Day Three/Day Four

Trip 89  January  2009


January 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19  2009


I get up at 3:30 to a very cold and condensated tent so I immediately swab down the bag with two paper towels and then go outside to drain the conservative stink tank and jump back into the tent and light a candle while zipping the bag up to my armpits and grabbing this journal.

There’s a chance old Pisgee hand Hootyhoo will meet me this weekend up on the high ground between the Bob and the Hangover though the severe projected cold might keep him away even though it’s a holiday weekend. The three day weekend may draw in the cold-loving backpacking crowd, whether it be Hootyhoo or not is up for grabs. My goal today is to leave the ridge and descend to the Slickrock where I’ll turn upstream and camp somehwere along the Nutbuster, probably at Burnthouse Camp ‘twixt the two singing creeks. At first light I may need to layer up and do a water run.

When push comes to shove and when a long winter trip is staring you in the face, you want something that works w/o question, does not leak no matter what, adequately ventilates and breathes to keep the sleeping bag mostly dry, is long enough for a full bag atop a 2 inch pad, and has big enough vestibules to store all the gear including food. The main flaw with the Integral Designs MK3 tent is it’s penchant for leaking thru the taped side seams. No tent off the showroom floor should leak so readily, the Hilleberg didn’t and still doesn’t.

Integral Designs MK3 Tent

Backpackers rejoice! I got up and unflung the meated fruit dollop, burned all the trash, fed the dog and went down Big Stack to wash the pot and get a liter of untreated water, part of which is now boiling for oats.

It’s easy to dry out the bag and to pack up a clean camp when doing so under a warming sun. I left Crowders and sit at the rock overlook on the Big Stack trail cooling off and about to delayer. Even from here the Slickrock can be heard and it’s loud so it must be high, something to consider upon arrival as it must be crossed at least one time to go upriver and start the Nutbuster trail.

It’ll be good to be by a loud creek for several days before pulling 3000 feet up to the high ground on my 21st attempt of the Nutbuster. From my vantage point, I can see Yellowhammer Gap and the long ridge climbing up to Cold Spring Knob on the North Lead trail. I can see Big Fat Gap and the South Lead traverse up to the Hangover rocks, the biggest object in my view.

Behind and to the right is Saddle Tree Gap and the short climb to the Haoe and then the long downhill to Naked Ground, my eventual destination. I hope to spend 3 days along the Slickrock basin as I slowly make my way up the Nutbuster, taking several days to go around 5 miles. Now I’m cooling down so maybe I won’t remove the merino tops.

Happy to arrive at a Pisgah-like camp, I do a jig for the camera and a short powwow video. 30 minutes ago the sky opened up and it is now spitting out snow flakes in rapid succession, the white stuff!

Little West Camp On Slickrock Creek

I’m about to finish reading a depressing book about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys called “HEROES AND VILLAINS: The True Story of the Beach Boys” by Steven Gaines. It’s a tome of counterculture excess and all the rest.

The following quotes are from ‘ADVENTURES ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL: A 2,000 Mile Journey in the Wilderness-1968’, by Elmer Onstott from the book ‘HIKING THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, VOLUME ONE, edited by James R. Hare.

ELMER AND THE SHELTER MOUSE: “This shelter, like many others, was infested with mice. I hadn’t even fallen asleep when a mouse ran over my face. I was glad that I had my mouth closed at the time, or I might have had an experience similar to that of an elderly lady some years ago. When she awoke from a nap she was surprised to see a mouse on the sewing machine beside her bed. She opened her mouth to scream and the mouse jumped right in. Closing her mouth, she caught the mouse’s tail with her teeth. That didn’t stop the mouse. He continued clawing and scratching, and finally went on down. She was X-rayed, but the doctors could find nothing wrong with her. After a few hours they sent her home. End of story.” Quote by Elmer Onstott in HIKING THE APPLACHIAN TRAIL.

ELMER AND THE WONDER OF NATURE: “It was always with a feelng of dread that I stepped into the polluted world of a well-traveled highway. The cars zoomed past, leaving me in a swirling vortex of roadside dust and choking exhaust fumes.” Elmer Onstott.

“One of the geatest rewards of a devoted interest in nature is that the more we learn and experience the more there is to be learned and experienced. In our civilized society, most of us are almost completely removed from nature. We have lost our place in nature so to speak and some have forgotten that they are creatures of Nature. Most of the sounds we hear are the sounds of man and his mechanical and electrical devices, sounds from TV, radio, power mowers, traffic, factories, and aircraft.” Elmer Onstott.

“Along the trail the ruthless exploitation of nature by man is all too evident. Only a few small tracts of virgin timber remain on or near the trail. One does not have to travel in the wilderness to reach the conclusion that “man is the filthiest and most destructive animal that roams the face of the earth.” ” Elmer Onstott.

“Nature can be very rough in her violent moods. On the Appalachian Trail, alone and away from civilization, the traveler appreciates this to the fullest degree. Out there alone, with no one to depend on, Nature’s rampages have a profound impact. In a raging storm above tree line where it is a matter of life or death, even the most arrogant is humbled.” Elmer Onstott.

ELMER AND HAVING NO TENT: “I walked up and down the fire road for as long as I could see the road while the cold rain made me wetter and wetter. I looked, and I looked, but there was no shelter.”
“Seeing an overhanging rock a few feet from the fire road, I sought refuge under it, but I was only partially protected. That was the beginning of the most miserable night in my life. My clothing was soaking wet and I was in an awkward standing, stooping position, with a rock diggng into my spine. All night, for what seemed like an eternity, I trembled and shook from the stinging cold. I tried to sleep, but succeeded for not one second. I twisted and turned, seeking a comfortable position, but there was none. Slowly, the night wore on. I wished for a few moments of sleep, but I could not get even that.” Elmer Onstott.

ELMER’S DIET: “One day’s rations consisted of a 15-ounce package of raisins, 8 ounces of protein food(raw peanuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and some cheese), vitamin E, vitamin C, and desiccated liver, and a small apple or two.” Elmer Onstott.

ELMER AND SHOE WEIGHT: “Shoe weight is a factor deserving serious consideration. It is claimed that a pair of shoes weighing one pound less will save the wearer lifting 1 1/2 tons per hour.” Elmer Onstott.

ELMER AND THE HUT BOYS: “Food supplies for the hut are carried a distance of three miles on the backs of the hut boys. The boys, mostly college students, sometimes carry loads of over 100 pounds.” Elmer Onstott. ALL QUOTES FROM THE BOOK ‘HIKING THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL’, edited by James R. Hare.

It amazes me to read about AT hikers callousness towards the natural world they walk thru. What comes to mind is Owen F. Allen’s 1960 thruhike and his killing of the snakes. What is doubly amazing is that he and his hiking companion were both pastors at Methodist churches, which to me shows the small slice of the bigger christians-against-nature pie so rampant thruout history. Here are some quotes from Owen F. Allen in his ’90 DAYS ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL-1960, in the book HIKING THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, edited by James R. Hare.

RATTLESNAKE DEATHS: “We started up Snakeden Ridge. Sure enough, not far up the ridge we were confronted by a good sized rattlesnake. He stood his ground in the trail so we crushed him with a large rock and continued over High Point . . .” Owen Allen.

“Several heavy showers came and then it settled into a fairly steady rain by the time we got to Allen Gap on Tennessee 70 and North Carolina 208 highways. We saw five or six terrapins in the trails, and killed another rattlesnake on Spring Mountain.” Owen Allen.

“Shortly after leaving Beech Gap we came to a fair-sized stream so we stopped to bathe.”
“We went on from there, stopped for a short while at 2:30 to eat, then were off again with easy grades. We ran across another rattler and killed him, cleaned him, and brought him along to eat.” Owen Allen.

“Our feet were sore much of the way; the trail from Neels Gap to Tesnatee Gap was grueling. We ran across a rattler during the last five miles and killed him. He had 15 rattles.” Owen Allen.

HERE’S WHAT ELMER ONSTOTT HAD TO SAY ABOUT SNAKES: “On Virginia Highway 606 I stopped at a service station for some ice cream. While I was there, two officers of the law came in . . . the older officer began the biggest snake tale I heard on the entire Appalachian Trail. He said, “Soon you will be on the Dismal Creek Road. It’s alive with rattlesnakes!” Then he continued, “Two groups of men went rattlesnake hunting over on Dismal Mountain. Each group took one side of the mountain. At the end of the hunt, one group had killed 65 rattlesnakes, the other 39. But they didn’t get all the snakes. Some escaped.” Elmer Onstott.

“As I was approaching Pine Grove Furnace, Pennsylvania, I came upon a large copperhead snake crossing the gravel road. He was in a hurry, but I stopped him with my walking staff, as I wanted to take a picture. This infuriated the snake and he expressed his resentment by striking at me time after time, even though I was eight or more feet away. He was a beautiful snake, and a courageous one. After taking a picture I stepped back, and the snake continued on his way. I do not kill snakes, as I feel they have a place in nature, the same as I have. Snakes are far more efficient than cats for the control of rodents. In every one of our national parks the killing of snakes, including rattlesnakes and copperheads, is prohibited by law.” Elmer Onstott.

THE GOOD OLD FIRE WARDENS: “During the course of our conversation(with a fire warden), he called my attention to a large pile of flat gray rocks at the base of the fire tower. “See that pile of rocks? That’s a rattlesnake den, but I cleaned it out–killed 14 rattlers.” Fire Warden Hawk Mt Georgia. Elmer Onstott. ALL QUOTES FROM THE BOOK ‘HIKING THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL’, edited by James R Hare. END OF QUOTES.

A Light Snow Comes To Little West Camp

Don’t come out to the woods today, boys, as it’s gonna get cold! Turn the car around and return to your flush toilets and your significant udders, your holy couches and your sacred TV sets. There’s nothing for you here except cold fingers, shaking torsos, squatting turtleheads and ice cold creek crossings. Don’t bother strapping on your Crocs for 15 degree creek crossings and forego adjusting your goretex codpieces over your goose down protective cups, no amount of protection will keep you safe from getting kneed in the crotch by an angry Momma Nature.

Like a high-flying black raven she scouts the barren frozen lands for the solitary backpackers she so loves to harrass, those top-heavy two-legged brightly colored-attired interlopers traipsing back and forth thru her land like lost piglets while she observes from high above, always ready to squeeze out a cold snow-turd of surprise on the first human she sees. What we call harsh conditions she calls bountiful blessings, and so with this dichotomy in place I sit alone while she sits all around.

The gulf between being out here writing this vesus being at a computer and reading it is vast and no amount of gleeful sympathetic grunts will make up for the actual experience of camping in these conditions. Read on nonetheless, as the ones who are out in the winter doing this are fit enough, the ones left behind indoors by screens therefore are not and are therefore apparently residents of nursing homes, a valid excuse. Ergo, are all my readers pensioners stuck in old age homes? They must be otherwise they’d be outdoors writing their own cold trip reports in the arctic wild lands. Typical Uncle Fungus opinionated drivel. Ignore me.


DAY FOUR    TRIP 89    2009

Leaving camp in 15 degrees is partly rough, but immediately going in Crocs and crossing a 50 foot wide creek in the things is almost heartbreaking cuz the ice cold water attacked each foot with nasty intent, possibly payback for a life of self-centered emotionalism.

After the butt cold crossing, I depacked and slowly toweled off each foot and repackaged with socks and pulled down my merino leggings and continued up the trail with frosty toes. The water was cold and my feet were momentarily shocked by a Denali it’s-too-late-to-save-them kind of gangrene cold. Since my original plan was to stay on the Nutbuster for several days, I hoofed it only up to Burnthouse Camp where I set up in the snow for a cold night camp in the 12 degree range. Tomorrow night promises minus zero temps–we shall see.

Since this is my favorite trail, I figured it’d be good to camp along its length for Day 4 and maybe Day 5 while slowly making my way up the Nutbuster for the 21st time, a personal record. Knoxville projects a Friday morning temp at 5 degrees and we all know what this means at 5000 feet: something like -7 to -10 below. I’m worried more about my car’s coolant antifreeze rating up at Beech than I am about myself.

I have various avenues to protect myself, one of which is heating up liters of hot water for warmth(while still conserving fuel?), and keeping the bag aired out and dry. This bag is a million dollar lifesaver and a new best friend, I therefore advise all winter backpackers to get the best down bag they can find and save themselves money and a furrowed brow.

Burnthouse Camp And The Start Of The Nutbuster Trail

Burnthouse Camp has been described before and is reached by crossing Hangover Creek and entering a high spit of land stuck between Slickrock Creek and Hangover Creek. Not far from here the trail skirts by a higher portion of Hangover Creek, the blue line I crossed to get here, at a right switchback by Buckeye Camp. My goal tomorrow night, the night of the arctic long knives, will either be up at Nutbuster camp, the large open and tilted campsite in the open cove of section 5, or all the way to Naked Ground. The open cove camp is a special camp on a very special trail even if I have to wake up to subzero temps.

If I’m still alive on Day 6 I hope to pack up all my gear for a summit bid to Naked Ground along the last 4 sections of the rugged Nutbuster:

1) Section 5 will go quickly with only one hellish blowdown blocking the way.
2) Section 6 is the most difficult and steepest, but it’s short and very pretty.
3) Section 7 is short and sometimes muddy, but presents no real challenge.
4) Section 8, Upper Lonesome ridge, is steep in places with some blocking brush but it is doable.
5) Section 9 is difficult as it climbs thru low heath in a trench with some noticeable uphills. The right side pulloff and overlook is a real relief.
6) Section 10 is past the upper heath of section 9, the trail enters the high open woods by water and close to the gap at Naked Ground–sweet relief!

What’s the biggest thing to happen in 2008? Well, Dr. Colon Flaccid modified the Possum Array for pregnant women backpackers and thru state of the art nano-technology and organic nylon compounds with regenerating cell technology, developed a front-hanging belly pack(the Fetal Zygote Donut Teat Array).

In place of the shoulder straps on a normal pack, the FZDTA(or FEZDA)used two donut shaped cinching straps which tightened around the base of a woman’s two teats and could support the weight of a fully loaded pack swinging near groin level.

Rowena Fistula thru hiked the AT in 2007 wearing the pack and had this to say: “I wore the FEZDA pack constantly for over 6 months and routinely carried 50 pounds swinging from my chest. The harness system provided excellent support and the constant banging of the pack against my pregnant belly, I felt, helped to soothe the baby I carried inside me. It even seemed the baby kicked back at the pack repeatedly and I took this as a good sign. Maybe I was carrying a future backpacker!”

“And like clockwork, every three weeks on the trail the FEZDA pack, using regenerative cell technology, reproduced a small replica of itself which emerged from the bottom of the pack at regular intervals. If left alone on the side of a trail, the small pack would in time grow to normal size and be ready to be worn by the next pregnant backpacker.”

As always with a Flaccid pack, tragedy struck when a young woman was found nursing a newborn while surrounded by over 30 small FEZDA packs keeping her immobile. Small hipbelt buckles can inflict nasty welts and the rescuers found this out the hard way when they tried to pull the little packs away. One First Responder lost the tip of his little finger when a near adult sized pack buckle snapped back at his hand.

During the long dark years of the George Bush administration, Flaccid was ordered to develop a line of similar biotic packs that actually ate their users, but there was so much secrecy around the project that no one knows for sure how many military personnel were killed by their own packs. Between the years 2003-2008, there was a tremendous increase reported in special forces training accidents using these packs(the fourth generation of the BITE-ME Array).

Seasoned officers resigned in protest yet somehow a large shipment of the packs were sent to a Boy Scout troop in Longknob, Texas, and on a 50 mile hike along the Brazos River over 14 scouts were tragically eaten by their own packs. Afterwards a federal search found no sign of the packs and officials suggested the packs made their way down the Brazos and crossed over into prime feeding areas along the Appalachian Trail(see map).

Flaccid was whisked away on a government jet and claimed he was waterboarded by the Secretary of Backpacking but in fact after an investigation it was determined that the entire party in the jet including the pilots were voluntarily vodkaboarded, and the matter was left unresolved. Flaccid did return to DC a hero and was given a hero’s welcome until a freight train carrying over 10 million BITE-ME packs derailed in the Sierra Nevada mountains and began their hungry march east.

Trail bums and hobos didn’t know better and were eaten immediately, while ultralighters offered no protection and little resistance and were swarmed and eaten easily. Many dayhikers were attacked from above from trees and devoured.

Flaccid led a team into the California mountains and found that the original group of 10 million packs reproduced into a massive swarm of over 500 million and stayed in California where the feeding was good. Next: THE PACK WARS.


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