Naked was full of campers, about 45 by their count including the six Georgia boys, their group of 9 and several other scouting troops. They said it was like some kind of Himalayan basecamp. They should’ve stayed up here as there was just one camper versus the 45 at Naked.
HARK! BLUE SKIES!
Don’t tempt me, Momma! The snow stopped and I see a bit of blue–surely you jest. I need some direct warming sunshine in my life, at least my wet and frozen tent does. Let me reboot and return to the open bald for a looksee into the glistening sparkling sunlight.
A COLD SUNSET
I don’t know if this will be my last night out or not, it’s been so cold the last five days, I’m not sure what the road is like out of here or what more is to come. Sounding like a dayhiker all of a sudden. Ignore my punk butt groveling.
LOW IN FUEL
Due to the extreme temps and excessive water boiling, I’m down to about two more days of white gas, maybe 3 if I forego hot tea. So far I’ve only seen two groups of backpackers, and the purported ’45’ down at Naked never passed thru here and no one decided to camp near me tonight. I’ve given up on sharing this place today.
DON’T FORGET SHUNKA
Of course, my best companion is old Shunka, the old man of the mountains, at almost 14 years of age. He sits in a little leafy nest he made and is happy and warm but a little bored. He’s waiting to get home and back to his usual haunts. I too feel ready to get back and enter 2009 with whatever business needs to be done.