BALD AND UPPER BALD
December 31 January 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14 2010
15 DAYS IN THE TENNESSEE ARCTIC
3 FRIGID BAREFOOT CREEK CROSSINGS
10 NIGHTS BELOW 10F
THANK GOD FOR GOOSE DOWN AND A TENT
HELL IN A VERY SMALL PLACE: 54A
SNOWSTORM AT NAKED GROUND
4 NIGHTS AT OF
HELL SLOG ALONG FOUR MILE RIDGE
FINAL NIGHT ON FLATS MOUNTAIN TRAIL
Bald River–Rock Ledge Camp–Bald River–Holly Flats–Brookshire–Horse Camp–Brookshire–Sugar Mt BMT–Tellico River Bridge Fish Hatchery–Sycamore Creek Trail–Sycamore Camp–Sycamore Creek–Hobo Camp–Sycamore–Whiggs Meadow–Frozen Pond–Mud Gap–Skyway Roadwalk–Beech Gap–Fodderstack–54A–Bob Bald Raven Camp(2)–Four Mile Ridge–Naked Ground(3)–Four Mile Ridge Hell–Bob–54A–Fodderstack BMT–Pine Ridge Trail–Pine Lower Camp–Pine Ridge Trail–Warden’s Field–South Fork 105–North Fork–North Fork First Crossing Camp–North Fork–South Fork–Roadwalk–Flats Mountain Trail–Flats Camp–Flats Mt–Roadwalk to Skyway.
TRAIL: Bald River
CAMP: Rock Ledge
NEW YEAR’S EVE
Little Mitten drove up the Tellico River and dropped me off at the entrance to the Bald River wilderness by the thundering roar of Bald River falls for another backpacking trip into the Tennessee forests. As I was unpacking, a light green Ranger jeep passed by and put on the brakes and came back in reverse and it was my old acquaintance Rob Thomas and he said hello and I introduced Little Mitten and he wondered what happened to my truck which he used to see all the time at Warden’s Field and I told him I quit parking there due to an instance of vandalism. I told him I donated it to salvage and showed him my black Toyota. He said he’s seen it around and about, parked at various places thru the area like at the Fish Hatchery, Beech Gap, Grassy Gap and Baby Falls.
What is Polartec Thermal Pro Polyfleece? What is Polartec Power Stretch? What’s Polartec Windbloc laminate?
THE LAST DAY OF 2009
With a new battery-fed headlamp I fire up the journal on the last day of the year and hope all of my readers are also out on this day, not reading but romping thru the woods with packs and poles and pegs and will let this day and tomorrow rising in a primitive shelter determine the tenor of their upcoming year. Whereas I couldn’t be out on Christmas day, I have no problem spending New Year’s in a new red Staika with a 15 day load of food, fuel and books.
AT ROCK LEDGE CAMP
I’m back in the Bald River wilderness but camping at a rarely used camp upstream from the Black Cave Camp and one I call the Rock Ledge, located right at the junction with the Cow Camp trail. This camp of course brings back memories of several earlier trips, one where I set up for 5 days and explored the whole of the river valley, another where Little Mitten got her new Kelty pack and we camped here in the 7×9 Iron Mountain “big yellow tent”, and another when old backpacking buddies Johnny B and Amy Willow stayed here in their tents with me.
What’s Rock Ledge like? It’s loud since the big rock wall behind me bounces off the creek and off the stone and into the tent.
A RED STAIKA?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I touched Santa’s Sac two weeks ago more toys spilled out than I bargained for and one of the best was this fine red Hilleberg Staika I’m sitting in right now. Here’s the actual “thought–comment flowchart” Santa handed me as he contemplated giving me the new tent:
“Age of old tent and color vs newness, elasticity and red: To wit: Old Staika showing signs of wear and pinholes. Elastic bands stretching and deforming. Red is a fine Christmas color.”
Basically, he likes the big red dome, I wonder why? There’s more:
“After careful study and comparison, I decree the manufacture and elf participation in the final production of the Hilleberg red Staika 3 pole dome tent hithertoaforementioned supplicant and devotee of the Hilleberg green Staika 3 pole dome tent, and handmade by elves at a secret location in the North and inside a festive green and red bunker guarded by heavily armed midgets. I heretofore anoint young Uncle Fungus the new owner of yet another tent and of yet another Hilleberg tent. One moment please . . . .
“A greenish elf just informed me of the fact that Uncle Fungus owns far too many tents to be deserving of another and so from this day and commencing on the following day, January 1, 2010, I will be sending out a select team of elf shooters and snipers to hunt down Mister Fungus and get some of these tents back–prying them out of his cold dead fingers if need be. So, if you hear a loud noise on your roof at night in the coming months, just know it will be me, Big Nick, or my many thousands of one-eyed fast moving midgets doing what they do best: hunting in packs for bad people like Uncle Fungus and getting some of their toys back.”
“It’s been found over the years that kids can put up a tremendous fight to keep their toys and so for this reason the midget teams I’ll be sending out are heavily armed with assault rifles(Heckler and Koch), tear gas and shotguns. Christmas is over and they want their stuff back!” Signed, Big Nick.
WHY AM I BACK ON BALD RIVER?
The main reason is because I didn’t want Little Mitten to have to drive very far and it’s only 19 miles from home to the drop off point. Plus, there’s rumor of snow up on the high ground and bad road conditions, so here I am.
IRENE ENTERS CAMP
And so she brings the end of Day 1 and introduces the benefits of supine camping.
A BOOK ON MT EVEREST AND K2
Before Irene puts me down to sleep I’m reading HIGH: Stories of Survival From Everest and K2, edited by Clint Willis. Good old Clint Willis, 1999 Balliet and Fitzgerald. First off, some terms defined:
** Arete: a steep narrow ridge.
** Bivouac: an impromptu or sketchy overnight camp consisting of light weight minimal shelter at best–a snowhole or bivvy sack for example.
** Col: a pass or dip in a ridge.
** Couloir: an open gully.
** CWM: a rounded hollow at the head or side of a valley.
** Spindrift: powder snow carried by wind or small avalanches.
** Verglas: a think layer of ice. ALL QUOTES FROM THE GLOSSARY BY CLINT WILLIS
Willis begins the book with these words: “Everest and K2 serve many purposes these days.” “Climbers having used both mountains as garbage dumps and exploited them to build resumes and reputations.” WILLIS
In the first except from Matt Dickinson’s THE OTHER SIDE OF EVEREST: “Now, zipped into that tiny plastic capsule 8,300 meters above the rest of the world, I slipped effortlessly into a state of euphoric trance. The cramped Quasar mountain tent suddenly took on the dimensions of a cathedral, it’s domed roof becomes a series of soaring arches suspended hundreds of feet in the air.” DICKINSON FROM WILLIS
“With the dawn came the wind, our greatest enemy.” DICKINSON FROM WILLIS. I love readng about these guys, they get to experience Miss Nature at the ragged edge and many don’t return to talk about it. I hope to be quoting from this book thruout my journey and I’ll try to keep the quotes and short and succinct. Here’s several from Rick Ridgeway in the chapter entitled “THE LAST STEP”:
“Between my legs I could see the couloir fall away steeply to the Abruzzi Shoulder, to Camp VI, and ten thousand feet below that, to the Godwin-Austen Glacier. Remember, I told myself, you cannot make a mistake. You have no rope.” RIDGEWAY
“Dark thoughts, fuzzy scenarios, disjointed images, dreams from a high-altitude opium den.” RIDGEWAY
“I located my pack and sorted what to take and what to leave. Extra pile pants–leave. Camera–take. Extra mittens–leave. Sack of summit rocks–take. Stove and cookware–leave. I found the oxygen regulator I had picked up yesterday on the descent. It cost six hundred dollars. It also weighed several pounds–leave. With pack shouldered, we wearily stepped out of camp, leaving behind the tents and miscellaneous gear to the gods of the mountain and also, no doubt, to the goraks who would most likely fly even that high to scavenge our jetsam.” RIDGEWAY
Here’s a couple quotes from Frank Smythe in 1933 from the chapter “Camp Six: An Account of the 1933 Everest Expedition”:
“The sky was clear at daybreak. We had resolved overnight to leave at 5, but a rising wind and intense cold made this impossible. Cold we could have faced, but the addition of wind is too much for mere flesh and blood on Everest.” SMYTHE
“Our boots might have been carved out of stone, and they glistened and sparkled inside with the frozen moisture from our feet. I made a vain attempt to soften mine over a candle, but it was useless, and somehow or other I thrust my feet into them, pausing at intervals to beat my bare hands together, or stuff them into my pockets.” SMYTHE (This quote will come in handy for my next trip).
FAMOUS MOUNTAINEER FRITZ WIESSNER 1900-1988
“Moreover, the sleeping bags were the most valuable gear on the expedition.” WEISSNER
“I had no fear. All I was thinking was, how stupid this has to happen like this. Here we are, we can still do the mountain, and we have to lose out in this silly way and get killed forever. I didn’t think about family, and of course I was never a believer in Dear Old God.” WEISSNER from the famous Weissner belay on K2.
“5 MILES HIGH”
And finally, here’s some quotes from the chapter “Five Miles High” by Charles S. Houston and Robert H. Bates:
“On Saturday the 16th, Petzoldt and I ambitiously started the primus at 5 o’clock, hoping to get away early. But at 7 when we finally started, a cold wind and threatening snow drove us back to lie in our tents for an hour.” HOUSTON. This quote pretty much describes the whole of Trip 105.
“Our four Shetland sweaters, flannel shirts and the windproof suits with two pairs of light wool mittens and ski gauntlets barely sufficed to keep us from frostbite, even though there was no wind.” HOUSTON
“I felt that all my previous life had reached a climax in these last hours of intense struggle against nature, and yet nature had been very indulgent. She had scarcely bothered to turn against us the full force of her elements. Indeed, she had favored us with perfect weather and not too difficult conditions, preferring to let our puny bodies exhaust themselves in the rarefied atmosphere.” HOUSTON FROM WILLIS
THROW THE DOG A BONE
To winter backpackers like me, reading these harrowing tales from 8000 meters gives me thankful pause and comfort and a sense of security as I sit cold and shiverng in my tent and under my sleeping bag. No matter how rough it gets for me, barring collapse or heart failure, it will never come close to the struggles of the rock fanatics and high mountaineers.
Whether they are a special breed or not is up for grabs but when they can’t make it down a mountain or have to sleep in a snow hole or sleep in a wind battered tent at 27,000 feet, I grab myself in a self-hug and chuckle at my good fortitude to be at 5,000 feet in an 8 inch snow at 10F or camping in a winter valley by a roaring creek. I still have my fingers and toes and I’m not coughing up blood and though there’s no glory or prestige accruing from these trips, my TJs attest in a limited way the depth of my low landed resume.
THE LADY OF FAVOR
In addition, Miss Nature is the Lady of Favor and the Girl we most want to impress and to get her attention is easy but requires boots and a sleeping bag. Whether you stay by a river or climb up K2, you’re with the Girl in White or Brown or Blue or Green or Black, and she’ll take notice, you can be assured of that. Climbing a big mountain to me is sort of like crossing a raging ice cold creek: sure you can do it and Miss Nature is there every step of the way, and heck, you can see her on the other side like Lorelei calling you across, but somewhere in the depths of your peanut brain a choice was made to do so and then to risk injury or death.
The funny thing is, she’s on both sides, the one you’re on and the one you’re crossing to. We all know this, and yet we must cross over. We throb with summit fever and go beyond reluctancy and plunge, often to our deaths, and always in her presence. It’s the call of the wild and religious and the monks are fanatics in a do or die cause. For the land lubbers and citified, it’s best to keep away and leave them alone, find something to occupy your time like DVDs or politics or Matt Lauer or girls gone wild. If you hang out with these nature boy fundamentalists, you could easily find yourself in a tent at -10F or in a climbing harness on Abruzzi ridge and then will you realize you got swept up with the diehards but its too late to quit your faith and find another religion.
To die in trace like a horse pulling a buggy is the end salvation to the nature religion, and for every fanatic that dies doing what he loves a dozen more get caught up in the fervor and fanaticism and dies with him., It’s exactly the same in war, for every Colonel David Hackworth there’s a 100 guys without the call of the sword but who want so much to be like him that they fall beneath the blade. The war religion is a poor analogy to the call of the wild, but both end in death.
THE RED STAIKA
So nylon fans, why did I go with another Staika? And why didn’t I bring the roomier and larger Keron? Good questions both and here’s my response.
** The Keron is a near perfect tent, it sets up faster than the Staika and has vertical walls all around and is very roomy with giant end vestibules. I almost brought it out on this trip? Why didn’t I? Because the Staika fits in smaller sites and is a bit lighter and is Red, a real change from years in green.
** There just might be less condensation in the Staika then in the Keron, although I haven’t really tested the Keron enough to see past an initial reaction of “more condensation”.
** The Staika is designed to vent better than the Keron and is a domed chimney with two large vents for all the warm air to go. On the other hand, the Keron is a fully enclosed “tube tent” like a long tube of coated nylon with no natural chimney effect except on both ends. It would be weird to have top vents on a tunnel tent covered by a small attached fly over the top tunnel like the Tarra or the Saivo fly. There are no top vents on the Keron and so quickly most of the moist warm air gets trapped on the long pole supported tube above the camper’s head and body. So, my brief and initial impression is that the Keron keeps my bag wetter than the Staika.
** But dangit, I love the Keron 3 and if I could make it work, well, I will make it work.
** I had a dream on Trip 103 of the Staika as I was sleeping in it and woke up knowing it to be “the perfect tent” for me, a sort of vision of how really good it is. The perfect tent? Naw, but good enough.
WHY GET ANOTHER?
Cuz Santa was good to me and with some surplus savings I got him to sew up a couple new Hilleberg tents at the North Pole and bring them down on his next visit to TN. And let’s face it, I put alot of wear and tear on my old green Staika but it could go another 4 or 5 years w/o a single leak or bad zipper or floor, and the weak elastic could be fixed pretty easily. Petra Hilleberg emailed me and offered to fix them or send me the elastic for my own repair and I surmise the elastic on this new tent will weaken in 4 years of heavy use.
The Keron has 9 nonelastic “permanent” connectors so its inner tent won’t shrink as much as the Staika with its 5 nonelastic connectors. The Staika’s inner shape is much more reliant on these elastic pull outs, and its small wedge must stay fully expanded and pulled tight to give it ample living space.
FIXING THE ELASTIC
** Cut out a couple inches and resew; fairly easy fix.
** Get new ones and replace; more difficult, much more difficult.
** Tie several knots in each reducing length and reattach to outer tent; very easy though difficult to undo. Have you ever tried to unknot elastic?
A brand new tent has fresh unpulled tight elastic and I wonder what would happen if all the connectors were nonelastic permanent webbing like the one on the very top and in the four corners? Would a wind storm tear out the seams where these attach? Probably, otherwise Hilleberg would have used regular webbing attachments all along. I wish Bo Hilleberg was sitting in the tent with me now so we could have this discussion.
I basically live in my Staika and so it shows its weaknesses more than with intermittent trips and occasional backpacking treks. If it was me I’d replace all these elastic pulls with webbing just to see what would happen. Ripped inner? Probably. Let’s hit the sac and call it quits. The New Year is about 30 minutes away.
TRAIL: Bald River/Holly Flats/Brookshire
CAMP: Horse Camp on the Brookshire
HAPPY NEW YEAR JANUARY 1 2010
I’m up on the first day of 2010 and inside the mighty tunnel of the roaring river called the Bald. With me is a just fed Shunka dog and a couple mice who came in the night and chewed on an apple and left a couple of their little turds around and about. Its about 30F and so I don the goretex pants and Feathered Friends parka and think about today’s breakfast and route.
NAKED BRAND PROTEIN ZONE MANGO ALL NATURAL FRUIT AND BOOSTS PROTEIN JUICE SMOOTHIE
An incredibly long name for 16ozs of a store bought beverage which sits in my tent and wakes up early morning taste buds. Why Bald River? Cuz I can tie into the northern BMT and go over Sugar Mt and cross the Tellico River to start my journey up the Whigg and get into the Citico at Beech Gap and all points familiar and beloved. The next couple nights promise to be very cold, maybe the coldest yet for the TN valley, but I’ll be on the low ground for several more days.
How low? About 500 to 2,000 feet but if I sleep atop Sugar Mt I’ll be at around 3,000 feet, that’s about a 9 degree drop from whatever Knoxville gets. 20F in Knoxville, 11F here at 3,000 feet. At 5,000 feet? 5F? Sounds too low, my figures must be off. It’ll be cold however you figure it.
When I came in yesterday I stashed a Base Camp pad under a rock overhang back up the trail a half mile so I’d have something on this side of the wilderness as my Citico cache is about 25 miles from here.
** I must take my soiled turd encrusted partly eaten rodent apple down to a side creek and wash it off. Frozen fingers again.
** And then eat a small breakfast of apple, cheese and pecans. Let’s get moving!
2010 starts with a lot of questions. The sky is getting darker and it seems to be spitting tiny bits of ice or sleet or snow, it’s hard to tell.
CHEESES OF TRIP 105
** Grassfields organic Leyden
** Parmigiano Reggiano organic Casearia di Sant Anna
** Sterling Cave Aged goat cheese
** Mt Sterling goat milk country jack cheese with dill
** Mt Sterling goat milk smoked mild cheddar cheese
** iGourmet Bavarian cheese with herbs and flowers(Kuh Heublumenkase), product of Germany.
If you’re a vegetarian and gonna eat cheese, you might as well get a wide variety. What’s Leyden cheese? Who knows, but it’s good–creamy and the cumin is embedded in the organic cow’s milk. A variety of cheese on a backpacking trip is like having a select box of fine candies and it reminds me of the old Hickory Farms tables set up in shopping malls where you could get a thin slice smaple of their tasty cheeses. One in particular I remember, a chocolate like brown cheese which was fantastic. Forget about 90% of the cheese you find at Walmart or grocery stores, look for the exotic stuff and take it out backpacking and nibble bits and pieces to your heart’s content. They mix well with grapes and apples and pears, and with crackers and of course with most cooked meals like rice or enchiladas or pasta or all else.
Here’s some gear products for you gearheads out there. Maybe you can tell me what it all means:
** OutDry laminate and Velboa Raschel lining–both from the Hydra Glove my Mt Hardwear.
** Micro-Chamois lined chin–Mt Hardwear Phantom jacket.
** HyVent Alpha 2 layer laminate–North Face Honco jacket.
** Bantum ripstop shell, micro poplin lining–Marmot Zen’s jacket.
** Pertex Endurance waterproof/breathable laminate–Outdoor Research Virtuoso jacket.
** ALL FROM A MOUNTAIN GEAR CATALOG–READ ONCE AND BURNED.
** Duo Cinch closure, Ventia shell, Primaloft One, MoonLite pile fleece insulation, Pittards Armortan palm–all from Outdoor Research Alti mitt.
** Good God, y’all.
** Z-Rip shell–Mt Hardwear Subzero parka.
** Windstopper shell–NF Himalayan pants.
** Conduit SL laminate–Mt H Subzero jacket.
** Primaloft ECO synthetic insulation–OR Fraction Hoody.
** Eco Sensor ripstop shell–Mt H Nitrous Hooded jacket.
** Coreloft insulation, Polartec Power Stretch with Hardface Technology, Luminaria Stretch shell–all Arcteryx Atom LT hoody.
** Thermic Micro insulation, Nutshell Taslan panels–Mt H Compressor pants. Nutshell? Sounds like a testicle holder.
** Brushed Tricot collar–OR Transcendent sweater.
** Monkey Phur, Power Stretch cuffs–Mt H Monkey Man jacket. Are we killing monkeys now?
** Polartec 300 series fleece–NF Denali jacket.
** R1 Polartec Power Dry, stretch material–Patagonia Ri Full zip jacket.
** Windwall fabric, polyester fleece with bonded polyester mesh–NF Windwall 2 jacket.
** Polartec Thermal Pro–NF women’s Scythe jacket.
** Polartec Thermal Pro Cobble–Arcteryx Strato jacket.
** GoreTex Pro Shell with MicroGrip lining–Arcteryx Alpha SV jacket. NOTE: It’s the mae one I got for Christmas!!
** WaterTight zippers, Schoeller Dynamic GNS reinforcements–Arcteryx Alpha SV bib.
** ThermaTek insulation–Arcteryx Fission SL jacket.
** Ambush edge guards, FTX stretch–Arcteryx Argon Ice pant.
** Pontetorto Technostretch–Mt H Dome Ruinart.
** FTX light Pro Shell–Mt H Beryllium jacket.
** Dri-Clime lined chin guard–Marmot Troll Wall jacket.
** Keprotec(kevlar)reinforements–NF Mountain pant.
** Sentinel Pro Shell—Mt H Caraballo jacket.
** Gore Tex SoftShell high loft and low loft–Arcteryx Scarab jacket.
** Hy Vent TNF Apex soft shell–NF Magnus jacket.
** Tufstretch–Mt H OffWidth jacket.
** Quartz softshell–Marmot Scree pant.
PLEASE GOD LET IT END
** Polartec Power Shield–Arcteryx Gamma MX jacket.
** Cordura soft shell–OR Alibi jacket.
** Apex Climate Block–NF Apex Bionic jacket.
** Apex Universal–NF Apex Big Wall pant.
** Tectonic Welded construction–Marmot Genesis jacket.
** Alchemy stretch softshell, Schoeller Nonosphere panels–Mt H Alchemy jacket.
** Synchro SBT/AXF shell–Mt H Sunchro jacket.
** Polartec Power Shield 02 light weight, Polyface–Arcteryx Zeta jacket.
** H2No laminate–Patagonia Backcountry Guide pant.
** zWeld technology, Torch softshell–Mt H Dragon jacket.
** Gore Tex Paclite–Arct Alpha SL jacket.
** Conduit SILK laminate, Ark Rip and Ark stretch panels–Mt H Epic jacket.
** Precip ripstop–Marmot Precip jacket.
** Dry Touch finish–Marmot Precip pant.
** Miloria Jersey–Mt H Super Power tight.
As anyone with half a brain can see, the product jungle will kill any entering newbie, so god help the poor enthusiastic beginner. Here’s how I do it: I need a rain jacket. Find the best. Purchase. I need a down sleeping bag. Find the best and warmest for my needs. Purchase. Forget about all those names! (Wait, I got the WM bag in part because it has a Microfiber shell–good God y’all–I’m stuck in the jungle too!
ASOLO BOOT WEIGHTS
** Fugitive 3.1 lbs
** Women’s Stynger 2.7 lbs $199
** Revenge GTX 2.14 lbs
** Women’s Atlatis GTX 2.10 lbs $210
** Powermatic 200 GV 3.6 lbs $270
When I recover from the last 30 minutes of journal keeping, I’ll start up again on the meaningless nomenclature of boots. Get ready for another long list of intricate, confusing and meaningless product names.
DR FLACCID’S ORIGINAL GEAR PATENTS
** Vapor Lock–a face mask for cold weather, shutting off all hope of outside air.
** Beaver Bone Bung Assists–self explanatory.
** Rectal Imaging Technology–using sphincter muscles to take photographs.
** Remote Bung Assist–see Rectal Imaging.
** HungWell What-A-Load pack–heavy, skid-resistant and tusk-proofed pack material.
** Semen Blok–backpacking underwear.
** Tofu-based silicone slip and slide toilet paper.
** Wind Won’t Go fart-proof rain pants.
** The Head Ache–self tightening banded watch caps with compression ring technology.
** The Full Dose water bottles, made with toxic chemicals inparting a zaney mix of biphenol ejaculates and polycarboxal nimrodiols in a suspended plastic housing.
** Self Detonating white gas stoves–the Third Degree and the Immolate Lite.
** What A Crock camp shoes with spiked SuperDefeated insoles and ToeJam recepticles.
** The Rocket In My Pocket backpacking condoms, made from silk-lexan and Numb Away, a mixture of herbs and latex biphenols.
** I Go Cha! fish hook spoons–insert into lip and never lose or drop your spoon again.
** Nesting Disposable Titantium cooking pots–never have to wash a pot again. Order the 100 Nesters Series(16lbs, $7,000). They all fit together like a Russian egg. Use and discard in creek or by firepit in camp.
** The Flaccid Edible tent, when all else is lost you can eat your way out.
** The Blow Up Doll down bag with silicone headholes and goosedown orifice rings. Why get up at all? Or stay down when you’re up.
** The Backpacking Pen– dual use item, multitool with ink cartridge and scanning rectal thermometer. Now easily check your temperature while keeping your journal.
LET’S PACK UP!
Yippity but a reluctant sun pokes out as I hoof it upstream and stop past Papaw Cove at the Beaverdam Camps.
BERT WILDCAT EMMERSON
When Little Mitten and I went to Little River Trading Post and we got some boots, Bert helped me to get a pair of green Superfeet insoles for my usual size 10 Asolo FSN 95 boots, and so here I am backpacking with a big pack in them. So far, so good, and they seem to really help to keep my foot sole comfy and the heel secure. I might be noticing a tendency for them to keep my toes a little more colder than with the regular boot insoles but heck, I left camp with cold feet so the verdict’s out on this. I brought my Asolo insoles just in case as there’s no room for error when on the trail.
Problem is, if the Superfeet don’t work I can’t exactly burn them or cache them as I’d lose the $40 refund. 40 dollars? Yikes. Did I pay $40 for a set of boot insoles? Dang it. I’ll try and take a fotog of the things today. I also repaired my Icebreaker top thumbholes as both sides are wearing thru so I cut off the pocket flaps to my Great Plains insulated wool shirt and sewed two little strips across the thumbhole band. The rest of the IB tops are in great condition and I do love them so, etc.
THE HILL CAMPS
I threw off the pack in the Hill Camps and I’m remembering the trip me and Two Speed and Auburn Breeze did thru here last summer and where we all set up our individual camps. It’s empty now of course and it won’t be where I stay as my mind is set on the Cascade Winter Camp about a half mile from here and by the wilderness exit. This place is too nice for one night and so I’ll pull two and then go into the Upper Bald area for a tie in with the B Mac trail.
TOO GOOD A DAY TO STOP
So I passed by Cascade Winter camp where I saw two fishermen set up in a Mt Hardwear tent and here’s what these greenhorn newbies did: they had a perfectly good large firepit circled with stones but no, they didn’t use it they built another stone firepit at the best spot to put a tent and where I always put my tent when I camp here. I was here recently in my Keron tent with Hootyhoo and these boys carelessly couldn’t figure it out and had to construct a useless second pit. Welcome to 2010.
I was on my way anyway to the Brookshire trail so I passed them by after taking a couple fotogs of their sorry camp. I now sit after the cold Henderson Creek crossing and on my way up to the Upper Bald crossing and Horse Camp. Wish me luck and hope that I don’t see anymore fishermen tent camps or I’ll pop my cork.
HORSE CAMP ON BROOKSHIRE CREEK
Man, I hit a nasty blowdown coming up the trail and tore a nice hole in my Smartwool merino longjohns and then lost the contents of my left short’s pocket, namely my watch. I dumped the pack and scurried back and found the watch but couldn’t find a way to get back the “nonhole” except when I got camp set up I pulled out the floss threaded needle and fixed it fast with about 12 or 15 passes. I tugged thru a terrible toothed sawbriar and I’m praying my thermarest has not been punctured in the duckwalking melee. Curse the saw briars! Luckily my pad was wrapped in about 8 layers of my silnylon 8×10 ground cloth as its stuff sac wouldn’t stop the fingernail of a newborn.
NIGHT FALLS AND IT’S COLD
There’s no mincing words here, it’s butt ugly cold and I can tell by my feet hurting and my arms tingling, so I put on the parka and get on the pad and throw the Puma over my legs and waist and belly slowly going low to read and write by the lamp. A Mt Everest sherpa named Phurba has climbed the big mt 16 times, good god, the last one with Russell Brice’s Himex. Hey, Ive done the Nutbuster Trail 24 times, so he’s got a ways to catch up ha ha ha. Are we keeping records? Hell, yes.
I sit up inside the red gleaming dome after a short after dinner nap to drain the carbuncled fistula, brush and floss the remaining teeth, look thru my camera’s photos, filter a liter of water already sitting in the pot ready for me and drinking copious amounts of the cold refreshing fluids. There’s nothing better on a backpacking trip than to be thirsty and have cold water in hand. Shunka’s tethered nearby and we get ready to close down the first day of the New Year of 2010.
THE RED STAIKA
The Hilleberg color red is not a deep red like their deep green, it’s almost a day glo red and sort of orange and is very bright. In other words, you can see this tent from about 5 miles on a clear day in the high mountains or from the sky in Anarctica which I suppose is why they made it so bright. The red/yellow/black color combo is excellent and it’s only missing white to be the four sacred colors of the Lakota Indians. Red for the north, yellow for the east, white for the south and black for the west. Since north is my favorite direction, Waziya Takeya, then this tent should symbolize north as in where the cold comes from. Everything is fitting together.
I got good footage of Shunka with his big pack crossing the mighty Upper Bald and it was very cold so I went very fast and Shunka stopped several times to look at me and look around. Tomorrow we have another dang cold crossing but its much smaller and then begins the long climb up Sugar Mt.
THE PARKA HOOD
On this trip I broke down and brought the Feathered Friends Icefall hood, a piece of down art, and very light, and it snaps onto the back with 5 black plastic snaps apparently bombproof and cold proof. It’s part of the whole parka package and helps to boost its warmth level even more, but so far I haven’t needed it in my IB balaclava and Walmart “thermosoft” watch cap
The two backpackers I saw today came in with two separate cars and parked at the Cantrell lot by the bridge. When I saw their stupid firepit in the best campsite of the whole area, I got visibly steamed but next time all I have to do is scatter the rocks and wipe the ground clean, no problemo. Use the established firepit and don’t build another! But I see it all the time, one firepit moved a few feet away to another firepit. The worst was up on theBob where some idiot put a new pit 10 feet from the old and right in the middle of the top grassy campsite which I always use. It has since grown back and the coals scattered.
Some idiots actually bring shovels and dig out deep pits to build their fires, real LNT types, as if a dug pit will somehow make for a better fire. I suppose when they leave they take all the dirt they dug up and shovel back onto the fire. Heavy handed camping if you ask me. It takes discipline to use the firepit already there and not to walk 15 feet away and build an altogether new one. Shop at the store that’s open, hyenas, and don’t break into the one that’s not.
Fires captivate the chortling inbreds but I’d like to see these guys take a trip where there’s no wood, like in the high Himalayas or to the Poles. They’d probably come in on snowmobiles and tow a sled trailer full of split wood. They gotta have the disco ball and the big hair and the platform shoes of the 1970s or otherwise they won’t have a decent party experience.
I’m already bored with this subject.
Am I the only one who gets the munchies around midnight after brushing and flossing the teeth? The food’s all hung and there’s no point in snacking. I should boil up some nettle tea with honey but I feel like snacking. Good old hot tea.
PROOFREADING MY OWN CRAP
I brought most of Trip 103 to read and find errors, there’s always errors in every trip report. Heck, the whole trip is one big error.
I brought several TIME magazines with me and here’s two great quotes:
** “If only I’d listened to CNBC, I’d have a million dollars today–provided I had started with $100 million.” John Sterwart Daily Show host lampooning the business newtwork thru a video montage of bad stockmarket predictions made by CNBC analysts.” From Back & Forth: Media and time.com/quotes.
** Or this fine one about the Interstate highway system by Richard Cacaco: “The construction of the interstate highway system, which Congress authorized in 1956, was one of the great can-do enterprises of the post-World War II era, the largest public-works project in history. But now the interstates look like a vast monument to the law of unintended consequences. They turned out to be the great enabler of America’s car culture and the fossil-fuel consumption that goes with it. And by making it possible to live far from where you work, they were the key element in the phenomenom of suburban sprawl.”
TRAIL: Brookshire/BMT/Sugar Mountain/Sycamore Creek
CAMP: Sycamore Creek Camp
MIDNIGHT TENT REVIEW
So far, here’s the improvements I’ve found on the 2009/2010 Staika:
** The inner tent door zippers come to an end w/o the usual metal end-point brackets and instead the zippers curve continuously up and around allowing the zips to seal the door better without gaps.
** The improved umbrella fly connectors. Yes, Hilleberg finally fixed this irksome toggle and ring problem and replaced 4 toggles with 4 strong hooks and replaced the last 2 toggles with much larger toggles that when frozen can be left on and the whole flysheet left on for set up and take down. They cleverly placed the non hook toggles where the poles won’t interfere.
** The red color seems a bit day glo or orangey but since I never had a red Hilleberg before, I can’t say if this red fabric lot is any different from other red fabric lots. But at night with a headlamp the tent becomes deep and dark and blood red. Beautiful.
** The new DAC poles, called the Featherlite, are different from the continuous diameter of the 2006 Staika poles. The joints of these poles are swollen and there’s some deep technology here which I’m not qualified to understand. If they work as good as the old poles I’ll be happy. The old poles were perfect and red, the new poles are a boring gray/silver color.
EVERYTHING ELSE IS THE SAME
** The same yellow 30 denier canopy.
** Same guylines and stake out points.
** Same great bombproof floor.
** Same elastic connectors with about a 4 year shelf life after heavy usel.
** Same vents and zippers and door flaps and vestibules and bug mesh and dual pockets.
** The same light weight for its size and function.
There’s no way around it, I love this tent! Oh, and one more thing: it comes with new gold colored Y aluminum pegs, very strong. Hell on the palm of the hand when inserting so I brought only 4 out and I’m using their older style Pro Pegs for the bulk of the pegging. The pro pegs aren’t perfect as they are hollow and will bend and actually break in two when tested, but I still prefer them over the Y pegs cuz they are longer and can be pushed in easily w/o hand pain. The Y pegs look to be totally tough and can be hammered in like a big nail. They don’t have a normal head like the pro pegs or the standard shepherd’s crook peg, so I’im not too sure they’ll keep a guyline secure in a big blow w/o the line liftng off the non-head-though-notched top. Time will tell, and another reason I brought only 4 out of 16.
** The tissue thin canopy problem: as much as I rag Hilleberg about their thin canopies and how a strong wind blows right thru the tent, I’m beginning to better understand their wise use of such a thin fabric at 30 denier with an unknown thread count. I like its color and permeability, it dries out fast and breathes well(maybe too well)but it is subject to disturbing pin holes: little tiny tears due to either abrasion or rubbing up against hard plastic clips and toggles when packing day in and day out. My old green Staika has about 20 such small holes and 3 or 4 of them patched with ripstop tape. I believe the holes came from the vestibule door clips which in part keep the doors open(4 of them).
It’s cold but not bad and I think I can handle 14F with no problem, then again I’m wrapped in dry and lofted goose down inside a wonderfully vented tent atop a 2 inch 6.2R pad. My system is equipped to about -15F and with the down parka as a sleeping layer(it would be very tight in a zipped up mummy bag–probably too tight thereby losing the down’s loft warmth)and get my system to -20F with no problem. But like a mountaineer said, it’s not about the cold, its about the wind! Wind eats up warmth, contained warmth, it sucks the life out of you and drains whatever small pocket of warmth you’ve created, whether inside a down parka or inside a ridgetop tipi or inside a wind whipped tent.
The whole purpose of wind is to grab things like warmth and pull them apart and away. Ask anyone in a wood heated tipi and they’ll tell you they use 3 or 4 times as much wood at 10F in a 40 or 50mph storm then 10F on a still night. And ask any winter backpacker who has slept out on the snow in the wind in just his down bag on a pad with no shelter or other protection and see how poorly his fancy down works w/o a bivy sac or tent shelter. Wind eats thru a down bag, pure and simple. Always use protection!
SETTING UP FAST And in a high elevation butt cold gale, keep moving and protect exposed flesh, especially hands and face and if you have to set up camp in the brunt of a cold windstorm, layer up in everything first and pull out the tent fast and carefully set it up with poles and stakes and bolt it down w/o thinking and then get the bag and pad unfurled and get inside and zip up all the doors. Use your cooking pot for peeing and if it’s bad enough, squat and defecate inside the tent on some paper towels or plastic bags. Wear your full layers and your down hood on the parka and sit up on your pad with the zipped up bag around your chest and keep your fingers thawed with a lit candle if it’ll stay lit in the gale coming thru the tent or at least a portion of the gale coming thru the tent.
The actual outside gale will be much worse than what you are experiencing inside your tent. Now you are glad you brought all 16 stakes. Don’t worry too much about the snowfall thru the night, it will blow all over the tent and pile high here and there. At dawn you can go out and move the snow around with gloved hands, get it off the sides and especially get off the big drifts. A certain amount of bottom perimeter snow will help keep you warmer and help keep the tent secure and a bit windfree.
When packing up, well, good luck. Leave on all your layers and do everything possible from inside the tent first. With the pack loaded and in the big down parka, go out and start taking down the tent quickly. Keep in as many stakes as possible and “work your way down”. With all the poles removed, take out the last pegs and roll up the tent and bag and put on the pack and then the last thing, take off your down parka and put it in the top of the pack, it’ll be too hot to hike in unless it’s -20F below with a 40mph wind.
Now, saddle up and move! Move fast and you’ll break a sweat so take off a layer further on but always keep your gloves and balaclava/hats handy. Slow down if you sweat but keep moving. Adjust layers to avoid wet sweaty clothing. This is vital! Get to your next windblown butt cold camp and start all over again. Welcome to winter backpacking in snowstorms and high winds.
ANOTHER MAGAZINE QUOTE
Here’s another great quote, this time from the Inbox in TIME, April 27 2009.
“ETHICS AND EXTINCTION: “I applaud the tireless efforts to save endangered species and vanishing habitats, which you address in your cover story, but we need to begin to deal with the root problem: the exploding population of human beings. How about a sterilization credit, like a carbon credit, to encourage people not to reproduce? We need to export and help(spread)information about all forms of birth control in all parts of the world, including the U.S. We have no trouble making decisions to limit the numbers of other species we deem overabundant, so why not our own?” Ann B. Anderson, Atlanta. Amen.
This pretty much echos what I’ve been saying for years, and even has a bit on animal culling and management but where’s the culling of overpopulated humans?
There’s a call for flurries this morning but it wont affect me.
OATS IN THE SNOW
Wow! I woke up and unzipped a snow covered tent and the stuff fell during the night w/o a sound but here we have a cold morning with more oft the white stuff. Should I bring the pot lid during winter trips? Would it help in fuel consumption?
THE BEAUTY OF HOT OATS
You can hold the hot titanium pot full of oats with your fleece glove, thereby warming your hands, important.
It must be cold cuz all the rhodie leaves are curled very tight and I’ll stick with my 14F figure though it could be 10F at the moment. There’s dry snow falling into camp and a bit of a breeze but the main activity was cleaning the pot in the nearby creek and coming back to the tent for goose down and a pissy candle not wanting to stay lit cuz the wick burned itself to a tiny nub. I poured out the hot wax onto a book page and it now roars with life. The whole purpose is not to supply light, my headlamp does that, but to provide warmth to my hands and fingers as I sit up to write and read.
THE FOG OF GEAR
The only gear you have to fear is gear itself. Here’s more fun with gear:
** FrameFlex midsole.
** Anatomically Directed Design last.
** Garmont Dakota boot.
** Matrix shock absorbing sole, Active heel support–Asolo Revenge GTX.
** Vibram Hi Trail Lite sole–Scarpa Kailash GTX.
** Vibram nepal sole–Garmont Tower Lite GTX.
** Gryptonite GT Trail Traction sole–Montrail Helium GTX.
** PowerMatic sole–Asolo PM 200GV.
** Asoframe technology–Asolo AFS Evoluzione.
** Pebax shell–Scarpa Inverno.
** Schoeller Keprotech upper, Lorica synthetic leather–La Sportiva Trango S Evo GTX.
** Vibram Teton outsole, Cambrelle lining–Garmont Vetta Plus.
** Vibram Ascent Dual Density rubber, Asoflex lasting board–Asolo Lothar GV.
** Impact Brake System outsole–La Sportiva Batura.
** Vibram Cavaredo with Supertrek rubber–La Sportiva Trango EXT Evo light GTX.\
** Vibram Montagna outsole–La Sportiva Spantik.
** Triple density TPU hell attachment–Asolo Makalu GV.
** Stealth S1/C4 rubber sole–Five Ten Campfour approach shoe.
** MEMlex midsole, Fiction FX rubber sole–La Sportiva Exum Pro.
** Vibram Sebolet dual density sole–Asolo Distance.
** FriXion outsole–La Sportiva BJ.
** Stealth C4 dotty tread sole–Five Ten Guide Tennie.
** grippy Mystique rubber–Five Ten D’Aescent.
Can I be forgiven for the above dementia? I’ll leave it so the gearheads to sort thru the mess and you thought Dr Colon Flaccid could come up with a lot of made up drivel? On second thought, Dr Flaccid has fathered over 100 children since his birth in 1840 and most of them ended up working for outdoor gear companies, and so whenever you see something like “schoeller keprotech upper with lorica synthetic leather”, you know old Flaccid’s DNA and bloodline is alive and well. When you see a boot with ToeJam receptors or a pack hung at crotch level between a hiker’s thighs, you know Colon Flaccid himself is running the company.
GETTNG READY TO CROSS A BUTT COLD BROOKSHIRE CREEK
BACKPACKING IN THE SNOW
But first comes packing up in the snow. Wish me luck.
SACS HAVE BEEN FROZEN AND BUSTED
Hiking all day in the cold, I left Horse Camp and then in about a half mile I had to throw off the pack and go barefoot across the Brookshire in Crocs and dang it it was cold! I rebooted fast and then began a long day of climbing. At the end of one part I had to cross another creek in Crocs and then the snow started getting deeper along an always upward trail. Eventually I reached the top of Sugar Mt ,or close enough and began my journey down on 10 switchbacks to the Tellico River. I fell about 3 times due in part to the sorry Asolo boot tread under foot. Can we not go back to the days of the lug sole boots, please?
It looks like the best lug soles are on the mountaineering boots but how about putting them on mid weight Asolos like the FSN’s or Fugitives? Anyway, I fell off Sugar and ended up at a picnic table by the Fish Hatchery and the bridge. The last leg of the journey was an uphill slog to my present camp on Sycamore Creek.
THE NEW HILLEBERG Y STAKE
I busted one clean in half after hammering it into either frozen ground or a tree root, unsure which, and when attempting to get it out it snapped like a lead pencil.
IT’S GOING TO BE A LONG NIGHT
Night falls and you can tell it’s gonna be a long cold night cuz everything’s already frozen and it takes all my layers just to be comfy and warm. I even have the parka hood over my swollen ego enlarged pinhead. This could be the coldest night of the trip, much colder than last night, maybe 5F by morning. No big deal, but eventually I’ll be at 5,000 feet where the game gets serious. I’m at about 2,000 feet now, tack on another 3,000 and you get the idea.
12F IN KNOXVILLE
I’m getting thru the Everest book by Clint Willis and the Walter Bonatti story makes my camp at 5F seem like a kindergarten summer picnic by a warm water lake. He and his friend Mahdi went thru a wind whipped high K2 bivouac hell. Me? Im sitting on the pad and watching the inside of the tent frost up with a million sparkling jewels of diamond ice crystals and very soon I’ll remove the hooded parka and sleep in my two hats, the merino long johns, one pair of socks and my IB tops, it’s all that will fit in a zipped up bag.
It’s so cold because the black night sky is clear and starry, there’s no blanket of clouds overhead to hold in the heat. Edwar Ley must get his Crosscut Mountain Boys together and they won’t be happy but there are some severe blowdowns in the area:
** There’s a real nasty one where I had my long johns ripped and lost the contents of one pocket and it’s on the lower Brookshire trail before the Upper Bald crossing, somewhere near Chinquinpin Ridge. Kicked my sac.
** Another nasty one is going up Sugar Mt north on the BMT after the Brookshire crossing and completely covers the trail.
** And there’s a few more dropping off Sugar Mt as it switchbacks down to the Fish Hatchery and Tellico River.
** Is there more to come between here at the bottom of the Sycamore to Beech Gap? There’s probably several more, but I won’t be to Beech Gap for several more days, stretching out the climb at some great camps like Hobo and the Whigg.
UNCLE FUNGUS MOUNTAINEER
While it is 5F here tonight, it’s zero or -2F up there, good numbers for the avid winter backpacker. I’m at basecamp here, and Hobo becomes Camp 1 or advanced Base Camp, but I won’t need my oxygen until Camp 3 or the Whigg and then again at Camp 149 below Snow Camp. After SC I enter the Death Zone and have to use the fixed rope along Fungal Ridge and jumar my way from the Bob to the pinnacle rocks of the Hangover along a knife edge ridge with a 4,000 foot drop on both sides. Called the Ka-Ching Face, it’s where you get to cash in all your chips, if you have any left after 15 days of playing the nylon and goretex roulette wheel.
WINTER BOOT QUANDARY
Though it’s cold and my boots are bricks and my liter of water could be frozen by morning(Ill wrap it in my soon to be shed down parka), you won’t hear me complain or whine or whimper. Yet. 5F means it’s cold but it ain’t the Blizzard of 93, there’s no 3 or 4 feet of snow blocking the trails, and when I slip and slide it’s my own damn fault for not bringing decent lugged winter boots. Overkill 90% of the time but like crampons when you need em you really wish you had em. Tain”t worried, Ive spent the last 30 years slipping and sliding in regular old boots thru some bad ice and deep snow, and Ive fallen into cotton balls of cold more times than can be counted, even when wearing Sorel Caribous with the worn down crepe(i.e. Crap)soles, warm but about as good as cowboy boots.
If you really want to bust your butt on a backpacking trip, wear cowboy boots! Wet grass, snow, mud, you name it, they’ll hurl you to the ground faster than you can say “dont get off your horse!” Cowboy boots with lug soles? Sheeeeeit. That’s like a cowboy hat with down earflaps. Cowboys are boys who are cow like and so don’t expect their gear to get you thru a night at 5F. The real cowboys, the guys who study the buffalo in January on the Yellowstone, well, they’d never make it anywhere near the CMA Awards. And they’d look like the Michelin man compared to Kenny in his cowboy hat and sleeveless t-shirt.
ANYONE REMEMBER LEWIS GATES? We need more hardy cowboys in the Citico Slickrock, guys like the Last of the Dogmen type who live out all year long and can cook up a decent Lewis Gates stew. Couldn’t hurt to have a greehorn like Barbara Hershey along for the ride, either. But nope, we just have the SUV addicted metal horse riding couch potatoes types and they’ll drive up to some dead end forest road in the snow and jump out all decked out in blue jeans and cowboy boots and denim vests and maybe a six shooter big iron on their hips and think they’re getting their rugged macho mountain man nature fix by walking 50 feet in the snow from their trucks and then back again, feeling like Walker Texas Ranger or old Clint in Unforgiven.
SHELLS AND VESTIGES
These are the shells and last vestiges of the old mountain men, the bloodline runs thin and watery and peters out for good with the new car smell and the On Star monthly fee. They never get much past the parking lot and so I never see these guys, they think they’re back in a Montana winter storm in the 1830s when they have to go out in the morning to warm up their cars and scrape off the snow. And the more time they spend indoors by baseboard heating the lower their tolerance for cold becomes. And their women?
AH, THE WIMMIN
Those old pioneer women who used to brain tan deer hides and winter over at -20F below in a one room cabin with a woodstove? They hate the cold even worse than the men, and the only time you see the women are as bobble head passengers in the SUVs driven by men. The only time they leave their metal couches is when they desperately have to pee and stop at a rest room where they jump out of the heated car and rush 20 feet in the snow to the enclosed toilets clad in their padded and insulated designer boots with the fur top fringe and wearing their fancy and fashionable NF down jackets. This is roughing it.
Like the men their rugged bloodline has been squandered and watered down with excessive years of indoor life hugging up to heating vents and idly fingering wall mounted thermostats. They worship at the altar of the hot shower and go from the coffee maker to the toaster to the television to the space heater to the stove to the fridge and back again, over and over and over. Pull anyone of them out here tonight, even with the best of gear, and they would go thru all the Kubler-Fungus stages of panic:
** Severe anger and fighting to stay in the warm car.
** Begging and pleading to not get out.
** Stony silence and murderous gazes when actually out of the car and into the snow.
** Hysterical rantings as night falls and you tell them to set up the tent.
** Denial as they fall into a fetal ball begging to be with their mothers one last time.
** Coyote like howling when shown the sleeping bag and pad.
** Random attempts at suicide.
** If you’re lucky they enter a deep coma until dawn.
Forget about denial or acceptance or bargaining and all that crap, it’s all black and white to them.
EVEN BACKPACKERS TURN AWAY
I even read about avid backpackers who won’t go out in the winter. Ever. Mystifying. Some are hard core ULers who love their summer 10lb base weight, winter would throw off their whole schedule. Then there’s the types who are actually afraid of going out in the cold. They might willingly carry the extra 20lbs of fuel, clothing and tents to do it, but it’s too uncomfortable. If they only knew that winter backpacking gets easier the more you do it. I know one guy who won’t even go out in the summer because of poisonous snakes. Good God, y’all!
Here’s a plan: avoid summer and then avoid winter and you’ve created a whole justification to never go out. Then you’ll fit into the average higher standard of living addicted American, homebound forever or until a house fire or Katrina or a tornado comes and kicks you out onto the streets. For some reason Momma Nature always likes to see humans get kicked onto the street. I guess she knows the value of the simple life. We fight it and most of us forget the lesson and rush right back in, unless your spirit gets the full voltage and you accept her teachings and go the homeless route.
MISS NATURE’S BOOT Where can she kick you when you’re homeless? Nowhere, so she’ll turn her gaze and take aim at the ones still indoors. Homelessness is inevitable, even our bodies seem like homes, but we’ll be kicked out eventually. Milarepa said it best, and I paraphrase: “Meetings end in separation, building ends in destruction, birth ends in death, desire ends in suffering, therefore meditate!”
BACK TO RELIGION But who can go within and see the third eye or open the 7 chakras? Who can see the face of God? Who can willingly stop the heart and lungs and “die daily”, conquer death, and then come back again? Who can actually see and talk to Jesus or Shiva or Krishna or St Francis or Buddha? And have them sit and talk back? Just wanting it is not enough. Everybody talks of Jesus but nobody can introduce you to him, so how well do they really know him? “Do it or you’ll burn in hell” is the usual line, but all religions use this line, it’s the philosophy of fear and nothing stirs up human fear better than religion. Anything man touches is suspect and foul, especially religion and so we look to nature and wilderness as undefiled by the human touch and so therefore holy.
THE LONE OAK When you throw out the baby with the bathwater you may be discarding some good aspects of religion, but that’s okay, just look out the kitchen window while you’re doing it and see that lone oak tree standing in the field, that’s your new religion. Get away from books and scriptures and zealots and pundits and fakery and hocus pocus and shamans and Aztec priests and Catholic popes and the elect and the chosen peoples and circumcision and female mutilation and wealthy churches and monks and vicars and go sleep under that oak tree.
LIGARE Be in the wind and the rain and the cold and the snow and the bugs and the heat and find the real religion, ligare, ligature, binding you back to the natural world. Fight off their born agains and the left behinds and the so called raptured elitists and see human religion as it really is: a world wide attempt to gain land, money and power by the use of fear. In the battle between nature and religion, we have to know which side we’re on.
The monks in the cult and sect of nature are almost gone, there’s few left, they’ve all been wiped out by the cult of civilization and the dogma of science and progress. Over it all sits the winged dark demon of religion.
NATURE AND FEAR
The worst fear in nature is seeing humans come into a pristine place and rape it completely, the death of God, and leave stumps and bulldozed roads and eventual concrete into a wasted ruin. One time humans of many years ago, primitive tribal people, camped in the trees by fresh water where the city of LA now sits. Such is the desecration of the temple I’m talking about. One time a people slept in simple structures on the banks of the clean Potomac, now these campsites are ruined and the Pentagon devours their church. There’s also no difference in where I camp right now and what it will become once the heathen humans get a hold of it. They will take it and rape it w/o mercy and make it no good for nothing.
How is it possible to take something clean, beautiful and wild and turn it into something polluted, ugly and paved? What other animal species does this to their own ecosystem? I guess when you ruin the church of Nature you got to come up with your own man made “Look what we’ve done, we are sinners” church and fill it with you own environment-eating kind and justify it with fancy and child like scriptures trying to hide the truth of what really happened. The garden of Eden is what’s important forget, about Adam and Eve.
BACKPACKING THE BMT
The potential percentage for seeing backpackers on the BMT this new year weekend is high, about 100%. The actual number of backpackers I’ve seen on the trail? Zero. Let’s call in the new year with a backpack on the BMT.
TRAIL: Sycamore Creek
CAMP: Hobo Camp
ARCTIC WALK IN MEAT LOCKER
I’m up at 5:30 to pop the seal on a top secret govt document(pee)and figure I had better get back to the tent fast and snap on the parka hood and layer up with my new girlfriend the FF Icefallia and then light two candles to keep the hands alive, since the ice encrusted tent is surrounded by temps in the zeros or slightly above. With a Bic in my left down pocket and a camera in the right, I’m all set to greet whatever sun decides to join in this deep space revelry. Amazingly and mercifullly my radio snaps right on and the battery indicator is no different than it was yesterday. I did the Hilleberg recommendation “rain jacket over the foot bag ” trick and only found it to cause ice crystals to form inside the jacket between the bag and the shell. Next time I’ll have to use the down eVent parka over the bag. The down hood on the parka is a lifesaver! It’s a beefy lofted final compliment to a fully appreciated and functional duvet.
When it’s zero degrees care must be taken on a long trip to conserve candles and limit candle use. Yeah, I have 2 burning right now so sue me. My 15 hours of finger warming flame is now down to 12 but it won’t be this cold for the next 12 days, we hope.
ADVICE TO WINTER BACKPACKERS
It’s real simple: get goose down and further get the best sleeping bag and parka you can afford(or not afford), don’t cut corners with the down cuz when you hit OF on a long winter trip you’ll wish you had that overkill gear. Down is like gold, why settle for 10 or 12 caret gold when you want and need 24 caret? Sure, a good down bag is expensive but you’ll pay alot to stay warm in your house so do the same in a tent. We’ve been thru all this before. When I was dirt poor in the 1970s and 80s and 90s, I managed to accumulate $320 in 1981 to get the best bag I could find, a NF Ibex rated -10F bag.
It stayed with me for 20 years and got me thru 21 years of living outdoors and of course after around 15 years out it wasn’t working as well as when I got it but heck 15 years is a lot of bag nights where I stayed warm with the thing and think of all the money I saved in a tent with the bag and not in a rented room or a motel stay. $320 is nothing. Nowadays the best bags are around $700, twice as much but they’re twice as warm and very light.
HOW TO BUY A DOWN BAG
** Look at down quality—it should be 850 fill power.
** Most important, look at overall weight of the down that’s inside the bag. It should be around 35 to 45ozs of quality down to ensure day in and day out comfort at zero or below.
** If you really feel lucky, look at the Feathered Freinds eVent covered bugs—the WM microfiber bags are also top of the line. Dryloft? I’d go with eVent.
WHEN IT’S 6 YOU WISH IT WAS 10
A common complaint and plea of winter backpackers: how to kill 4 hours? Drain the bladder and get back in the bag. Light a candle and drink your protected and insulated water. Read or write. Listen to the radio and the weather. Warm fingers. Don’t waste your fuel boiling up water unless your filter is frozen and you have no choice. Hot tea is a luxury you can’t afford at the beginning of a long trip when it’s zero degrees. You’ll use up all your white gas before day 15, way before, so go easy with the hot liquids until around Day 8 or 10. Unless of course you brought 44oz or more of fuel. I brought my standard 22oz and my 11oz.
KEEP YOUR JUGS COVERED
I put my filled Siggs in 2 gloves and placed them in my boots inside the tent and covered them with my down parka during the night. They’re liquid still. You gotta like a camper with a good set of jugs.
I got up before 6 and then tried to stay in the bag as long as possible and so here I sit fully clad eating a breakfast of whole wheat bread with almond butter and jam, the candle keeps my fingers working. It’s dang cold.
ANOTHER NOTE TO ED LEY
I left my lower Sycamore Creek camp and went past 2 large blowdowns on the way up to the Whigg but heck, I’m only at the beginning of the 3rd switchback and there’s bound to be more. The sun is out and I’m resting on the 3,000 foot climb to the high and even colder ground. Soon I’ll be at Hobo Camp where a decision will be made: do I stay put or keep on? So far I feel like pumping nylon. My Sigg bottle sits in the sun and I’m glad I got matte black as it absorbs and warms in the sun. Did I mention I’m follwing 2 boot prints in the snow coming down off the mountain? They look like dayhikers as there’s no pole point holes and the blowdowns don’t have broken branches, something backapckers do out of habit.
Dayhikers can warp and weave thru a blowdown w/o thinking to break branches and make the way easier for themselves and others. I’m chilling so its time to move. Like climbing K2, ya can’t stop for long.
It’ll be another cold down sequestered night in the red hot Staika(Red Hots candy anyone?), and so at around 3,500 feet I’m looking at aobut 4F again by morning.
CLIMBING MT WHIGG
Shunka and I cached our oxygen bottles and made a dash for Camp IV where we set up the tent on a small snow platform above a frozen couloir. Tomorrow we will begin our push for the summit and go with the tent and bag in case we have to do a summit bivouac in the snow. We sleep tonight beneath the summit cone and it will be important to get an early start in the morning due to the cold but the black pyramid of Whiggs peak can be seen from camp and of all of the party only Shunka and I have the energy and stamina to make the final summit push.
We have decided to tie a short rope length to Shunka’s pack and he will be short roping me up to the top while his natural claw crampons will come in handy. We have no fixed ropes beyond tonight’s camp and the ropes that remain from here to the top are very old and rotted so we won’t be staking our lives on them. Right past the tent here at Camp IV comes a serious gully crevasse with running water across the route where a Chinese backpacker left an aluminum ladder there in 1975 to help in the crossing. Past it are the 3 pinnacle blowdowns which will represent the biggest technical challenge of the day and up against the third one there’s the body of a NC backpacker who sat down to rest and never got back up.
Past the blowdowns comes a snowy stretch of the false summit and then the long steep slog to the top. If we’re not atop the Whigg by 2 in the afternoon we must turn around and come back here to high Hobo Camp for hot tea and to check our fingers and toes. Today on the approach to Camp IV a wind gust caught my glove and blew it off the mountain and down the Sycamore Face, a 16,000 foot drop where it’s probably in Georgia by now. Shunka got his pack caught on a jagged rock and was nearly thrown off the face but I had him belayed with his collar leash.
The snow was over a half inch deep in places and I was worried about snow blindness as my eyes starting hurting and felt grainy but Camp IV came into view just in time. We immediately got to boiling water and put on our down parkas and are now listening to the locomotive wind blowing across the peak on the Whigg and seeing a plume flag of snow across the sky. Tomorrow comes our summit push but we won’t be able to sleep with the excitement.
BIRTHING A TURTLEHEAD AT 27,000 FEET
There’s only one way to do it:
** Get paper towel and a mouthful of water.
** Dig hole in the snow with ice axe.
** Squat and dump load.
** Wet towel with warm water from mouth.
** Fold towel properly and wipe twice.
** Let dog eat newborn turd.
** Return to tent.
** In morning cover anything remaining.
** Stow soiled towel in litter sack and do not leave in turd hole.
** Layer back up , light candle get in bag and warm fingers.
** Stay in bag until morning or until next pee break.
** Thank God for your thermarest and your tent and your bag and parka.
** Thank God again for your tent, your wonderful little red round tent.
PRE MIDNIGHT FIDGET
The cold forced me down at 7 and then an itchy scalp and a bloated bladder or was it an itchy bladder and a bloated scalp gets me up to brush out my hair, q-tip my itchy ears and go out to dangle the target audience and then I’m back in quicker than you can say Sarah Palin is waiting in the tent!. So yup, I’m back under geese down but there’s no Sarah although there’s Alaskan arctic cold and an old sourdough named Uncle Caribou and his fungus hoplites.
I suppose we’re kept company by some type of dieties, god forbid demons, and so there’s a witness to this outdoors tomfoolery. Guardian angels or gurus or maybe god herself keeps vigil on every living soul and the crunch of teeth on bone ends and we’re back in the good hands of our maker. Death or no, we’re always watched over. At least, that’s the plan. If not then we’re simple arranged elements in an intricate machine called space and time. Stardust and all.
PAYING BACK THE GEESE NATION
I need to call WM and FF when I get back and find out where they get their down and then follow the supply chain directly to the actual birds and if these birds are killed just for the down, to make some reparations. Hopefully they are farmed and not wild. I heard somewhere that all down comes from slaughtered birds, of course it would have to. Another Tipi Walter Hypocritical Moment. At least I don’t eat all the other animals I could be eating. I wonder what other products I use result in the death of some animal? Boot leather. Nylon? Merino wool? Goretex or eVent? Acrylic? Pen ink? Cotton q-tips? Book paper? Batteries?
TRAIL: Sycamore Creek
CAMP: Whiggs Meadow/Pond Site
Dang it, I can’t sleep cuz it’s 4F and I’m too consistently hot! Nobody says its easy trying to sleep in a zipped up mummy bag. Let’s try this again.
I’m up at yes, 5:30 to deblister the republican caucus and then I scurry back to the completely encrusted and condensated tent in very cold temps, methinks around OF—wonderful but my water’s still liquid(wrapped in the parka)and my bag is still lofted and warm. Otherwise, I’d be dead. I guess I’m just stump lucky to be out during an arctic airmass swooping down from O Canada.
Scattered snow showers tonight and tomorrow. Won’t get out of the 20s for several days. 16F in Knox.
High of 30F by Tuesday. Opps. Okay, let me amend my in-tent temps: 16F in Knox, so at 3,500 feet I’ll put my temps at around 7F, sounds about right as my nostrils have that deep cold sensation when I was out and breathing. You know the feeling, a tingling burning around the nose openings. I remember back in 1970 when I was in the Air Force and we flew up to Chicoutimi in February and I had to unload the plane in arctic gear at -50F and my eyes froze up and my nose holes froze together. Danged cold. At night me and Luis stumbled thru the base in our mickey mouse boots and arctic parkas drunk as dumb motards and arm in arm to keep from falling.
We fell anyway on the white icy road and laughed like meat licking hyenas as we layed on our backs. Bagotville Air Station. The tradition during their Winter Festifval was to drink out of any hollow walking cane filled with booze offered to you during the festivities. Just pop the lid and ein prosit(oops, that was from an earlier Octoberfest on some other AF base–we spent alot of time drinking in those days).
I have many good memories of our TDY trip to Canada:
** In a drunken state I walked up to George Mardorf and with one measely stripe to his 7 stripes(senior master sergeant)and I yelled out, “Hey George!” and he said, “Yeah, call me George!” Good guy.
** Another time I was sitting around a table full of Air Force sgts and their guests all from the base and unknown to me and one of the guys asked me, “Are you a negro?” I had very short hair and carried my dark Oklahoman complexion and of course he was drunk.
** Canada was full of beautiful French girls and I made a complete fool of myself on numerous occasions trying to hook up. I’d walk to anyone I saw and blurt out incomprehensible pig french like “Merci etu brute–travios mug wamp” or something, and the girls laughed and actually stuck around. No dates, though.
** Another time I was playing alto sax with the dance band and the lead alto sax player, very drunk, yelled out to me OH YEAH with enthusiasm and 30 minutes later he leaned over and puked. During a break the lead trumpet player told me he’s been with the AF band for years and it’s become one big blur and he’s spent most of it on his knees. After seeing these mentors I learned to quit drinking while in the USAF and did so by 1973. Chain smoking drunks who had heart attacks by age 40. Didn’t want to go that route. I think I got an extra 20 years by making the right decision back then.
** Another time I went into downtown Chiccoutimi and into a record store and fell in love with a pretty petite French-speaking clerk selling records in a short miniskirt. Ah, youth. Backpacking and living outdoors was a million miles away. Who’d want to sleep out at -50F anyway?
HERE I AM
So here I am tobacco free and stone sober and sleeping out not at 50 below but with the sngle digit midgets at 5F or 4F or 7F, what does it matter. Now, 50F below would kill me. I’d never get out of the tent and Shunka would be sleeping with me all night in my bag. We would pee and defecate together in the tent. Theyd find our bodies like meat popcicles wrapped around each other. But take heart TN backpackers, its not minus 50F, its hovering above zero no sweat and well see this one thru with a thousand dollars worth of goose down.
LET’S CAMP I hope you guys have a tent and a lot of down and dont follow the UL phil this week. To stay warm youre gonna carry more weight, its simple physics. If youre using a tarp make sure you have a decent bivy bag and therell probably be condensation bewtween the bivy and bag. If your using ahammock well youre out of luck. I wont see a hammocker on this trip, guaranteet. I need to look at all the trip reports on TJs for the dates 12/31 to Jan 10 whenever this cold snap ends. Heres the obvious summary: “Bailed to town and sat out the cold in a motel.”
10AM GOOD MORNING
Yup Im up after pusing out the morning as long as I could go and now sit in all layers and back in the bag to warm up those layers and here they are:
** SW Mt socks
** SW merino longjohns.
** NF lined gtx rainpants.
** silk Cabelas long sleeve top.
** IB micro tech t shirt.
** IB tops(Altitude/Tornado).
** Arcteryx Delta fleece jacket.
** FF Icefall parka with hood.
** IB balaclava.
** Walmart acrylic watch cap.
I feel like a kid dressed up by his mom to play in the snow. This time, my mom could care less what I wear and her house is a walk in freezor. Shes used to it, we humans grunt like cave men and bundle up to survive, some even build big fires but its a lost cause. The funny thing is, God created himself as a separate bit of consciousness(me)and then put himself in his own coldness and pretends to take it seriously and suffer, all the while knowing its a dream, and so a zillion bits of God scurry around thinking they are individuals and taking everything too seriously and dealing with cold or heat or health or disease or life and death when in fact its all one big digital movie and light show, projected thru the beam of gods consciousness and divided and seemingly solidified into a zillion active waves of frothing waves.
SERMON So God plays with himself and the world and experiences everything possible many times daily. Look! I died on K2! Look! I have brain cancer! Look! I got cobra bit! Look! Im shot in the heart! What fun. and so it goes. The identity and idea of Tipi Walter keeps it going, the separate chip off the block feels separate and alienated and so must begin his journey back home. Its the whole purpose of the dream. Why have it at all? Why start the dream and the whole ball rolling? Good question. Ramakrishna says the deluded man sees the world as a valley of sorrow while the enlightened man sees it as a mansion of mirth with everything soaked in bliss.
Let’s get there! In the meantime we find whatever cools our system and this becomes our savior. Whatever cools your system is your savior. For me its being out in nature. For others its playhing the cello or being a cop or working on cars or building houses or whatever else. Will playing the cello or living in nature help us to get home? Well it wont hurt and until were thrown a bone we’ve got to do something happy. END O SERMON.
LETS GO OUT AND LEAVE THE TENT
LEAVING ADVANCED BASECAMP
I pulled the 4th sb and now sit out of the biting death inducing wind on the fnal section of trail up to the summit of the Whigg. As the sun shines there s abillion ice crystals twinkling in the air and it must be that phenomenon mountaineers talk about when it is so cold the moisture in the air instantly turns to ice. It is very beautiful. Im almost at the top and I think Ill layer up with the fleece jacket to prepare for the painful in the face subzero wind assault. I sure dont want to set up a camp directly in the wind, not this time.
ON FROZEN POND
Not only is the pond frozen but its covered with a fresh layer of snow powder. I found a lumpy though level bank on the pond for the tent and so as I sit in the tent it is really warming up inside this red hot box. I layed my water filter and my frozen boots out in the sun and soon Ill mix up something Ive been craving: a cold fruit powder drink.
POND CAMP PLUSES
** Out of the wind
** In the sun
** Very close to running water.
** Away from any car bound tourists.
** Ya can’t leave anyting laying around or the wind will blow it right out onto the ponds frozen surface, impossible to retrieve, so I put the sleeping bag on top of the tent but tied it into a tent pole clip in case it blows off.
SNACK BREAK ITEMS
Very good! Food for life brown rice tortillas, different and excellent when eaten straight out of the bag, chewy like mochi. This site is so lumpy Im gonna have to put the backpack under the thermarest at my feet. It’s level but lumpy.
A LONG WHINING OF HANNITY
Its gonna bbe another long cold night out this time Im at around 5000 feet and I flip onthe radio and tune intoo the only talk show in the whole of the TN valley and its the whining ceaseful of Obama bashing root-for-failure O’Hannity. Ive never heard someone complain and whine so much as him. Good for the ratings and his paycheck, I guess. Earlier a raven flew over and cawked loudly probably surprised to see a human and a tent on the frozen tundra in the freezin season. Taint many humanoids out tonight but I count myself as one of the blessed frozen chosen.
I had to go out in the night 30 minutes ago and drop trousers and birth an angry and screaming th onto the snow. It wouldnt shut up until I placed my small radio next to it with the speaker on and as soon as Hannitys voice came on the turd got quiet and “smiled”, subdued. The brown beast placed and over yelled by another complainer, this one professional. In minutes my republican stool sat quiet and literally fixed, frozen to the ground and immobile. A brown cow in Momma’s freezer, sedated for final freezing by Sean Hannity. So he does serve come purpose after all.
FLAG WAVERS Has anyone noticed that both Rush and Sean talk big about America but have never served the country in the military? Nor have they as far as I know enlisted in middle age to serve in the Nat Guard and pulled a tour in Iraq. Who cares, right? Whatever happened to the draft? Can a war really be waged on a volunteer only basis? I guess if we really had a “War” everybody would have to serve. Im thinking of the Russians fighting in Stalingrad or the 900 day seige of Leningrad. Volunteer only? Yeah, right.
IT’S TOO NICE OUT
To be talking politics, high mass is in session and the choir of cold wind serenades the tent. I flipped down a station to classical music and ah, relief, Dvorak’s 8th symphony, one of my favorites. Rush and Sean will be long gone and Dvorak will remain. There’s hope in my quadrant of the fireant nest. I wonder if fireants defent the nest on a volunteer basis?
IT IS SNOWING
Cloud cover came in at dusk and now it is snowing and sometimes a wind gust blows the deposited snow off the tent in a sliding noise. Im glad I took this protected spot and didnt attempt to bivouac in the death zone atop W2, Mt Whigg.
You know why I sometimes hate mountaineers? Cuz they are over ambitious egos engaged in a competitive sport. sure but why would I say this? Simple look at all the trash they leave on the high mts they climb. And then look at all the stupid mistakes they make! Hiking w/o a rope, hands too numb to attach crampons, climbing up or down and not taking a tent or a sleeping bag or even a parka. And leaving all their rope to rot on the mt. What kind of people are these? They leave indestructable oxygen canisters everywhere, cuz the poor babies cant be concerned with the weight, and yet they hauled them up to a certain point but as soon as the bottles drained they chuck them into the snow.
“Not my problem anymore.” They all must be redneck backpackers from TN and NC. Nepal and Tibet and Pakistan should have a rule: $10,000 deposit on each piece of gear, refundable upon return and solo climbs only–carry everything you need yourself for entire trip, like Messner did on his solo climb of Everest in 1975. Then they might keep their tents and bags and all else. And a 3rd rule: no oxygen bottles and hence no bottle litter. These simple rules would weed out the Russell Bryce guided tours and the Army like seiges where teams leave ladders ropes bottles, tents, food and all else on the mt.
IDIOT WALT Once again my opinionated drivel wont go anywhere and nothing will change. would I leave my tent here to get lower? Uh, no. Who’s down there to support me and where would I go? So, to survive I need all my gear. The only people Ive seen around here who leave all their gear are lazy hillbilly drunks who bring it in but cant bear to hump it out. Mteers would counter “Look, idiot-Walt, we’re struggling for our lives up their–do you know how hard it is to carry much of anything at 28,000 feet? Conditions hardly ever stay perfect and when push comes to shove the gear gets chucked or left as a matter of course. Youll choose life over weight every time.”
Okay, I but it, but then, why not stick around at base camp and hire extra people or sherpas to clean up your mess? There are I believe attempts by groups and peole like Ed Viestrus to clean up Mt Everest, esp at the South Col, so I stand corrected. Another thing to google when I get back. But Ill keep reading their exploits and marvel at their bravery and sit astonished at their grueling deaths. Anyone who lives outdoors esp in the winter must read abt these guys and whenever we’re caught in our tents in a zero blizzard we should remember Jim Wickwire pulling an emerg overnighter at 28,000 feet on K2, or others stumbling thru a -20F snowstorm trying to descend.
WINTER STORIES Every story has a seed of relevance to our winter camps whether on the AT or in the Smokies or here in the Cit/SK. I cant relate to live at 28,000 feet but I can relate to the cold and the snow and the wind. The wind!! The wind is what kills you. There’s 0F in a tent and then there’s 0F in a 60mph wind. Tent or not youll get pummeled and walloped and if you have to spend anytime iin it w/o a shelter you will probably die. Some hardy souls survive, like Art Davidson and Jim Wickwire, but many others don’t. Mt Washington comes to mind.
And it could happen here, too in abnormal conditions like we’ve had for the last 3 days with night lows around 5F, snow and some frigid winds. Whiteouts and death or frostbite? Sure but heres the difference: theres no glory to be earned out here, no amibitions to be satisfied by climbing the Whigg in 5F, no real sport in tenting it with the ravens in frigid conditions, and theres no winter guides luring a couple dozen backpackers into the Citsk for two weeks of winter backpacking. Why? Bec it aint Mt E or K2! Anyone could lead a large group of peole out here for two weeks, esp during a freak cold snap of Jan 85 when it got to -18F in Knox and exp frost bite, even death, but rescue here is so much easier and closer. The blizzard of 93 comes to mind.
In 50 million years when the Himalayans are worn down to the size of the Apps, theylll be winter backpackers just like myself camping in a snowstorm on once was Mt Everest and writing the same old crap Im writing tonight.
MOUNTAINEERS VS BACKPACKERS
3F by morning? Its cold, boys, and I just hope you’re out somewhere tonight enjoying it. Let’s call this the New Year 2010 TN cold snap and refer to it as such in all future forum threads and trip reports. And for the poor bastards stuck indoors and at home and watching it unfold on the weather channel, if theyre fanatics and nature fundamentalists theyre sure to feel quilty for not being out in it and for good reason cuz there are missing the best Queen Nature has to offer.
The rapture wont happen automatically, boys, you’ve got to come out and earn it. I guess the left behind are those poor motards stuck inside and feeling quilty. You could at least throw up a tent in the backyard and sleep out this week along with me, couldn’t you? When everybody else goes to sleep, dress out in your layers and inhale deeply and go outside and set up your tent in the yard by headlamp and throw in the pad and pillow and bag and have at it. There’s no excuse for being indoors on such a wonderful week as this, the first week of Jan 2010.
Winter was made for humans to enjoy and youll never enjoy it until you sleep out in it, esp if you call yourself a backpacker. If you call this “the bad” and you call yourself a backpacker, then youve got to take the bad with the good, otherwise youre a dabbler and a discrimnator, choosing nature on your own comfort level terms. This is something nonbackpackers do as a matter of course, they’ll never sleep outside if they can possibly help it. Too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry, too brown, too green, too windy, too still, too buggy, too snakey, too uncomfortable.
DEAD BEAT MOMS We’ve seemed to have become a nation of nature haters, but backpackers are supposed to be different, Americans who love the outdoors. This love must be unconditional then and accept the cold with the head. In a way, your the mother and your child is the woods, and what good is a mother if she doesnt love every part of her child, the woods? Dont be a dead beat mom and abandon your child, at least throw out a bedroll on the deck. Let the wild know you stil care. Nature’s a two way street, we serve it, it serves us. How can we serve nature? Sleep with it, get your bag nights.
SLEEPING AROUND How can you not sleep with a beautiful woman? Be a captive witness to her alluring dance, captive meaning: inside a tent! Dont waste your time with nature shows and Bear Gryils and discovery channel and Mt Everest mini series and Nat Geo footage and Imax films, thats like reading acook book when you’re hungry, or having someone tell you about a mango–go eat the mango. Sleep out live out, even dayhike if you must and can stand the day use only lure w/o the overnight climax. someday with a little luck well all go back to living out as primitives and hunter gatherers, but until then backpack what’s left and throw a bedroll in a backyard camp every night.
HOMINIDS It’s our ancesteral roots as hominids and humans and its our future hope as mammals and animals and as one species of millions on planet earth. We are not above nature, we are not apart from nature and we do not supervise or control nature. Nature in one form or another is our home. Nature works for all human types from the most shallow and sense bound to the most spiritual and elevated because nature goes much deeper than what we can see or perceive. Nature is also what we see with closed eyes and makes up the vast spiritual universe of the unseen. But we can save that for later, the beauty of the seen nature is more than enough for us now. Forget the spiritual side of nature we cant even worship and love and see the material side of nature. If we can’t do this how will we ever explore our inner natures?
WHY DO I WRITE SUCHN LONG WINDED CRAP?
Cuz its 5F and snowing and Im stuck next to a frozen pond at 5,000 feet in a white out. when youre in heaven you gotta talk about it. But ill shut up for a while.
My hope is to pack up in falling snow and wearing the Arcteryx rainshell over my warmer layers to get back up on the trail and go north to Mud Gap and the Rock Quarry and hoof it to Beech Gap and enter another section of wilderness called the Citico and then the fun will begin. If the snow’s deep it’ll be a slow hot slog but I’ve done it before many times, postholing up and down mountains overloaded and sweating something awful but I’ll strip down to silk tops and t-shirt if need be and stay covered by the rain shell to keep in the warmth.
Legs? Rainpants or long johns or bare, depending on how wet the snow is and how cold is the wind. No gaiters for me. No crampons eitgher. I might need them on this trip due to the sorry soles of my Asolo boots. What’s a good winter boot? Anything with a serious lug sole. Look at most boots, they have very shallow treads in style due to LNT concerns, but are crap on snow or mud.
FRANK SMYTHE’S CAMP SIX: Here’s the winter gear they wore bacvk in 1933:
“Shetland vest,flannel shirt,heavy camel hair sweater,6 lite shetland pullovers,2 pair shetland pants,pair flannel trousers,”Grenfell wind proof suit”,shetland balaclava,four pair shetland socks. “Gloves are always a problem on Everest and the ideal glove that is warm and yet flexible and will adhere to rocks has stil to be designed. . .” Woollen fingerless gloves inside South African lambskin gloves, also fingerless. Kendal mint cake for food. Etui camera 1.4lbs.” FRANK SMYTHE’S CAMP SIX: An Account of the 1933 Everest Expedition, from HIGH STORES OF SURVIVAL FROM EVEREST AND K2, by Clint Willis.
ANOTHER QUOTE FROM MATT DICKINSON
“The cigarette lighters were now even more reluctant to ignite than at camp five. It took forty or fifty strokes with my thumb to coax a flame out of the frozen gas. By the time I succeeded, blood was flowing freely from the cracked skin. The gas cooker burned fiercely for a few seconds then spluttered out. ‘Bastard!’ I was beginning to loathe the cookers.”
K2 DREAMS AND REALITY
“Climbing down is always harder than climbing up.” JIM HABERL
“Our pace was steady but slow; I counted breaths between each step–my mantra–and soon I was up to fifteen deep breaths for every step.” JIM HABERL
TRAIL: Mud Gap/Skyway roadwalk/Beech Gap/BMT/54A
CAMP: Bob Bald
WHAT TO DO AT 2AM
Just stay warm and try to keep the ice crystals from falling down onto me or the bag. Im up after a disturbing wet dream of Salma Hayak. Or was it Bea Arthur?
8AM WAKE UP
Man, what a beautiful scene here at the Whigg pond! I went out to feed Shunka and then I downloaded my entire contents of Facebook into the snow(peed)and then brushed away all the new snow from around the tent(whereby I nearly slipped in the Crocs down the bank of the pond–frozen stiff but would it support my weight–didnt want to find out), and then I had to walk away and take some righteous fotogs of the tent and the frozen snowy pond. Now I sit up in the bag with full layers drinking still thawed and bundled water while heating my hands with a lit candle.
Today will be one of backpacking into the Citico and watching the temperature rise from 3F at dawn to maybe 12 or 15F by afternoon. Tonight’s forecast is exactly the same as it was last night: 15F in Knox and about 10-12 degrees colder up here on the mountain. One more night? This has been one butt long cold snap for east TN. I hope LM is okay in the doublewide with no broken pipes or worse. It’s hard to maintain the intricate details of a bull blown house when temps plummet–give me a woodstove heated tipi any time.
WINTER FLASHBACKS No electricity to go out, no running water, no wind damage or leaky roof, no shingles to blow off, no car necessary to go to and fro, a full supply of wood for life sistaining heat. Actually, sitting in the tent right now with all this snow around is giving me flashbacks of the Bl of 93 when I sat thru it all in the tipi. At least there I had woodheat, I didnt have to pack up a tent in the cold and wind and snow and move(I don;t have to here either but I will), but at the tipi it was very hard to move thru 36 inches of snow and 5 foot snow dirfts–here the snow is no more than 4-6 inches deep, barely the beginnings of postholing.
The Blizzard was truly a storm of the century and unique for us living outdoors at the time. People in knox are atalking about this unseasonal cold snap(if its unseasonal in Jan when would it be seasonal?), and get this, comparing it to the cold snap in Jan 85. I was out during that memorable Hell Cold too, living out of a backpack in the mts around Boone, and this cold snap in no way comes close to that ’85 purge. Heck, the knox people misspoke, they shouldve at least got their numbers right as it was -18F in Knoxville and -28 to -30F in Boone, a far cry from a mere 10F or 15F they are getting now.
That freakish cold snap was terrifying and scared the Be-Buddha out of me and yes, it actually did get down to -30F ambients, and good god the wind was in the Denali category –you will die. My gear wasnt designed for such cold, my bag was good to about 10 below, along with my tent and pad, and my clothing was spartan compared to what I have now. So no one should ever compare this fairly typical Jan cold to the storm of 85. Boone stopped like a cheap watch, the college closed and cars sat everywhere with frozen and cracked batteries.
Nobody was going anywhere. It lasted about 4-6 days and like I said, the wind was scary. At the time I was campiong and living out of my tent and a crude tipi I threw up in the ‘Conehead Forest, and managed to get thru most of it in a 1950 North Korean Chosin Reservoir daze, but when the winds hit and my face and nose started falling off, I packed up fast and descended into town where I found an open Baptist chnurch on King street and slept on the floor for a night to survive. There’s winter camping like what Im doing today on this trip and then theres arm wrestling a T Rex. You know who’s gonna win.
THE TWO FACES OF MISS NATURE It’s weird to be living out in the winter and comfortable with everything MN has to offer, comfy with the deep snow and wind and low temps into zero or even 10F below, but BAM! When she blows a puff of -30F into your wolrd, everything goes from bad to worse real quick. But hey, I was 35 and in the prime of my backpacking life and laughed at the cold and marvelled at the storm of Jan 85. Now, at near 60, Im much more squemish with the cold though my heart is willing the flesh is weak, and so you see me with a $500 sl bag, a $500 parka, a bombproof tent, a thickj heavy pad and enough food to feed two healthy teenagers with a bag of pot between them.
Let’s fact it, all old people think about is food and eating and I count myself as one of them. Im just not sitting on a couch doing it, at least for these 2 weeks in Jan 2010.
PACKING UP WILL BE ROUGH
The hardest part of winter backpacking is packing up camp in the morning. Why? Well, everything’s cold and everything unstuffed has to be stuffed. Pulling on the frozen boots alone is enough to make you want to stay put, and stuffing a half frozen bag aint much fun. The secret to mental peace is to keep on all layers(except the parka)and if need be leave in all layers. You can always stop a half mile up the trail and take off the pants and the fleece jacket. If you feel sqeamish when shoving off, leave on the layers, boys, and stay warm. If ya don’t care and know you’ll be a steam engine under load, well, go in shorts and a t-shirt. It’s up to you.
FUN BACKAPCKING TODAY
Its gonna be fun today cuz I start off the day by climbing out of Pond Hollow and breeze literally over the top of the Whigg and then zap I fall 500 feet down the BMT to Mud Gap.
THE TUNNEL OF BLOWDOWNS
After 7 miles in snow and frigid wind blasts I made it from the Whigg to the Citico and now sit at Cold Spring Gap and off the side of the gap a bit to get out of the hellish wind and find 4 stashed backpacks with their Occupants on a dh down towards Swann Cabin or maybe up to the Bob. The trail between Beech and Cold Gap is filled with more blowdowns than Ive ever seen before, around 40, and Id advise just closing the road permanetnly and not bother with try8ing to cut them out for truck traffic. But here’s the thing, all of them are backpacker friendly!
40 massive blowdowns and I didnt have a problem scooting thru them with the minimal ducking, wearing or squirting, and my goand still remains a part of my body and are still attached. Shunka found himself a big pile of human shit and toilet paper under the snow and he pulled it out and is now eating like a king. Dnag it but cold gap is one friggin cold gap and I wont be here for long. Gotta move.
After studying the boot prints of the backpackers I surmised they came up the SF , dumped their packs and did a dy to the Bob and not down to Swann and so since I was headed up to the high ground anyway I started up the little nutbuster of thye Bob and ran into the 5 backpackers from Ohio and whose car I saw at Beech Gap, My immed goal is to get this snowy trail done to the Tee and then get water pronto as Ive been eating snow for the last 2 hours. See ya on the Bobber.
HERE’S THE SCOOP
The 4 Ohio dayhikers turned around at the Tee and so they never made it to the Bob and the trail’s so bad its good they didnt. Coming up to the Bob on 54A was a pure BeAtch with blowdowns and some major cursing and yells going nowhere. At the tee the .5 mile trail to the Bob disappeared and so I tried to parallel the hillside and got caught up in some 10-12 inch snow and constant blowdowns. A normal trek from Cold Gap to theBob takes about an hour, today it took me a good 2.5 hours. It was frustrating!
I didn’t curse Miss Nature, I cursed my inability to bulldoze thru the blowdowns with my enormous pasck. Upon arrival I surveyed a trackless meadow and set up at Raven Top and got enough water to boil and cooked a big meal and now I sit in the fully guyed out tent snacking on dessert and warming my hands with a lit candle. Its very cold up here and will hit zero by morning. All the 8 miles I walked today were easy and excellent except for the last 1.5 miles and it threw me into a funk. There’s a good breeze up here and at 25F its not a problem but at zero it changes everything. I cant dillydally with the pot and clean it and anything done outside requires full layers and gloves, no choice. Once the sun hits my tent tomorrow things will change, but until then it s me myself and Irene.
cold. In bag. Used pee pot. Back in Bag. Stay in bag to survive. Don’t go out. Wait for sun. Too cold. Back in bag. Praise goose down. Arctic cold. Gobi winds. South Col conditions. Don’t become porcelain. Try to sleep.
ZERO DAY ON THE BOB
MORNING IN THE ICE LOCKER I’m up at 7 to use the pee pot and notice the tent to be heavily coated in an inside layer of ice which rubs off on everyting while the bags surface is one whole wet and frozen layer of blue microfiber. It will dry out later in whatever sun deigns to grace my world, until then we sit in frozen limbo. but lets get this straight, despite the ice freezer, I am totally war4m and comfy, sometimes too hot, and when I stay up to write I have the parka and the lit candle. Soon the holy glowing sun will hit camp and then there s a call for snow tomorrow and if things dry out Ill strike camp and try to get to NG for the big event though if the trail to there is anything like 54A itll be a rough old slog. Since Im up on the Bob I can check for messages on my frozen but warming cellphone so I hope everything is okay.
THE SECOND BOOK
Okay,m boys, this time Ive got a good one and its called DEEP SURVIVAL: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why: True Stories of Miraculous Endurance and Sudden Death, by Laurence Gonzales(w.w.norton and co 2003). The last paragraph has real relevance as I sit in my frozen tent at 5,300 feet at zero degrees:
“It’s easy to imagine that wilderness survival would involve equipment, training, and experience. It turns out that, at the moment of truth, those might be good things to have but they aren’t decisive. Those of us who go into the wilderness or seek our thrills in contact with the forces of nature soon learn, in fact, that experience, training, and modern equipment can betray you. The maddening thing for someone with a Western scientific turn of mind is that it’s not what’s in your pack that separates the quick from the dead. it’s not even what’s in your mind. Corny as it sounds, it’s what’s in your heart.” GONZALES
“All elite performers train hard, and when you follow in their path, you’d better train hard, too, or be exceptionally alert. That’s the main difficulty with neophytes who go into the wilderness: We face the same challenges the experts face. Nature doesn’t adjust to our level of skill.” GONZALES
“Some high-angle resue workers call body bags “long-term bivvy sacks.” GONZALES
“Anyone who has ever fallen in love, fallen hard, knows what Yankovich means when he says, “Your IQ rolls back to that of an ape.”” GONZALES
“They actually discussed the weather and “made a group decision to press on for the top instead of rappelling off.” Even if they had succeeded, they did not consider how rapidly hypothermia could overtake them in their cotton clothing in a cold rain. They were locked in a game of speed chess with Mother Nature. And she unleashed a series of stunning moves.” GONZALES
PARADISE ON THE BOB
Backpackers! Come up to the Bob now and witness the most beautiful woman in the word and shes completely covered in her snowly negligee. I wont attemp to put it in words and no fotogs help but this I know–even at 10F when the sun hits a zipped up tent, things inside that tent start to warm up and so my frozen surface bag thaws and starts to dry and my Sigg water bottle gets more liquidy. I called LM finally and told her Im still alive and she told me something that caused me to erupt in a big bellylaugh.
Her brother Rocky was talking to her and she told him Im out for a cou[ple weeks in this cold snap and he said, “I thought he’s smarter than that.” Funny as heck, but then you have to know Rocky to make it work. I told her to tell him I have a thousand dollars of goose down and he would understand. Anyway, alls well up here and down below with Mitten and so the tri continues.
INCOMING WINTER STORM Here’s the scuttlebutt: theres talk of some real snow tomorrow(Thurs)and then get this, a new cold front is to hit by this weekend with temps similar to what weve had these last 4 days: knoxville at 15F and me with 5F or below. but today is warm and theres a full sun turning my red hot staika into a winter oven and things are drying ou6t so when this next round of heartache comes Itll be like Im starting out on another trip–all dry and lofted gear. The only negatory is that the nice new tent has to endure a full day of UV damage or I could strike camp in a couple hours and head for NG my plan anyway. But first comes a water run and breakfast. My frozen filter is in the tent with me thawing and I might be able to save a little fuel and use the filter to get my drinking needs satisfied. Until then I can snack.
** set up in the sun once in a while.
** get black sigg water bottles as the black absorbs the sun’s heat.
** splurge on an Icefall down parka or the even bigger Rock and Ice parka)and use it with the hood. You will stay protected in anything down to -10F. When youre not in the sleeping bag, youll be in the parka, “the bag with arms”.
** Get an overgkill down bag by either WM or FF and make sure it either has the microfiber or the eVent shell. By overkill I mean something in the -15 to -25F range cuz every down bag loses a bit of its loft during a winter trip due to air moisture and tent condensation, and so you need the extra down weight to compensate. Dont even think about those lighter weight down bags in the 10F degree range they wont be warm enough. Heck you could go with a basg in the -40F range if you have enough money. cuz when its 0F or -10F up here in the NC mountains at 5,000 feet and the winds blowing like a n ice blowtorch, what’s a little extra warmth gonna do to you, ruin your night?
** Get and carry a high R value sleeping pad. Don’t leave home with an inadequate pad! It amazes me when I see guys carring Prolites and Ridgerests out in the winter with their down bags. You need a pad or a pad combo that gets you up to at least 6R minimum, 6-8R the target. Two foam pads at 2.5R each are still too low at 5R, but its bgetter than just one.
** Take plenty of small candles for finger warming in the tent. You can sit up half in your bag and in the parka at -10F and the only thing that will be cold areyour fingers so use the dandles to keep them thawed.
** Keep your water thawed at night not by putting it in your bag(it could leak disaster)but bring in your boots and put gloves or a sock over the bottom of your tottle and inset in boot. Upon retiring cover bootsd and bottle in the down parka and wrap it up good. By morning, voila! Wet water!
** Always take extra batteries for your camera, headlamp and radio. and keep your cellphone off all the time.
** Stay warmer and more protected in a double walled tent and forget about a hammock or a tarp in 0F or -10F. comfort and protection levels go way down in these shelters. In a severe cold storm, you may need to stay put in your shelter for 4 or 5 days–can you imagine doing so laying in a hammock the whole time?
** Make sure you have boots with a good lug tread and forget about trail runners and lightweight boots that have very shallow treads. You need grip or crampons, you decide.
** Of course, loosen laces and pull boots apart when removing, they will freeze solid by morning.
** Take all tent pegs you have loops on your tent and I mean all loops and alll guylines.
** Bring extra white gas and dont bother with cool buring alcohol stoves or finicky propane cartridge stoves(Jet Boils, Pocket Rockets). When its zero or below, youll be using 3 times more fuel than on a reg backpacking trip and dont be tempted to drink unfiltered or unboiled water just because its cold outside. A frigid night in a tent is tough enough, dont compound it with a terrible frozen night of puking stomach pains and dysentary like squirts. When its real cold boiling is the only way to get clean water. Forget about Miozz or chlorine or iodine or mercury-dioxin or cyanide dr4ops or whatever else. Plus, most little springs and creeks can be drunk out of straight away, weve all been doing it for years without ill effects.
No backpackers will be coming up here today from Beech cuz the trail past Cold Gap is a frightful thing full of belly crawls and pack snagging wait a frigging minute downed branches. And then if you somehow make it up to the Tee without major gonad loss, you will find a barren snowy hillside covered in 10 inches of powder with no discernable trail(well, you may see my prints stumbling around). This last half mile saps every bit of will and energy from your bones and youll arrive with lizard eyes and a sacless crotch so just go into drone zone and set up the tent and forget about it. A new day will dawn and with it will come a fresh desire to be outdoors and to backpack.
BACKPACKING FANATICS The fanatical fundamentalists in the religion of nature will always be ready for more. Some guys strap a suicide vest and take out crowds, we strap on a backpack full of expensive gear and go sleep out every night. One’s a terrorist and hated by the world, the other’s a backpacking outdoorsman and forgotten by the rest of the world. Both are fanatics otherwise they couldnt do what they do. Of course, you could say this about anyone who dives deeplyinto one single thing, like a classical pianist who practices 8 hours a day for 10 years, or the Navy SEAL who endures training and hell week ans tays a shooter with constant training, or the mt climbers who spent years mastering rock and months trying to climb K2 or Everest.
Actually ther only way to succeed in life is to become a fanatic although theres another kind of fanatic we usually have in mind when we think of the word fanatic: the kool aid drinkers in Guyana, the Heaven’s Gate mass suicides, the religious fanatics with the strap on bombs.
THREE BRAVE SOULS?
I wont call them brave souls as no dayhiker rates such an apellation but 3 dayhikers from TN came in from Beech and pulled the trek up to here in the snow with 2 dogs–I had to scare the little black one out of my tent vestibule and we talked and got a few pics and then zap they were gone as soon as they arrived. Weird. There is a biting subzero wind up here maybe thats what turned them around. While I was getting water. Maybe when I said “Life’s too short to be indoors”, maybe that’s when they eyeballed me and scooted away.
ZERO DAY ON THE BOB
Okay, I decided to leave the tent up in the sun and stay put making Day 7 a compltely idle though needed day of relaxation and recuperation, and why not, its too beautiful to go anywhere else. If ya want the full wallop of winter and still be in TN, youre gonna have to set up camp at 5,000 feet or above. Mt LeConte, Roan Mt comes to mind. LeConte makes the Bob look like downtown Tellico but they have too many rules and development on Mt LeCionte to enjoy it. The dang tent police. When ya want to pull a 15 or 20 day backpacking trip and ya want to hnker where and when you dang well feel like, ya dont want to be in the Smokies and get fined for illegal fun.
THE SMOKIES Most of the time you dont know exactly where youre camping until the very second you get to a place and the Tent Police take all the fun out of wilderness backpacking by trying to arrange it like a bus schedule with appointment times and locations. As Ed Abbey aptly wrote, “Let’s all have fun but in a clockwise direction only.” Going from designated campsite to designated camosite in the Park is sort of like stealth camping as a homeless person behind a Walmart. During the day you can roam around but you know by dusk youll be heading to your designated camping spot. Only henpecking nanny types could take 500,000 acres of wilderness camping and subdivide it into about 200 acres of useable and legal backpacking camping destinations. Meanwhile, 499,800 acres go to waste or are used for tourist roads, parking lots, RV campgrounds or horse foot trails. Another boring rant.
SPEED HIKER DEAN MARSHALL CORNHOLE
Does anyone remember the great speed hiker DM Cornhole and his friend Jimmy The Goat Scroat? While normal backpackers were slogging up mountains to completel their long thruhikes, Cornhole and Scroat would pass them by wearing only speedos and carrying ridicuously light packs. Well, aparently according to Mr Brad Wetzler in his article I HEAR AMERICA SLOGGING(OUTSIDE mag May 1996),another backpacker wore only speedos and I quote: “I page through the tattered book(trail register)filled with sloppy scrawls in blue and black ballpoint ink. Boogle was here. Mr Miserable, Squirrel Fight, Little Wing and Scooby–a man who never dressed in anything but a speedo.”
In conversation I once overheard Dr. Colon Flaccid mention a speedo student of his named Scooby and of course Cornhole and Scroat–but he was hushed on the subject probably thinking any interest on other backpackers woould shine the light away from him. Flaccid’s long history with the speedo began during the Civil War when it was known as the musket ball bandolier and continued up until recently when he did dayhikes with Pres George W Bush in Crawford TX with both wearing only buttpacks and speedos. In fact, during the Civil War Dr Flaccid designed the first backpacking speedo from an ammunition pouch of earlier design. It was not uncommon to see young Colon dodging from tree to tree in the fog of war trying to find a certain trail across a raging battlefield.
DANCES WITH COLON One time a confederate soldier said he saw a near naked man with a pack running across an open field with his arms outstretched and wearing only a speedo. Soldiers on both sides of course took pot shots of Flaccid but it wasnt his day to die and in awe soldiers on both sides dropped their rifles and started backpacking for the sheer joy of it. Today at Bull Run there’s the American flag and below it is the flag of the speedo worn by Flaccid.
WINTER BRIEFS AND THE G-DOMB ARRAY
Flaccid designed underwear for winter backpacking called the GG-DOM Array(Go Goose Down On Me)and was to be worn alone with no other clothing. Using pleated goose panels(GoDown Feathers), cheek padding, peppermint flavored zippered fly and a perineum goretex gusset, they were used on the K2 expedition Going Down On Ascent and sponsered Colon approved gear. Unfortunately, all 16 climbers on the exp died of exposure before leaving base camp and Flaccid, the lone survivor, flew 16 of his briefs off a rock tower in memory of his friends.
Willi Underointment, the only mountaineer to ever summit an 8000 meter mountain using Flaccid Briefs, had this to say, “I was cold, so very cold.” Peturba Minnetoba, his sherpa at base camp, said, “Its pretty easy to get frostbite on a high climb, but it’s been my experience that all climbers wearing the Flaccid GG-DOM Array briefs, while suffering lost toes and fingers, never once lost a penis or testicle to frostbite. In fact, we often placed our cold hands and feet in a fellow climber’s underwear where the temperature never fell below 82 degrees. While we lost toes and fingers, we owe our genitalia to Dr Colon Flaccid.”
GG-Doms are still available online: eNumb shell, 900 fill, colors: beet red, swollen purple; fill weight 15oz, good to 0F. TestesTex shell, 950 fill, spectra built in sac cup, skid resistant, cordura buttcrack divider, Ice hammer loop and belay ring. Mouth to tube 4oz hydration bladder, zippered perineum pouch hand warmer and 11mm intown self arrest. 35oz goose down fill, -25F rating. $799.00
**NOTE: due to changing manufacturing in our factory in Somalia, some GG-Doms are made with shredded newspaper filled instead of down but otherwise with all the same features. 16lbs shredded paper equals one ounce down. Remember to get the same insulating qualities, 16lbs.
“I bivouaked at 27,000 feet on Mt E and the only thing they found to be working was my GG Dom underwear, ” Hugh Mongus said they at first offered me the Pinworm model GG Dom and I tried it on and it just wouldnt fit. I talked to Flaccid on the phone and he built me a special giant GG Dom using the same harness supports and frames as on his HungWell packs and Im good to go for my upcoming trip to the Lhotse Falce. 7 Summiter Hugh Mongus.
LAST GEAR WORDS FROM DR COLON FLACCID
“I don’t know how many times I backpacked with different gear and I’d do it again on many occasions. It’s one thing to feel safe and it’s another to feel safe and sorry. The backpacking gear I make is second to none and don’t believe it when similar companies say their stuff is better than mine cuz all of our stuff is made in the same factory in Somalia. ”
“One time as I was backpacking thru Kansas and Oklashoma, a kid asked me, “Where can I get some gear and start camping?” and I thought of all the kids I helped withg gear their parents purchased from me and it made me realise that the future of backpacking in this country rests with the kids who themselves have no real credit or cash, but with their older relatives who do. In the end, when the sun sets and yhoure sitting in a cold tent munching on a Colon-Bar or a Flaccid Meal pak, think about those times others have sat in tents and thumbed thru an interesting book or burned some of their trash in a nearby firepit.”
“It’s only by remembering our past that we can ever hope to repeat it. And with repetition will come more time in a cold tent to ponder these things. Finally Ive learned a lot in a lifet ime of backpacking, Ive been copperhead bit and cougar pawed, Ive been snowed under and nearly scalped, but its the gear I remember most. Find gear you can carry and a tent, go out on a limb and into the great outdoors and use a tent. The black widow spider bit I got was because I left my tent door opened all night, the very tent I make and sell now. The bear mauling was inside that very same tent. Just get out and discover nature.”
“Remember life can be made shorter when you spend it outside. People come and go. I come and go. But tents stick around. My Iron Plate Tent is still around. Use it and get out more.” (Speech given by Dr CF on his 169th birthday).
TRAIL: Four Mile Ridge
CAMP: Naked Ground
WHITE SNOW There’s a white kingdom of cold and snow out there to survey and pee upon and my bladder hates me right now for not going out in it and risking certain body death just to insure bladder survival. DEED DONE!
DOES ANYTHING GOOD HAPPEN AT 3:30AM?
Even with a bright moon the sky is still black as coal when its this cold outside. Deep cold becomes deep survival. In his book, Gonzales starts Chapter 4, “A Gorilla In Our Mist” with an interesting description of the Illinois River in Oregon and its class III-IV and V rapids which attracts paddlers. A paddler named Gary Hough “knew that with his level of skill he could run the Illinois at flows between 900 and 3,000 cubic feet per second.” GONZALES
Anyway, it started raining and Gary pulled out to sit tight and watch. “The environmend had changed, and he adapted.” GONZALES. He was smart to do so cuz “The river rose 15 feet and the flow eventually would reach 20,000 cubic feet per second.” GONZALES. Good God, 20,000 feet per second? Anybody who’s been by a raging river can understand and be shocked. Gary said, “There’s the roar of the full-throated river, but on top of that, as if it’s a layer you pick up and remove, there’s the hiss. That hiss basically says, ‘keep your distance.'” GONZALES. It was still run by 5 on a raft, 3 kayakers, and then 5 more kayakers, and of these, 2 died.
“One woman . . . was carried 5 miles downstream before she was able to get out.” As Gonzales said, quoting zJohn F Kennedy, “There’s always some son of a bitch who never gets the word.” ALL QUOTES LAURENCE GONZALES.
The reason I quoted all this stuff is the thing about The Hiss and how it relates to many wilderness experiences. The Hiss is that borderline between a regular day in the woods and a time “when you best keep your distance.” There’s the engorged river Hiss, the Winter Cold Hiss, the Ridgetop Extremem Wind Hiss, the High Electricity Lightning Hiss and of course, the Rattlesnake Hiss. I’ve experienced all of the above hisses and can tell you there certainly is a line where things go from serious to very serious.
** The tipi wind
** The Muir Trail microburst.
** The deep snow and cold of ’93.
** The raging Upper Bald crossing.
** The Boone -30F storm.
** The Snow Camp lightning blast(and one at Naked Ground).
** The Pisgah near-death canyon fall.
CAMPING IN THE HISS I’ve camped many times in the Hiss of too much wind on a too-exposed mountain top, several times here on the Bob, once on Haw Mt, frequently on the ridge in my “bombproof” 40 pole tipi. The worst was in my Mt Hardwear tent when a banshee screaming sound came towards me like Satan’s F4 Phantom fighter jet and I just did not like the sound of it, and then it hit, part hurricane, part tornado, and hung on for dear life in a 30 second “You will die” free for all. Another time I was in a Hilleberg Nammatj at the same place and it wasnt a long windstorm with a climax microburst, it was an all night hellride in a neverending tearing and ripping wind which kept me up all night just trying to survive and keep the tent up. When you have to stay up all night in a tent or a tipi just to stay alive, you know youre standing close to The Hiss.
HIGH WATER HISS
My crossing of Upper Bald River in flood stage with a huge pack on my back was probably one of the most dangerous and most stupiod things Ive done since backpackint the Citico/Slickrock. In the 1980s I had another near death Hissy fit, this time on the canyon walls of the Upper Creek gorge in Pisgah clinging to a crumbling rock and dirt face 80 feet above a river while wearing a 60lb backpack will cause a loud Hiss in your ears and there will be a weird “copper” taste in your mouth, the taste of panic.
PISGAH ROCK CANYON I learned about panic on that vertical cliff where I couldnt go back up and I didnt want to fall to my death. I did end up falling about 15 feet to a small pine tree growing up out of the cliff and hit it but grabbed hold and in the process of falling(and using a dead root to pull me directly above the tree)dislodged a microwave sized rock which fell after me and landed on my head and pack frame next to my head, the frame taking the brunt of the blow. Although I ended up with a 4 inch bleeding gash on my scalp, it was the least of my worries. Good old adrenaline. This deep survival sotry was brought to you thru impatience and emotion.
KEEP PATIENT I lost the backpacking trail higher up in the worst most rugged part of Upper Creeks canyon gorge and so instead of sitting down taking off my pack and studying the area, I impatiently bulldozed down the mt to where I wanted and needed to be, by the river. I was young and stupid but I learned an important lesson: turn around, idiot! Ive lost all macho desire to “conquer” any given terrain and since I backpack solo 99% of the time, theres no fellow idiots upping the ante in some kind of group testosterone poisoning. Groups do the dumbest things, esp groups of young men with backpacks. When backpacking, patience is longevity and this patience is often lost in a group.
Of course, patience wont help much in a freak strom when you are the target, then it boils down to
** having the gear to survive
** sitting tight with some calmness and not being prone to panic, and
** knowing when to hunker or bug out to lower or better ground.
Sometimes relocating is not an option: its too windy, the snows too deep, the cold too intense. Then its a matter of hunkering down and this is where good gear boosts your survival potential and overall mental state and lowers the volume on your panic level.
EXPERIENCE AND THE LINE BEYOND
Its all about knowing what to expect with the daily, hourly cues given off by our Lady of the Wild, Miss Nature, and this is called experience. This is mostly a winter conversation bec winter brings the big 3 that often isolates or kills people:
1 High cold winds
2 Deep snowfall
3 Dangerously low temp-s(remember Knoxville had -18F in Jan 1985).
Experienced backpackers have an inner X-Y scale to judge their safety, how low on the X and how deep the snow to move on the Y and for those who spend a lot of time outside, this X-Y scale gets huge, much bigger than the newbs tiny postage stamp XY graph. And dayhikers are known to have a very small X Y parameter, too. Death comes when the cold or the snow goes “off the scale:. Robert Falcon Scott talked about how walking and hauling their sleds at -50F was much different and ‘easier’ than doing it at -70F, it made all the difference, so much so that they all perished in their little canvas 4 poled tipi tent.
THE X-Y GRAPH My XY graph would also need an extra line for wind, maybe an X-Y-Z graph with vertical X being air temperature, the horizontal Y for snow depth, and the Z lateral for wind speed. In the winter, wind is what kills and turns a calm -10F day or night into a fight for survival when it comes in at 60mph. At -10F a 60 mph wind, whether out walking or in a tent, changes everything. Mountaineers die in high winds, they cant see, they fall, they bivouac at 28,000 feet, they seek out their tents. Cold humbles, wind kills, or something like that.
THE MAIN THING
Overall, the main thing in my puny opinion is knowing when to sit tight in your tent and survive, and when to pack up and move. sometimes you need a zero day to clean house and recoup and scout tomorrow’s trail./
A book could be written, a damn good book could be written about backpackers stranded out in TN and NC during the B of 93. That simple 2 day storm had all the elements of the XYZ axis. It had cold temps(I had 6F at my tipi), it had deep snowfall(I had 3 feet at the tipi), and it had tremendously high winds which caused that 3 feet of snow to blow into dangerous 5-6 foot drifts sealing me into my lodge–permanently unless I spent all night digging out the door–long story. I had a woodstove, I had wood, I had a one mile trail that did not have to be walked since I had food and water and stayed put for over a week in good spirits. Now, the backpackers, on the other hand . . .
IT WAS A TIME OF RESCUES
The stories are numerous and they include the US Army, helicopters, half tracs, rescue squads, panic, frostbite and lost limbs, and since it happened in mid March, it includes college and high school kids on “spring break.” And BSA troops. Oh, and it came on a Friday and into a Saturday, prime backpacking days. I remember the Gov of NC flew over Boone and dropped MREs to stranded people standing by their houses.
WHY DID THE BACKPACKERS HAVE TO BE RESCUED?
Each story is different but from what I heard, most of them or their group leaders panicked and did stupid things to get out at all costs, life for ex trying to walk thru 4-6 foot of snow instead of hunkering down in their shelters and waiting it out. But who wants to wait out a snowstorm and sit in a tent or under a tarp for 8-10 days? Most didn’t, and so they lost fingers and feet. And no one of course had snowshores–it was a freak storm. To some hardy backpackers in other parts of the country and the world, the Blizzard of 93 was just more of the same, a standard winter day in the Sierras but to us here in the SE it was a cold arm wrestle with Satan.
SOUTHEAST WINTER CAMPING We had no snowshoes, no crampons, no ice axes and most didnt have 4 season tents or a good supply of packed foods. And the good reason to carry an extra 6-7 days of food in your pack when winter backpacking. I see guys going out in the winter with their meals planned to the last day and alott themselves just enough food to take them the exact days they plan to be out. They dont want to carry any extra weight but they are idiots cuz theres no room for error. So when they get hit by a storm and have to sit tight for 8 to 10 days, they panic and want out. Carry more food, motards, and plan for the worst, otherwise youll be begging for the nanny state tent police to come and coddle your butt. Expect a soiled diaper and change it yourself.
The Blizzard of 93 was adequately forecasted by radio news and so having a radio on a winter backpacking trip can be good. If you hear a big one coming and you dont want to sit it out, you can bail early or hitchhike away. If your on a 15 day trip and your food is low, and you hear on Day 12 that a big winter storm is coming, you have a couple choices:
** Stay put and use your reserve food stash and hope you have enough fuel left for your stove.
** Bail early and get out.
It’s important therefore in the winter to ration your fuel and your food. Go easy on the white gas by not boiling so much water and by thawing out your water filter just enough to use to get your litters and then let it freeze up again, thereby saving your fuel. You can thaw your filter a couple of ways, either inside a warming tent with full sunlight or inside your bag or down parka.
TRIP 105’S COLD
Whats wild about this trip is that its been very cold for the last 5 days and theres more snow today iwth a new cold front coming thru in 2 days, so all my nights have been or will be around 5F or below. This is uncommon usually it gets cold for 2 days and then warms up but not this time, dang it. Im getting used to it, my head gears on tight and Ive comfy with temps hovering at 10F during the day and 0F at night. Its not much fun to be in the cold all the time but its not too rough and definitely tolerable, but I couldnt do it w/o my 3.10lb two inch pad, my Puma bag and my FF parka.
MISS NATURE LIKES TO DANCE I consider myself one of the lucky few who gets to watch Miss N dance. When theres a party like this on the hill, youre gonna feel left out and a wall flower debutante if you dont join in when MN throws such a party, she expects her nature boy devotee to join her, and she gets angry when we hear about it on the news while sitting on a couch and not out here with her dancing on the stage. “Life is too short to be indoors” She says and we best listen. Anybody can sit on a couch or lay in a bed indoors, intensive care patients and the terminally ill do it all the time, but other than those poor individuals, we walking healthy have no excuse and should attend church while we’re able.
They’ll be plenty of time to lay supine in the coffin for our dirt nap. Whny wait to have my ashes scattered on the Bob Ill come up while Im alive and stay here with working body parts. Everybody says they want their ashes thrown in the pacific ocean or tossed into a river or left atop a mt and yet while they were alive how many days and nights did they spend camping and sleeping on that ocean or by that river or atop that mt? Better do it while you’re alive.
WAKE UP AND MOVE OUT
I get a brief above 10F window it feels around 15F and so I start to pack up and leave this exposed and lonely camp with a pocketful of pecans dates and figs I’ll be off.
1.5 MILES IN 60 MINUTES
It started snowing midway thru the day but I got to NG in great spiorits and broke a second peg in the rock hard frozen ground, this time a shepherds crook stake.
THE HILLEBERG Y PEGS
These things are a nightmare and Im gonna hve to go to their titanium stinger pegs or just scrounge up my old Hilleberg pro pegs. Whats wong with the pegs? Sure, they are sgtrong and can be hammered in with ease, but the bastardos with 3 times the surface area of a regular stake, adhere and freeze solid to the ground, 3 sides of the ground and cant be spun like a shephers crook statke to release and extract. Of course rarely a crock state will snap off in two like glass when spun. Getting out a Y peg from frozen ground is a nightmare and all you can do is bang on it and bend it and then it will most likely snap in two, scratch another stake.
A STAKE SECRET The secret with all stakes is to drive them in about 2-3 inches max and never hit them home, even then 3 inches deep they may be a beatch to remove. I wont be carrying Y stakes with me anymore, just crooks and pro pegs. BTW, theres no easy way to pull up on a Y peg if you use the guy loopo like I did it will break and then what>? You can use another Y peg notch to lockinto the stuck Y peg notch but it doesnt often work so you must resort to the banging and bending method where it will most mprobably snap. In the other 3 seasons none of this matters.
HOT WATER I’d like to try the stinger pegs but they’ll prob bend and snap too, oh let us fondly remember the days of camping on porour unfrozen ground where a stake pushes in like a hot knife thru butter and stays put. God help you if your on a frozen bald in a terrible wind and you need all 16 or 18 pegs bolted down tight. You might get them in but good luck geting the out. ONE SOLUTION: boil up a liter of hot water nad pour a couple ounces onto each stake. voila they pull out. Probably work, but who has the fuel to waste?
SNOWSTORM ON JANUARY 7 2010
Its windy and close to a whiteout so I got sh arrange din a little leaf nest and will bring him in if he wants to come in. The near 5,000 foot gap here at NG is getting walloped with a frigid wind and a heavy snowfall and its got me and sh giddy. theres nothing better than to be set up and ready with enough water, food and fuel to get into and out of thenext week.
BIRTHING A TURTLEHEAD IN A WHITEOUT AT 10F
It aint easy and ya gotta first find a palce out of the wind and then ya havta gouge out an impossiblel hole into the frozen earth and maybe get an inch down and then you have to get half naked in blowing swirling snow and squeeze off a steaming loaf and hope your sphincter blade cuts it off cleany and diesnt leave any batter or residue, otherwise your single paper towel will be coilwed quickly. Then you have to wipe nad wipe well, boys, cuz weve got another 8 days to go. Then you shake everything off and pull up the layers and cover it up and take the soiled paper back to your litter bag and finally wash off your hands with a little rubbing alcohol important if you use your hands to eat and want to stay out for another 8 days. See my 24 photo essay on the whole procedure–just idding and especially video footage from my crack waist cam ha ha ha. CrackCam.
EAST TN SHUT DOWN
Monroe county and the rest of the TN valley is shutting down due to this snowfall. It’s about 14F up here now but way snowy and real wintery as compared to what the valley must be getting.
WHERE ARE MY FELLOW BACKPACKERS?
They all must be hyptonized by the cold lure of the Smokies cuz they aint in the Sk/Citico. Usually I see a certain type of backpacker in these conditions, one who has the right gear and the right head. Theyll come in with a couple friends and brave the crappy roads in fancy SUVs and love every foot of the postholing trails they walk. Rarely solo, theyll be in a small group of like minded diehards and be carrying some expensive gear like $450 Arcteryx gtx rainpants/bibs and good tents and big packs and all else.
I call these guys ‘winter types’ and you only see them in terrible conditions like now, with temps at 10F and wind paralyxing faces and billions of natural flakes slapping their bodies and packs. They are a special breed, and I know the kind, the same kind that are like the dogs that run and jump and twirl and smile at the first sign of snow. There’s something about backpacking and camping in snow if youre a guy who likes to nest and set up a cozy hole burrow like a gopher and sit tight while the world around you gets wilder and more pristine every hour. This storm has done many excellent things:
** It’s shut down to two wheeled bikers and their useless screams.
** It’s curtailed in a big way the overhead jets and their useless roars.
** It weeds out the dayhikers for the most part and the casual day only types.
** And finally it takes you from 2010 and deposits you back, oh, about 10,000 years ago, before countries, before religions, before priests, before technology, before excess humans, before tv and electricity. It’s nature’s way of high holiday where she lets us see how quickly we can go back in time.
Cold is the religion and shes the high priestess of snow. The best ting a backpacker can do is get out in it fast and set up his little nylon shelter and burrow in like a prairie dog. The wings of paradise are missed on the indoor potatoes who refuse to sleep with her. I know soon enough Ill be indoors with the rest of you and typing up the computer log, but once I was out, ah . . . long ago . . . out in the sylvan hush . . . on snow swept balds.
And it’s over, the pot cleaned with snow.
I led Shunka to the tent but he only went in halfway, and ran out like he saw a rattlesnake. So instead I built him a “snow cave: and got down to dead leaves which I piled up and built a small circle of snow berm so he’ll be lower than the ground and have his own little nest to curl up in. While it’ll be about 7F tonight, a new cold front is due tomorrow which will take us down to 0F for good and so this weekend looks to be a frigid one. My goal is to stay put and hunker in, not so much bec of the deepening snow(there were 20 inch drifts on the Wall), but bec of the cold night time temps.
When you hit zero in the TN mountains its a good time to sit quietly and stay warm. I could pack up and go to the HO or Saddle Tree but I like it here just fine. Even though Ive seen some backpackers, I have yet to see any actually on the trail under their packs. The two I saw on Day 2 in Bald River dont count as they were car campers who hoofed it in about a third of a mile. The 5 I saw from Ohio two days ago were dayhiking and they left their packs at Cold Gap. They tried to be friendly but they werent up to it and they wore the faces worried parents have when at a loss for words.
Either they though I was a complete liar at my 15 day trip or they knew how terrible the trail was ahead and couldnt bear to tell me. Anyhow, its just me Shunka and Irene as darkness hits camp and we pull in our limbs like a turtle to get thru the night.
LATE NIGHT TENT CHORES
some things just have to be done so I go out in long johns and my midlayer IB tops and scrap off 8 inches of snow to the ground and set up a near tent pee latrine and then with my gloves I pull away all the new fallen snow from the 6 sides of the Staika, something that must be done on a 4 to 5 hour basis during a blizzard. Then I went over to Shunka in his little snow den and petted him and felt his neck and chest and he was very warm so I headed back to the tent and switched on the Tx Al game. Alabama made some early blunders but TX only got a couple field goals from those mistakes and then the TX QB got taken out so anything can happen. Maybe all my fellow backpackers are at home watching the game on TV but a radio jis just as good. Better, and you can sit in a blizzard with a radio or god forbid, a TV. Can a backpacking TV pull in DISH? Must be losing my mind.
ZERO DAY AT NAKED GROUND
Good for the SEC and strange that TN almost beat them with one field goal. It’s good to see Texas get humbled as nobdoy needs to see anymore things come out of Texas like LBJ or W Bush or the sad killing of JFK or esp a national championship football team. Lets keep it down here in the south and share it with great teams like Florida, LSU, Georgia and Auburn. And dont forget the mighty U–Miami. I dont even like football but it must be tolerated and like March Madness theres some fun involved during playoffs. Now if fans would boycott all college football until a playoff is used then we might have some fairness. Can anyone say “Auburn undefeated”?
Okay, back to the snowstorm—it couldn’t be too bad if Im sitting in a dry cozy tent writing about college football although theres a tiny mouse going thru my food sacs so I had to get up and hang both bags in a nearby tree off a nail.
THE DEATH OF A MOUSE
I sat in wait and finally thru clever positioning and leaving the inner tent door open enough for it to come in but hard to get out, I smothered it and ended its poor little pesky life so it wont be doing its all night nylon scurrying in, over, under, thru and about. Theres something to be said for bringing mouse traps out on a trip.
8AM CHECK IN
Good god boys its very cold on the morning of my 9th day and I went out to feed sh and could tell its `10F in Asheville and so it’s 0F up here at least. It could be below zero as it sure feels like it. It snowed all night and now NG looks like Mt Wash or Denali as theres nothing but snow–a white wonderland–and a mean quick death wind cutting into flesh in 0F ambients. It actually feels more like -5F or lower, you know how it is, paradise in a tent and goose down at 5,000 feet in the NC mountains. I find it hard to believe its 10F in Asheville which is so much lower than here. It’s 12F in Knoxville to its gotta be around -2 to -4F up here. Okay, here’s the list:
** Day 1–30F
** Day 2–14F
** Day 3–10F
** Day 4–5F
** Day 5–0F
** Day 6–3F
** Day 7–0F
** Day 8–0F
** Day 9–minus 5F
Today’s Friday morning Jan 8 and by Monday I’ll finally get to see a warming trend but until then it’ll be 3 days and 3 nights of bitter arctic cold. I asked for it and I got it on this one. Trip 105: The Longest Coldest Trip. 10 Days at 5F or below.
GOTTA GET OUT
Ive been in the tent two long so Im gonna dress up in the layers and two socks and air out the tent and the bag and myself. The called for cold snap for this weekend has arrive and I can feel it in my bones and so its time to move around and shake off a zero day from becoming an INTO THE WILD school bus bed collapse. First thing though is to thaw out the moist second socks and to warm up the lined rainpants and to eat a Pro Bar for calorie heat and then to unzip and let the red lodge ventilate and the bag to get shook and lofted althou its doing pretty good after many days of very low temps, although your mind dwells on even warmer bags like in the -40 range when the temps hit -10F. but how often does it get to -10F? I’d love to see guys with tarps and hammocks come up today or tomorrow.
I’m not sure if the sun is bright or not, it hides behind the usual high elevation clouds and fog so we just might not see it today. Even though its Friday and the start of the weekend, I wont see anyone up here unless they’re on a mission to rescue my butt.
January 7-12 South of the Smokies at 5,000 feet. Where are the tarps and the hammocks? My longest coldest trips reveals the limitations of tarp and hammock camping. There might be a fanatic here and there who uses a hammock at 10F below but 95% of all hammock users arent committed enough to come out this wekend(Jan 10-12) for a subzero hungwell festival. Why they wont be here:
** There’s too much snow and the trails a 3,000 foot climb in it.
** There’s a biting wind near the top at 5,000 feet.
** Temps wont get above 5F today or tomorrow, the prime motivator keeping the hammockers and tarpists away. You could say its keepong all backpackers away but that wouldn’t be true.
HAMMOCKS IN WINTER When the ULers say “find better site placement: I guess in this case theyre talking about staying indoors and at home in a “warm site” They wont have to bail cuz they wont come out to begin with. This is for the best as Im not sure Id be up to another rescue or guiding a group off the mountain and I sure wouldnt be into letting them double up with me in my tent. Id like to see a diehard hammocker just come out today and put thei rkit to the test. Id be there every step of the way taking fotogs and adding encouragement that they actually got off their butt couches and braved the elements.
3,000 feet below is where the trails are more open and easier and though the temps are cold around 14F by the time they get up here theyll find the single digit midgets at around 0F and enough snow to fulfill any whiteout fantasty they might have. In fact, trudging 4 or 5 miles in the stuff will really test their reseolve and their sweat glands, and once they get here theyll have to string up their hanging bivy sacs and tarp and jump in fast to get warm. Then waht? 24 hours in a hammock? Or do they really freeze trying to find wood under the snow and get a bonfire going?
SORUCK? SORE BUTT?
Which reminds me, are the AT types meeting at the NOC today? If so Itill be just like last year with very low temps and heavy alcohol consumption. Have the Soruck up on the Bob and youll find out who really supports the App trail ha ha ha. Anybody can drive to a place and pop open a six pack.
GOTTA GET OUT
Heres the thing I gotta put on my frozen boots and hoof it down to the spring for water with my pot. No using the filter this time, and get a liter to boil a stash for tea and honey whats stopping me? Cold boots.
Im almost in my big Everest mode: brewing tea and melting snow and staying in my bag all day sipping hot liquids. Well theres not enough fuel to keep tea going all day, theres no sherpas to hump it and there’s no warming sun to let me shed layers and dry bedding. I put the liter of hot tea at the foot of my bag to possibly take away any end moisture as its beginning to look a little flat–naw, not flat, theres still about 8 inches of loft but it could use some direct warming sunlight.
TURTLEHEAD BY THE TENT
I went into emergency squat mode and dumped a load next to the tent where it will freeze solid in 10 minutes and I can more easily transport it later to a dug hole when conditions improve. theres a dang sun that wants to poke out but it just cant and so we’re left with a mid day cloud bank at 0F or 5F, too cold for anything but in bag activities. The hot Sigg is great and is helping the mood whilelater today Ill fire up the stove again for a MJUs meal. Im still working on my first 22oz fuel bottle bgut not by much and by tomorrow Ill have to tap the 11oz bottle to get me thru the rest of the trip, If I can make it to Monday in 3 days, all will be good. Who knows the sun could come out tomorrow and warm up the lodge. Tonight is gonna get cold, maybe another -10F like on last year’s trip.
There’s a low flying chopper over Slickrock valley but its gone before I can wave my bright burnt organge rain jacket ha ha ha. The thing about snow storms and deep freeze cold snaps in the southern apps is that while difficult they will pass in 3 to 7 days and so no storm will be crippling unless its a freakish 50 year thing. Whatll happen here is this: I’ll have a couple more nights at minus 5 or 10 interspersed with slightly warming days and then the low temps will break like a fever and rise 20-25 degrees and the tent will again thaw and become a small nylon low heat oven, and then itll be easy and safe to pack up and move, the challenge then will be snow depth postholing and seat production.
We’re not there yet and have a few more days of cloistered hell in a cold small space before I can whoop it up and greet the new day. Sometimes when its cold like this its a good idea to get up and out of the tent and walk around ans stretch the body and the mind, maybe even scrape away some snow and burn the paper trash and old book pages.
Here’s the thing, don’t get into some kind of hissy fit of snow encrusted activity, stumbling about cold and wet. It happens all the time. In this kind of cold you cant be like a kid who plays out in the snow all day and comes home plastered with wet snow, wet jacket, wet socks, and wet pants, all now frozen solid like sheets of tin. The kid gets away with it cuz hes a ‘dayhiker’ but the backpacker mustknow when to sit tight and not over extend. A case in point: When I went down to get a pot of water earlier, I hit 20 inch deep snow and quickly wetted my fleece gloves trying to get a little waterfall going for my pot.
Soon my hands were cold and my gloves sitff. I fired up the stove and thawed out the hands and pulled off the snow clumps from my wool socks but it only took about 30 minutes and already I was a bit compromised. Deep cold and subjero temps change everything and you cant “start getting cold” when packing up and expect to keep your fingers and toes healthy, so often it’s best to hunker in and wait out the cold.
It will be boring yuou will get bored. Sit tight and keep warm and wait the cold storm out. It too shall pass.
In this kind of weather there’s a tendency for solo backpackers to panic and enter a sort of inertial helpless cant move state, a fetal ball helplessness which isnt the same as sitting in your bag and and reading and writing and waiting. If this cold snap hit -25 or -30F, Id be in that fetal ball state too cuz I could not move or pack up no matter what. Could I pack up my kit at -30F? It would be a real test and if a -30F storm hit here and lasted 10 days? Id toss and turn all night and could probably wear everytihng and leave the tent and get to the closest road and start walking, sort of pulling a high mteer exit with a descent at all costs. I’d shoot for Robbinsville via the Kilmer loops.
Soloists have to deal with more mental roadblocks and emotional land mines, and they can let themselves freak out too soon and too easily. A group has a shared view to the cold conditions and can use humor to banter thru the worst of it and in a pinch, groups can double up and keep each other warm. Then again, a group can make some crappy decisions and fight amongst themselves, they can separate and encourage newbies to get lost and in this weather there is no room for mistakes. I’m right on the edge too and if something unforeseen were to happen Id be just another winter story you hear about out of Knoxville.
I wonder how low Mt LeConte will get tonight? Ill look it up when I get back. Itll probably be around 25 below zero up on that terrible peak. Actually Im very warm and comfy and my only complaint is a future one: knnowing Im in for a few days of struggloing heatache. before relief. A backpacking trip can stall out in this kind of cold, it’s all okay, ya gotta put the boots up for a few days and write off the bad days. I like what Gonzales said in his DEEP SURVIVAL BOOK “Nature loves to strip the unwary of their gear.” Of course she has no problem strippoing the wary of their gear too. Losing your gear at 0F would be epic, so let’s get rid of that thought.
Friday tonight 0F. Sat tomorrow 0F. Sunday night -5F. Monday up to 25 or 30! It’s awful cold at 6pm so I let sh inside the tent and god help me if he tries to tear thru the two doors to get out in a panic like he did in the Cabelas tent. Naw, he’s actually cold enough to maybe appreciate this new winter home and Ive got just enough room for him and everything else and as long as he doesnt claw a hole in the thermarest and stays relaxed in a shut up cage, hell live to see another day(and the trees don’t start popping.).
God help me if the trees start popping but that doesnt happen until we reach around -10F, maybe Sunday night. You dont appreciate 25F until four nights at zero. My feet are cold but thats payment for getting up and cooking a meal and standing around in Crocs. Its funny with feet, once they get cold it can take them 4 or 5 hours in a down bag to warm, another depressing fact.
IT’S ALL A WAITING GAME
With all my gear functioning theres no reason to bail and this cold snap is tolerable. The biggest hassle is its duration as it seems Ive been in frigid temps since coming off Sugar Mt and setting up at Sycamore Ck on Day 3 so Ive pulled 7 days with night temps below 10F and I have three more to go. Dang it, that s a long 10 day bitter pill to swallow. I could always try to pack up tomorrow and fall of the mt into the Kilmer valley but the trail could be real snowed up and blowdowned mess but it would drop me about 3,000 feet and a gain of about 10 degrees. Of course, Id have to come back up sometime and get back over to the TN side. The challenge now is to sit and survive tonight, one night at a time.
GETTING USED TO ZERO
When I started this trip I got into a comfortable swing at 15F and was making things work. The same thing could happen at 0F but itll take time but I dont want to give it the block of time needed and anyway, southeast TN aint known for arctic conditions and so whats the pt of finding a comfy niche at 0F?
Here’s a first: I brought a second pair of underwear on this trip and just put them on, Wintersilk’s briefs, and here’s the thing: on a long trip over 9 or 10 days it helps to have another pair of clean underwear to put on it lifts the spirits and keeps unusual, even dangerous odors, away. I threw my old pair in the corner of the tent and I can see them slowly inching their way back up the tent floor to my face and neck to strangle the life out of me as I sleep. The more soiled they are the more dangerous they are. Everybody knows this. Anyway, when its zero ya cant exactly wash and wear your underwear and so I put on a clean pair and feel about 18 years old for about 7 minutes. While I went outside sh wanted out so he left and I hung the two food bags with the spoon and pot and then stood like an ice sculpture by the latrine and drained the retreating Union army.
Here’s the thing, its seems about 20 degrees colder outside the tent than inside and this is due to the 10pmh breeze coming across the gap which is downright flesh eatingly cold, so I scurry back into the tent and use goose down as the last line of defense to survive. Otherwise, without it Id be fully clad and stumbling off the mt to the Kilmer road and hoping to find a car or people. I don’t know how those guys like Wickwire bivouac at 27,000 feet at 30 below with nothing except their clothing. For one thing, youd have to stay up all night and keep movoing but still! 0F at 5,000 feet is enough for me, and after 7 dfays of it6 the thrill is gone. LM says Ill have some good stories to tell, but they will sound like this “It was so cold. So very cold.” End of story. Ok, time to curl up with the radio.
ANOTHER ZERO DAY AT NAKED GROUND
I LIVED THRU ANOTHER NIGHT
Yup, with a little gear arranging and zippers and drawstrings I was able to get thru another cold night, this time at around -4F, too cold after 8 days of it but its starting to get old hat. Jeremiah Flaccid and Jebediah Cornhole would laugh at my frequent mention of the cold, theyd wonder what the big deal is, but them’s old codgers and raised by grizzlies in the Yellowstone while Im a weak prissy bent wrist old hippoie vegetarian ex clarinetist raised on cinimmon toast and cream of wheat. Theyd gut me quick before breakfast and trade my head to the Blackfeet for a couple beaver pelts and flints.
WITH THE OLD TIMERS
As I sit up here in fortress mode for 4 days, theyd be traveling thru in moccasins every day and exploring great trail less tracts on foot, or hewing a small cabin with their axes and setting in for the winter. God help the forest official who tries to interfere. Those old mt men are gone, replaced with weak kneed lap licking clockwise only types like me, who take nothing from the land but drinking water, frostbite and the views and leave reams of wordy trip reports. Youd think after 15 or 20 days of being out here Id come out on the road wearing a beaver pelt around my head and a black bear fur across my shoulders.
OLD JEBEDIAH WALT “He’s turned injun” a Jeep driving tourist would scream and Id bury a couple arrows in the back of the car speeding off. Thered be a four county police resonse with helicopters and 25 sirened cars headed my way and Id take it as being on the war path and send out a long war whoop and then melt into the woods. With an 1820s mentality I figured those who come after me I go after them first, and the thought of hiding in a thicket under a rock wouldnt even dawn on me.
ONN The old mt men and Indians fought for what they loved and their freedom,we nowadays grovel to the badge and willingly let out lands be destroyed and our freedoms taken. Clockwise direction only. There’d eventually come the usual standoff, muzzleloader against assualt rifles, and the rule obsessed Tent Police would prevail against the last remaining free born mt man or Indian. ONN(Orwellian News Newtwork) would report a lone mentally disturbed gunman cornered and killed by law enforcement officiers so to all you 1820s mt men and Indians who get a time machine, dont come to 2009, dial back that sucker to about 10,000 BC and pop out with the woolly mammoths.
THE OLD PAGAN GODS The big mammals will let you live how you want, counterclockwise too, and there will be ample space for all to live free. Youll set up camp[ on the west coast by the sea and wonder in awe of its beauty way before the snake oil fireants turn it into the city of Los Angeles. When the hordes from the east finally arrive, youll have two choices if you want to keep your sacred land unspoiled: you can run off and hide or fight them and die. Either way the church will be burned and the altar destroyed and the old pagan god called Nature will be buried and its adherants hunted down with cash bounties for their heads and stacked and frozen killed-dead into open graves and carved out pits like at Wounded Knee, 1890.
UNLESS YOU RECANT A modern day Inquisition, this time the Catholic Church is called Western Progress and Manifest destiny, and unless you recant your place in nature or are found to be white, youll be tortured, slaughtered, relocated and purged. And they will replace the old NA god Nature with their peculiar middle eastern desert based god called Judeo Christian Jehovah which they will use as another form of cultural genocide to convert and purge those primitives they missed with the gun and the sword. Like the chestnut blight, these diseased people will cover the continent and choke out the old way and the ancient and the near permanent songlines across the land will be replaced with Interstates and cities. Holy mts and valleys alike– once the place of worshiop and unspoken beauty and grace– will become Miami, Charlotte, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Raleigh, DC, New York, LA, with no end in sight. And these places will house the foreign blight in high concentrations and from these epicenter dead zones will emerge the emissary zombies bent on transforming all the world and all the sacred land in the world into more development, sprawl, pollution and superfund sites.
ZERO DAY CHORES
Yes, Im heading into my third night at NG and so I had to do these zero camp chores:
** Fed Shunka two packs
** Put dog leash between two trees and hung up bag and inside out to air alll day.
** Got all trash and burned at a stamped out place in the snow. There was a lot of trash.
** Pulled everything out of the tent including the pad and the tarp and went inside the tent and scraped off all the inside ice condensation from the yellow inner tent walls, and let it all fall on the inside tarp which I took out and cleaned.
** Put the tarp and the pad back in.
** Pulled out a bag of granola to eat for breakfast as I have just enough water for drinking and Im not up for a spring run right yet.
Oat granola is a winter survival food cuz you can eat it w/o cooking which is convenient and saves fuel and theres all sorts of great tasting granola: maple nut, blueberry, cranberry, banana, honey,pecan, cashew, choco granola, M&M granola, date, etc. You name it granola can be made from it.
ANOTHER ZERO NIGHT
Andf this time I mean 0 degrees and I’ve lost track of how many days I’ve spent on this trip in frigid temperatures and like I said since day 3, Ive been enduring nightly temps below 10F and tonight will be no different, probably a subzero number like -4F. I’m getting used to it by now.
There won’t be any backpackers coming up this weekend and heres the corelation: look at the mteers at the South Col on Mt E with their camps set at 26,000 feet. To get to the summit they have to climb 3,000 feet in snow and no real trail, and so it is here in the Slickrock. Backpackers coming in at the Joyce Kilmer memorial can set up a cold camp on the NG trail near Little Santeetlah creek at around 2,000 feet, and here the example becomes like the story of high mountaineers. The imaginary backpackers at the bottom are planning to scale the valley up to NG gap, a climb of 3,000 feet in very cold temps on a near trailless track. They will have to go in with gaiters, hiking poles, boots and adequate clothing with hats and gloves but threre wont be a need for topes, or ice axes or crampons. Their hairiest struggle will be finding the trail and having the patience to turn a 4.2 mile climb into a high calorie all day workout.
THE MINDSET OF A MOUNTAINEER It will help if one of them knows the route and has done it before. They wont need oxygen and they wont have any of the negative affects of high altitude but if theyre mteers at heart they will gladly strap on their gear and pull the steep wall up to here with minimal struggle. But itll require the mindset of a mteer to face postholing and obscured trailwork to finally reach the top where the second pahse of their mteering wil come into play: setting up a cold bivouac at 5,000 feet after the arduous climb. Theyll have to push away the deep snow for their tents and get camp set up quickly to prepare for tonight’s subzero temps, their camp then becomes their lifeline and survival kit.
MOTHER MOUNTAIN ROOTS At one time these mountains were between 20,000 to 30,000 feet high and you can feel their ancient roots and severity at times like this. They want to revert to what they once were, borthers and sisters to K2 and Everest, and we backpackers need to approach them even now as mteers because they are still expressing some amt of their remnant wildness and cold. For these root memories and reasons you wont see any backpackers ascending to the heights–like the mts their old DNA remembers what once was here and it seeps nto their poles as a bad day on K2 or left for deady on Big E. If you see anyone up here at all itll be Jody Brown types, guys who are comfortable with ropes and crampons and ice axes and seek out the high snowed in places.
WHAT UNCLE FUNGUS WANTS And then there’s me, I don’t fit into the on the edge types, the high rock winter goats, and yet here I am. Im of that even rarer sort, not the mteer but the John Muir monk, a devottee pilgrim to the Lady of White as she rests on her throne. I know shes up on K2 and the big peaks but I can find her here with no problem in both summer and winter alike. She’s under a bush behind a Walmart or atop the Lhoste Face, in the Amazon and all thru the Pacific Ocean. My ambition is to be with her wherever I find myself, this time its in a NC and TN mountains, maybe next time itll be in Tibet or Nepal. Perhaps the big wall climbers need her big shock therapy maybe its the only thing that feeds their nature escape bec they dont have the other, the Muir monk psychology which needs less of her but more of it.
IT’S ALL UP TO HER The mountaineers get more of her but less of it, I get less of her but more of it. If you get too much of her youll die or maybe shell take away all your gear and kill your friends leaving you to walk on crutches and tell the story. Climbing K2 is taunting her, sleeping under a bush behind a Walmart is not, or backpacking the NC and TN forests, but she can still kick your butt and give you a full dose out here too, if she wants. It’s all up to her. As you can see from this trip report, she decided to give me a little jolt of her juice enough to zap my brain but not enough to kill me. Ill come back from Mecca a better man.
IT’S ALL ABOUT INTENT It’s all about intent. She sees intent like we drink water. If I go out with summit fever and a cold hard heart to reach the peak no matter what well shell see that intent way before I ever start and have some intricate surprises waiting for me along the way. Death mainly. but since no body has perfectly pure intent, everything we do will kill us. She has yet to see enough men with pure intent to go ahead and let them live, and the one’s who do come and go at will, above and beyond her gaze and beyond this rant. What we’re talking about is hubris and nature and mteers stick out like sore thumbs in this regard. As they attempt to conquer Miss Nature they end up tripping over their own egos repeatedly and usually end up taking out others including themselves.
INTENT AND MOTIVATIONS
** To conquer mountain–ambition and fame(to meet girls?).
** Be surrounded by beauty.
** Hike and explore an area.
** Sleep outside at night.
** Find peace and solitude.
** Become “cool” and meet girls.
** The joy of freedom and independence and self sufficienty.
** Nature supplants all other organized religions.
** Rekindling old stone age memories including hunting and gathering.
** Appreciating the coziness of a primitive shelter–part of the bag night allure.
** Seeing how little money a person can make and still be happy–verging on bumhood or hoboness.
PAINLESS AS POSSIBLE WATER RUN
In 12 inch snow I head down the shadowy and windy hill to the frozen spring and found a little open pool and so with the pot I filled up a Sigg liter and postholed back to the tent and boiled up a half liter to drink and a half liter for dinner, a Mary Janes cheesy BNT(bacon bits, noodles and tomatoes). As I was cooking a little mouse ran thru the tent and I crippled it but it ran off and then sh attacked it twice and he just mightve gotten it on the second time. hell be back later tonight, Im sure.
HOW TO CLEAN A POT
In this cold you dont unless youve got extra fuel and water. Dry snow doesn’t do much as the pot is frozen by the time you finish and set it down. I did a little scrubbing with snow and then let it be and packed it away into the food bag and hung it with the food. Frozen food bits aren’t a problem and I just cook the next day with the soiled pot. Just remember if you used it as a pee pot during the night, wont happen if ya hang it.
You can feel the temps falling adn the subzero daughters of the snow queen enter camp for another night of goose down constriction. I stirred up a hornets nest of cold on this trip and I shouldve bought those down pants and booties Bert showed me at Little Rivers Trading Post. but whod think wed have sub temps for 8 days in a row? I stood outside the tent for 45 minutes and sang a few lakota songs and looked down the 4 trails for fellow backpackers to join me in the gap and then I rattled off the names of all the poeple I ever backpacked with: Bob, Big Don, Johnny B, Genis, Donna, Janet, Amy, Anne, Robert, Jeff, and scores of others each name an attempt to make them materialize on the trail with their packs and cold weather gear.
FELLOW MEMORIES At lonely times like this its important to take a big stick and stir up the muddy memory of old camping places and the people who went before. It all started with Paul Stockman and Steve Ovendon, showing me little hidden spots around Boone NC, but they werent backpacking buddies just friends and fellow lovers of Nature. I cant run thru the whole list and I cant write about each individul trip with each separate person, my only reason to do so is to bring them up here with me now, not to assauge the cold or the challenge but to share it with old friends and talk about old times.
Good backpacking memories are good to have and a record must be kept of each and every one, both written and photographic. I kept a close journal but had no camera and so most of my nylon adventures from 1977 to 1990 went unrecorded, one reason these TJs are so “over kept” except this time there’s hardly any cast of characters or “summers of love”. My tent becomes my outdoor companion and so theres scores of pictures of my tents. A dream trip therefore would include coming out with the whole range of past friends, and ending with the last person I camped with, Hootyhoo. To get such a group together now would make REI rich and the forest service suspicious but Id be in pig heaven. I wouldnt want this large group up here with me now, there’d be deaths and not enough body bags.
WHAT WE’VE GOT HERE IS A FAILURE TO STOP SNOWING
After thinking about it, I realized Ive been in a near 7 day rainstorm except its been so cold that its always in the form of snow. The reason I bring this up is because its snowing right now, pretty white flakes, adding up and up and up. Total depth is about 10 inches though in spots its over a foot, walkable for sure but slow going up a hill with a pack. Two feet and you’ve got a long tedious sweatlodge. 3 Feet and youre almost paralyzed and stuck without snowshoes. Sometimes y0u can walk on deep snow with a frozen hard crust but sometimes this hard crust will hurl you down a mountain on your butt like a rocket.
Crampons? They wouldn’t hurt. I’ll make distance w/o them but they sure wouldn’t hurt. However you slice it itll be trudge, trudge, trudge, stop, sweat and trudge.
A last outside pee break and the snows coming down harder than ever and I marvel as I scoot back to the tent at how cozy and snowfree the tent is compared to the howling white arctic world all around me. See for yourself. No amt of words will convince you and no number of low temps make a dent in the read account you must therefore reflect on yur own experience of being out at -5F in a high mt blizzard with the snow piling up and with no end in sight and the wind cuts thru the clothing and the face so you seek out the little dry hole of your tent and then burrow into your bag.
Snow, snow snow, but with it all it just amounts to 10 or 12 inches of the stuff, theres yet no Donner Pass hysteria and if tehre was my panic levels would shoot up a bunch. We’ve got a long way to go before we even reach 2 feet, an all night heavy snow, and even then I could trudge up to the Bob and down the other side. More than 2 feet and my adrenaline kicks in, I go from :”wanting to hunker” to “Uh oh, must hunker”, a whole new vibe. Taking stock of my supplies, I’ve got food and fuel for at least 6 more days, then begins the big break out. What’s the big breakout? Get down and get out.
ANOTHER 5 DAY BLIZZARD
Several years ago I pulled another in tent hunker during a 5 day blizzard TRIP 27, December 2003), but this is twice as cold and snowy. Then I was atop the Bob in the Mt Hardwear tent and didnt move for four nights and 5 days. This is looking to be the same though its all different and much more serious. Subzero temps always focuses the mind and nonstop snow causes a “what if” worry, so I hunker in like I did before and calmly plan my escape–sitting tight and making no impatient dash to nowhere, to the same cold snowy spot I am here but a couple miles away. You must wait for the storm to break and the temps to rise, even if only by 10 degrees at night.
To go from -5F to 10F at night means the daytime temps are around 20 and so theres a window of hope to gear up and trudge away. Your 5 day struggle will leave an imprint on your site, itll look like a blasted out dust off littered with bittersweet memories and you wont have a problem walking away with everything on your back. A sort of good riddance comes to mind and when you see it again there wont be snow or piss or cold or wind and youll forget those 5 days at zero or below.
Backpacking in a winter sotrm is a little like a fight or a small battle and you need to decide on where you want to make your stand. This is esp true when you’re on the highest mts in your area and something big is headed your way. First off, you must make your stand by water or a spring, second you need to decide if you want the whole thing or just a part, do you want to be up high or down low?
Even up high you have many choices where to stand and fight. Do you want to be totally exposed to the wind? I don’t. Do you want to be protected in some trees? Yup. Or better yet, in a high stand of heath and rhodo? Even better. Will the wind break your spirit? It could and at -5F a strong wind will test your bag and your tent twice what -5F without it. When you decide on where youll make your stand, set up and use all your guylines and get ready enjoy the calm before the storm. keep the snow away from the tent perimeter with daily shoveling and set a time limit on your stay based on weather reports and projected temperatures.
THINK WAIT ADJUST 5 days is about right, god help you if it goes to 10. Most winter storms in the SE never go for 10 days and one day at zero will become another day at 35F. Wait, think, adjust and then move when ready. many backpackers take crazy risks on the day they head for their car, they’ll sweat out their layers, theyll soak and freeze their feet, anything to get out at all costs. The t6hing is, when youve been dropped off for 15 days, youve got no car to run to and no bail out plan and so there s no panicked exit or bug out hysteria. Think, wait, adjust, wait and move when you’re ready. Good night and I’ll see you on Day 11.
TRAIL: Four Mile Ridge
CAMP: Raven Camp on Bob
SO VERY COLD
I’m up at 4am for no good reason and it’s even too cold to pee so I sit up in the bag and will get back down just as fast. Ok, ok, I go out and cehck on a curled up shunka and then open the window to the school book depository and layed out my ammo(peed)and then scooted back to the tent like a scared crab. My beach is all snow and the waves come in as the wind. A candle stub warms the hands and Im wrapped in down. I may stay put I may move, it all depends on the cold but there seems to be a slight warming trend bec as I was outside the wind hitting my face wasnt so bitter,a subtle sensation around the nose and cheeks allowing you to feel the change.
** feed Shunka 2 paks food.
** Hang out sleeping bag.
** pull snow away from tent.
** wait for the sun, even wait for warmer temps. Yeah, right.
Breakfast is a pro Bar cuz it’s too cold to cook.
3 HOURS OF HELL
I packed up in frigid cold and attempted to do a 500 foot climb and just a 1.5 mile trek, but quickly ran into 24 inch drifts and then suddenly 40 inch drifts which really slowed me down so a 45 minute trip took me 3 hours! It got so bad that I had to unstrap shunkas pack and carry it since he was paralyzed by the deep snow. Up on the Wall I hit a 4 foot drift which stopped me in my tracks. Slogging and postholing are the operative words and my goal was the open sunlight atop the Bob at Ravens Camp and so my prayer was answered and here I sit in the sun thawing out my toes and soaking up the sun after hand shoveling the snow off a big patch of ground for the tent.
I could’ve stayed put at NG for a 4th night but sometimes boredom trumps safety and I went for it, wearing compltetly frozen boots which iced out my toes and as they sit out in the sun theyre still partly frozen. Gangrene? Nope, not yet. Cold blisters? Niope. Numb? Yup. Deep snow is a real bitch and getting thru it is a hellish struggle, snowshoes notwithstanding, and not to mention the snow laden brush overhanging a trail(snowdowns)dumping their load down your neck and all over your tops. Without gaiters my boots and rainpants filled up with snow and now my socks are cold and wet but the other pair waits in the pack and are dry.
But this time I’m in the sun on the Bob but here’s the thing, the sun always sets and leaves you in arctic conditions–9 days straight ice cold camping and it gets old.
TRAIL Bob/Fodderstack/Pine Ridge
CAMP Pine Ridge Camp
HAS THE BACK OF THE STORM BEEN BROKEN?
At midnight it’s around OF but the sky is clear and sun will hit camp and there’s a feeling some warmth is in my future although any backpacking done today will be just like yesterday: hellish, at least until I leave Four Mile Ridge and get off the mountain.
When you get a late night craving for a cold fruit powder drink, ya gotta mix it up in the icy slush of your water bottle and take a couple slugs–bladder be damned.
There’s a south wind and with it comes what we’re used to here in the south: warm temps and mild winters. Knoxville said yesterday that since January 1 they’ve had below freezing temps and never once did they get above 32F until probably today. Knox went from night time temps of 9F to around 15F which caught me on Day 3 at 2,000 feet on Sycamore Creek at 7F and the numbers went down from there as I climbed to 5,000 feet for the rest of the trip.
Now I sit in a frosted up tent at around 7F again and the ambients are rising, finally. No snow will melt on the trail from here to Snow Camp but as the tent melts its my goal to drop off the highest ground and get on Fodd ridge for my eventual exit along PRT and out to WF. Todays slog will be like yesterdays sadly , esp the half mile to the Tee and then the section down to Snow Camp could also prove to be deep and slow, in fact that shaded side of the mt is always where the snow is the coldest and deepest. Joy. At least is all downhill.
** Diverged from chimpanzees about 7 million years ago.
** Sahelanthropus tchadensis(6-7 million)
** Orrorin tugenensis(6 million).
** Ardipithecus kadabba(5.8 million).
** Ardi ramidus(4.3 million).
** Australopitheous anamensis(4.1)
** Au afarensis(lucy) 3.8
** Au africanus 2.8
** Aus aethiopicus 2.6
** Aus garhi 2.6
** Aus boisei 2.3
** Au robustus 1.8
About the time of Ausboisei, the homo genus spring up(our ancestors)
** Homo habilis 2.2
** Homo erectus 1.8 to 200,000
** Homo herdelbergensis 500,000
** Homo neandertholensis 200,000
** Homo floresiensis 100,000
** Homo sapiens 200,000
THE TENT WARMS UP
Yup, there’s me now overdressed sitting in the tent but ploaning a quick exit off the mountain after I call LM for evac palans in four days. Theres a call for snow tonight. Hmmmm . . . . .
MITTEN CHECK IN THURSDAY PICK UP
I left the Bob in deep snow and struggled to the Tee and dropped off the mountain in 24 inches of the stuff and reached Snow Camp for an empty look see and continued on the Fodderstack BMT where I sit now at Rockstack mountain ready to descend it to Harrison Gap and the long climb up and down to Pine Ridge on one swallow of water in my Sigg. but there’s snow to eat. See ya later.
9 MILE DAY ALL IN THE SNOW
Most of my backpacking day was spent on the BMT but then I hit the Pine Ridge Trail and turned left and in about 3 miles I reached a brand new camp about a mile above Warden’s Field, it’s right on the trail and a bit on the left. There’s a call for snow tonight but then tomorrow I’ll pack up and head to the NF where I’ll set up by the creek. Here are some neat Knoxville cold facts: the longest record for below freezing temperatures until this month was 8 days in 1917(and 12 days in 1895). We went 11 days with temps below freezing and I know cuz I started this trip on New Years eve and have been right in the belly of the beast the whole dang time.
The thing is while Knox might’ve gotten above 32F today, I didn’t and as I sit in my tent at around 2,500 feet I can once again feel the cold coming into my bones at around 15 to 18F, the usual depressing numbers. My feet and hands are numb nubs, drat it, but hey the cold storm is over and it’s back has been broken and even now I can feel the change as I sit in the tent and not struggling with -5F or OF. I haven’t seen a single backpacker the whole time. Just their packs and some dayhikers and those two car campers at the beginning. Not a single backpacker bopping down the trail. Odd.
THE TRIP OF THE MANY BLOWDOWNS
** Coming up the Brookshire there’s a bad one before the upper bald crossing.
** There’s a bad one past the Brookshire crossing.
** Sycamore creek up to Whigg has about 4 bad ones.
** To Mud Gap has a few(I walked the Skyway from Mud to Beech and avoided the trail).
** Beech to Cold Gap–this section is amazing with about 40 new blowdowns and my message to Ed, Rick and Ken is this: permanently close this section to all vehicles and cut the blowdowns just wide enough for a hiker to pass thru.
** The 54A trail up to the Bob is nasty with a couple terrible blowdowns.
** Cherry Log Gap to Pine Ridge has several blowdowns and one right before Harrison Gap is truly bad.
** Pine Ridge isn’t too bad although it has about 4-5 new trunks on the trail. I’ll give this to Ed on Facebook when I get back.
FROM BOB TO HERE
I saw a lot of pig sign and a bunch of turkey prints and along the way I ripped open my gtx rainpants so when I got to the PR spring I pulled out all my ripstop repair tape and closed it up though it looks crappy. I also got two fresh liters of water and much needed after a long day of backpacking.
TRAIL Pine Ridge/South Fork/North Fork Citico
CAMP: North Fork Camp
DAY 13 BEAR DREAM
Several bears approached camp and like an idiot Shunka chased them and one of them killed my dog and kept his body with him for a night and the next day took off with him. I was very sad but then two bears came up to me and one hugged me close and licked me around the face and neck. Since Shunka slept right next to my head by the tent, he’s the one that probably dreamed about the bears and I just picked up on it as it spilled over into my head. It would’ve been a great dog dream or not so great but nonetheless powerful.
A COLD WET DREARY MORNING
It’s been snowing thru the night but now it doesnt know whether to spit or sleet or drip or what, but the fog is thick and the grd is still covered in a couple inches of snow.
** Leaving the Bob in 10-12 inches with drifts of 24 inches.
** Snow Camp to Glenn Gap, about 8 inches.
** Glenn to Harrison about 6-8 inches.
** Harrison to Big Fodd about 4.6 inches.
** Big Fodd to Pine Ridge between 4 to 8
** Pine Ridge from about 2-6 inches.
As you can see levels vary due to elevation, and location, some of it blown into 24 inch drifts or 12 inch piles. The drop from the Tee to Snow Camp was the worst with deep drifts, blowdowns and slow going though it was mostly downhill. If I didn’t know the trail as well as I do it would’ve been nearly impossible to find the way. Once you hook into the BMT it’s a little easier though there are great expanses of snow covered hillsides wihere the trail disappears and the natural htach marks are far apart.
A COLD SOCK DAY
Today I must don partially frozen socks and put on totally wet boots as I continue my journey down the PRT to the waiting Hawaiin Tropic Bikini team waiting for me with hot tea at the WF campground. They will have a portable hot tub on a trailer and well have a great old time as they scrub me down with loofa sponges and send me off for my last 3 days very clean.
NOT ENOUGH WATER
If I had enough water I’d cook up oatmeal but itll have to wait till I get on the North Fork. The North Fork! What a paradise compared to where I’ve been for the last 10 days. I put myself on the high ground and I chose to sit out the cold snap at 5,000 feet , I could’ve dropped off the mountain someplace but I wanted the full shot of Miss Nature’s dance and I got it.
Everything worked as planned though I ripped a big hole in my old NF rainpants and so upon return an online search will be made to replace it, something like a gtx winter pant with no belt and just a drawstring. Outdoor Research? Arcteryx? We’ll see.
** Asolo boot tread poor performance. Too shallow to grip well.
** Torn Smartwool merino long johns–I snagged them on a blowdown on the Brookshire(the same place wehre I lost my watch), and ripped a 32 inche tear and quickly fixed with a needle and floss. The IB’s are more durable.
** Siggs: the eco friendly yellow liner is peeling away from the screw threads at the top. bummer. Still usable I guess.
** Superfeet insoles: I’m still using them and they seem to work well.
** Red Staika: great tent and the new flysheet clip hooks work well. The red loooks good in the snow, too.
10AM SHOVE OFF
Even though its very cold in the tent, damp and crappy, I’m gonna try and pack up and move in the pants and the new burnt yellow rain jacket.
PINE RIDGE TO NORTH FORK
I left camp in the middle of the PRT as snow was falling and booked it down to Citicio Creek and an empty Wardens Field, where I crossed the frozen low water bridge and hooked around to trail 105 and did the dangerous ice covered pisgah ledge sectgion and got in the Donner Camps and past up to the NF footbridge and up past Johnny’s Hole to my campsite for Day 13 at the first crossing on the left(no, you wont catch me crossing any creeks in the Crocs!). The creeks are covered in ice and it looks like a scene out of Montana or Yellowstone. When the weathermen said it would be 40F on Monday, well, its tuesday and damn cold at around 15F at least here in the Citico. Im okay the snows only about 2 inches deep here and I got the tent up quick. Now Im off to boil some hot tea and later an oatmeal lunch.
** Superfeet: After 12 days of sore toes and cramped up boots, I deep sixed the SF andf put in the old inserts luckily I had them in the pack.
TOXIC AFTERNOON NAP
After I ate a huge pot of oatmeal and got cold I layed in the bag to get warm and was out in a sort of toxic funk and wiped out. Phew, it aint pretty. Im up and didnt die in my sleep and so the day goes on.
THE CONCLUSION TO THE DEEP SURVIVAL BOOK
Heres a brief checklist according to gonzales:
** Avoid impulsive behavior, dont hurry remember my Go Slow policy?
** Know your stuff and know the system youre entering.
** Get the information and find out about the area you are entering.
** Commune with the dead: “Read the accident reports in your chosen field of recreation.” “The mistakes other people have made.”
** Be humble: “Those who gain experience while retaining firm hold on a beginner’s state of mind become long-term survivors.”
** When in doubt, bail out:
Fiunally the book ends with this sobering quote: “We can live a life of bored caution and die of cancer.” Do it all first!!
NEW MEAL REVIEW
MJF Wild Forest Mushroom Couscous. Its cooking and Im not a big fan of couscous but well give this one a try.
Despite Gonzales’s book , surviving in the Citico sk is a crap shoot and to say “being prepared” for random injury and death can be better assured with training and preparation and an understanding of advanced brain behavior and psychology is a bit grandiose. No high flying summit fever needs to kil you here, it can happen with a stray lightning bolt or a falling tree and the rare pig or bear attaack. If someone lives out here, he can die by the sheer length of time he spends out here, like a house dweller could die in a bathtub or fire. A case in pt: As I passed thru Snow Camp a couple days ago I saw a blowdown right on the place I put my tent.. Oops have a nice day.
Of course, I knew about that dead snag and still set up there in years past. My mistake. Its getting to the pt out here that there are so many dead trees what with the pine beetle and the hemlock blight, that it seems just a matter of time.
Have I come close to death on this cold trip? Well, it was so cold that had something unexpected happened like a broken leg or arm or a crushed tent things wouldve went south very fast.
FINALLY SOME WARMTH
As I can feel it as I sit in the tent at 8pm on Day 13 of the trip. It took about 12 days but here it is, decent backpacking weather.
** Carry extra fuel and batteries(for radio, mainly).
** Get down booties
** either take two sets of long johns merino medium next to skin and large over that, or a good pair of down pants or winter primaloft pants.
** Have sufficient candles.
** Take good tread winter boots and possibly gaiters.
** Think about crampons.
** To guard against frozen boots, think about Sorel type felt lined pak boots clunky and slow to walk in.
** white gas stove only, no alky or canister.
** four season tent only, no hammock or tarps and no 3 season all mesh tents.
** Over kill down bag rated -15F minimum and overkill down parka. As Fritz Wiessner said:
** Bring extra stakes and esp shepherds crook stakes., You will snap and break stakes in frozen ground so have extras and go with the pro peg big nail types intermized with the crook types. Do not take V or Y pegs.
** In deep snow prepare to carry your dogs pack as he wont be able to fight thru the snow with it on.
** Always use hiking poles or pole.
** Keep a journal and take some books, have a radio with extra batts. The nights are cold and long and you need some thing to do to keep from going nuts.
** Make a stand and pick where you want to be to have your fight. Pick a place byt water where you can stay put for 5 days and survive at 0F or below, preferably out of the worst of the wind.
** have a plan to bail if things get crazy a trail exit off the mt to get to lower grd for instance, or if all is lost, the closest on foot access to a road. Imagine yourself crawling to it and go from there, so it must be the closest of all choices.
** Know how to hunker in a long cold snap and know when to pack up and move to another camp, and be prepared to hand shovel a new tentsite to fit your tent. Do not set up on the snow if possible.
** Always take two pairs of warm gloves as one will invariably get wet like when you p[repare a tentsite by moving snow with your gloved hands. Like an ice axe, no body around here carries a snow shovel.
** In deep snow prepare to take 3 to 4 times longer to backpack from one spot to another and realistically understand that in deep snow you may be stuck and isolated and wont be going anywhere for several days. Sit tight stay put dont panic.
** Understand storm rationing when condtions hit the fan, as in a subzero cold storm go into your survival mode by automatically rationing your candles, your fuel stove and your food. Imagine yourslef having to stay put an extra 10 days and go from there.
** Always take extra food on a winter trip. As before you cant precisely format your food intake to a certain number of days bec a storm mgiht keep you out an extra week or 10 days, so leave with at least 5 days of extra food and ration what you have in addition.
** Have an emerg thermarest cached somewhere within a couple days walk or take a couple foam pads with a thermy as a backup, sleeping on frozen ground is death.
** Try to avoid creek crossings when the temps go down to 0F. You wont want to use Crocs when you cross and you wont want to get your boots saturated eihter. Feet are very fragile at 0F and a full week at 0F or below will test your feet and your footwear. Creek crossings are therefore dangerous and god forbid if youre on a solo trip and you fall into the ice cold water either your boots or up to your waist. Your butt cold trip with a nice warm tent will disintegrate and there wont be anyone to help you warm up or set up camp and youll die fast and frozen. So avoid creek side adventures and crossing when the temps plummet.
Sure, you can camp by frozen rivers but dont play ard with them. What looks like a snowy bank can be a frozen pool and crack. You fall in with your pack and about 30 seconds later youre paralyzed with shock pain panic and fear. Your dog wont know whats going on but the coyotes will eat like kings.
** consider goose down to be your first and last line of defense so do everything in your power to keep it dry and lofted. Every morning hang up your bag on a line outside, even it is -10F and let the shell air dry for the nights in tent condensation.
** When sitting out a long cold snap pull out everything from the tent during the day and scrape and shoake off all the ice crystals clinging to the inner tent. They will make a pile on the tent floor to remove. This will help a lot for that nights sleeping and moisture levels. This prob is solved usually when you pack up everyday.
** Carry a radio and listen to the weather reports. f if youre at 5,000 feet at 0F and they say a big snowstorm is coming with an arctic air mass and 3 feet of snow, you might want to rethink location and prepare a better place to make your stand. If you feel frisky and have the gear sure, stay put on the mt top, otherwise bug out to lower ground inn a river valley and wait it out. and always remember in a big snowstorm the trails will be blocked by deep snow and snowdowns, brush, trees and laurel collapsing onto the trail making travel impossible.
SO ENDS THE UNCLE FUNGUS GUIDE TO WINTER BACKPACKING IN THE SOUTHEAST
TRAIL: North/South Fork/Citico Creek roadwalk/Flats Mountain
CAMP: Flats Mt Camp by Beehouse Gap
“People in Knoxville are visibly shakened” Are you rioting and burning your Lane Kiffin t-shirts? One guy set a mattress on fire. Theres at least 1,500 students waiting for Lane Kifin to leave the building. He signed a 5 year contract at UT and he’s leaving in one year.” Who at UT hired this guy?
HERE ARE SOME INTERESTING MT LECONTE TEMPERATURES
(This was compiled when I got back after the trip):
LOWS ON MT LECONTE
Dec 31 24F****Jan 1 19F****Jan 2 -2F****Jan 3 -5F****Jan 4 -5F****Jan 5 -5F****Jan 6 -1F****Jan 7 4F****Jan 8 -8F****Jan 9 -6F****Jan 10 -4F****Jan 11 4F****Jan 12 9F****Jan 13 6F****Jan 14 14F. Some wonderful numbers.
And it’s 15F still cold I have a brand plan today and this is it: LM is supposed to pick me up at Wardens Field tomorrow but the dirt road is iced up and coated in snow so I told her not to drive on any frozen road and meet me up by the paved road at Indian Lake so I’m gonna have to road walk out of here tomorrow and so today I want to leave the wilderness and climb the road up to Beehouse Gap and do some of the Flats Mt trail where I hope to find a decent campsite for my final night of the trip.
A SNACKING BREAKFAST
I sit up in the tent with a non cook breakfast while waiting for what sun there is to greet my lodge and get me out of this cold funk to begin my backpacking day. Let’s have some fun today and explore a few more trails.
BEEHOUSE GAP AND THE START OF THE FLATS MOUNTAIN TRAIL
Elevation 2580 trail #102 Flats Mt. I left a 14F camp on the North Fork and my boots were the worst of the whole trip as they were ice cold bricks and it took me 30 minutes in wet frozen socks to pry the bastards onto my frozen feet and all I could do was walk my butt off in a torture device known as the Iron Maiden Asolos. I booked it out of the Citico and tied in with the Citico Creek road and went up about 1.5 miles to Beehouse Gap where I sit now in the sun in bare feet trying to thaw out all 10 toes. I dipped and hauled 2 liters of water here as I’m planning on taking the Flats Mt trail as far as I can until I find a decent campsite though it’s a totally unexplored and barely walked trail(I dayhiked it from the top at the Skyway for a couple miles years ago and had to turn around due to poor trail maintenance).
I’m glad I’m walking the road out as there’s no way Little Mitten could drive the thing as it’s a compete sheet of ice and it’s steep and curving and a thousand foot drop off to one side. It’s even scary to walk. I don’t know much about the Flats Mt trail although it’s around 6 miles long and climbs a couple thousand feet from Beehouse to the top where I guess it’s flat. If it doesn’t become a nutbuster it should be fun and I’ll start out with my eyes open for potential tent sites and the slight chance of water.
FLATTENED MOUNTAIN TRAIL
This thing is a blowdown nightmare, a war zone of fallen trees and few camping spots but I found one not too far from the gap and came back to it after going up too far and finding only certain death camps beneath dead towering pine snags. I’ve never seen so many dead trees on the ground, they covered up all poptential tentsites but luckily on a backtrack I found a moderately level one under living pines for my last night out, One day I’d like to backpack this whole trail and camp on the top and see how flat the Flats Mt trail is. (This is done on my next trip—see 106).
DUSK COMES TO DAY 14
And yes, its cold and below freezing though it’ll be my warmest night of the trip at about 18F and I’m camping on a nondescript piece of scrub ground at around 2,000 feet at a place I’ll proibably never use again. Sometimes you’ve got to go into your stealth camping mode and explore a wooded area for the first available flat place and I’m an expert at it though it’s a skill I haven’t had to use on a consistent basis. As soon as I got on Flats I walked with one eye on the trail and one eye on the gaps and ridges and found a couple good sites in a snowy gap but there were towered over by several dead trees–a no go–and so I bushwacked up to the gap’s sister ridge and found it to be cluttered with blowdowns so I returned to the trail and started back to a ridge finger I saw earlier but found it to be slanted and overgrown. In disgust I headed back down the trail and finally found what I was looking for, a tent sized patch under healthy trees with just a few pullable plants and brush. Though not perfectly level I put my backpack under the pad at the low foot end and so here I am pretty danged comfortable. This is a good winter camp and a good winter trail esp when the road is a sheet of ice and night falls. There won’t be anyone parking their trucks or driving by to disturb my camp and the road is just too dangerous on ice at night.
You can divide this section of the dirt road into two:
** The Wardens Field climb up to Beehouse gap and,
** The gap to the paved Indian Lake road. If this paved part is icy I’ll have to walk to the Skyway and see its condition and there’s a slim chance I’ll have to hitchout tomorrow if LM can’t make it out due to jury duty. Ugh, jury duty.
I’M BEING BLESSED WITH A FINE PIECE OF MUSIC ON MY LAST NIGHT OUT—A fitting treat and it’s the Mozart clarinet concerto although marred by a player using the stupid bassett clarinet with its lower range. Hatefull. Be a man and use the standard B-Flat soprano clarinet. If it was good enough for Harold Wright, Robert Marcellus, Anthony Gigliotti, Daniel Bonade, Ralph McLean, Stanley Drucker, Robert McGinnis, Lee Gibson, Robert Titus and Stanley Hasty, it’s good enough for you!!
Trying to be more authentic? Then I hope you’re also playing it with the mouthpiece switched around with the reed up against the top teeth like they used to do. And using string for a ligature. And I hope the whole orchestra is using authentic Mozart era instruments. And here’s an idea for a classical music station: play pieces over an hour long with no interruption! Please. Most of it comes in 2-5 minute sound bites with constant talking. There’s nothing more disturbing when listening to classical music than to hear some idiot talk and their voice volume level always seems to be twice as loud as the music level. Music Thru The Night is some of the worst offenders when it comes to short tunes interrupted with talk. Play the compelte Beethoven symphonies at midnight and come back in the morning to wrap up. I hate music rants on a backpacking trip. It’s time to get out of the woods for awhile(4-5 days).
IRENE CATCHES UP WITH ME
She finds me on this obscure trail and so it’s good night Irene and hello goose down. Where the heck am I? In scrub country on the side of Flats mt.
NEXT TRIP IDEA
Here’s a great start out trek to another winter trip: get dropped off at the Flats Mt trailhead off the Skyway and go in with full water and camp on top somewhere and then on Day 2 swing down to Beehouse Gap and tie into the low ground off Citico wilderness and go in from there. This would give me a chance to backpack the entire Flats Mt trail and finally say I’ve done it and even camped on it.
There even might be a spring up here somewhere too. Flats Mt would be torture in the summer as it towers over the motorcycle racetrack that is the Skyway and so you’d get bombarded with noise. Them’s not out tonight, that’s for sure. I hear the baying of several dogs coming up this way, hunting dogs and not coyotes. Better hang my food or the wolves will get it.
Trail: Flats Mt/Citico Roadwalk/Indian Lake Roadwalk and OUT!
A WARMING DAY I’M UP— SAD DAY IN HAITI
And then Pat Robertson says it was done by God because the Haitians worship the devil. Now you see what we’re dealing with. I asked Miss Nature about it and she said and I quote:
MOMMA NATURE AND HAITI “I am a living being and I breath in and out like your dog and while he inhales and exhales many times a minute, I do the same but at wider intervals and when I do my body moves and my plates shift. Your scientists know about these plates and fault lines and know where I have placed them , you call them tectonic plates or have fancy definitions like “internally rigid crustal blocks of the lithosphere which move horizontally”, whatever, and yup, it was right thru the island of Haiti. They also go thru California and many other places.”
“Since I am a living thing and move on occasion, your populations along with your scientists should work out places to put your population centers that are out of my flex points. To not do so is a mistake as can be seen today in Port au Prince. In addition, I’ve always asked you to keep your population small so when something happens like this you won’t have massive casualties. 500 years ago I would jerk and move and a couple thatched huts fell down and one person might die. Now it’s a whole different story.”
“If you have a pond with 100 fish and I throw a big rock into the pond you might kill a fish or two. If you had 10,000 fish in that pond and then threw in a big rock many fish would die. As humans you guys are everywhere and dang it I can’t live and move without taking out a bunch of you guys. Here’s the choices you need to make: lower and disperse your numbers and live at places that are safer. Remember the San Fransisco earthquake in 1906? And what did you guys do? Rebuilt!! There’s no accounting for human ignorance and memory loss.”
“If a tree fell on Uncle Fungus out in the woods, well, that’s not much of a loss. But if a thousand campers were on one of my windswept ridges with trees falling everywehre, well, there would be more deaths. Heck, I used to dance wildly and no one cared. Now they call it horrific with a 100,000 deaths. My earth is a wild living rambunctious place swirling thru open space and the smartest of you know my cycles and sort of understand how I work. I’ve got all sorts of moods and dances I like to do, from Ice ages to avalanches to tornados to floods to quiet beautiful calmness to blizzards to severe cold to earthquakes and all else.”
“Learn me and learn my carrying capacity for human numbers and we’ll get along fine. Heck, I’m the one who keeps all of you alive with oxygen, water and the beating heart muscle. I’m sorry your leaders allowed great numbers of you to live on my fault lines and allowed those numbers to get so great. Work with me here! And use your human choice with your human wisdom. Thank you!”
THUS SPAKE OUR LADY OF THE MOUNTAINS
Pat Robertson and his wrath of God? Another human in typical human denial. It’s more like the wrath of poor human choices. As Lakota medicine man Frank Fools Crow once said, don’t put your tipi in a floodplain. or on the side of a steep mountain.
DAY 15 BELOW FREEZING
It’s still cold and a predawn dark but soon I’ll get to see light and begin a big day of movement and extraction. I’m to meet Little Mitten sometime after 12 noon at Wardens Field but since it’s frozen the whole way in I’ll be meeting her up by the Skyway at Indian Lake. My dream last night was of backpacking thru Pisgah National Forest in the Grandfather Ranger district and I sure need to go there and do some camping. I miss that place. Maybe it’s time to load the car and drive the 6 hours to Upper Creek and park for a serious foray into my old stomping grounds on trail 268A and the Greentown MST north to Harpers Creek and Lost Cove cliffs and all the rest.
It’s a backpackers paradise and a fantastic area and the whole thing should be made into a wilderness.
INDIAN LAKE PICKUP POINT
I pulled the 3.5 miles from my Flats Mt campsite to the FS road 345 Skyway jct and now sit in the sun with Shunka on a little island of grass and trees like a place on the Blue Ridge parkway. I haven’t seen nor heard a single biker scream by and I wonder ‘where they are and why they wouldnt be out on such a pretty sunny day? I’m out, why aren’t they? Thank you Buddha they aren’t, praise Krishna, otherwise me and Shunka would be assaulted and bombarded with their fun loving racket and noise pollution. The winter cold keeps them away cuz they’re a fickle bunch and only become fanatics to the throttle and the roar when all the conditions fall into proper place.
They are fair weather day-use hobbyist show-offs but only within a narrow range of parameters and not the diehards you think of when you think of do or die types as expressed by the hard core mountaineers or winter explorers. It’s easy to show off and impress yourself or others when conditions are great, now come out and do it at 15F or at night or in the rain. This would really impress the crowd. The addiction to the rolling wheel pulls in all sorts and all of them are couch potatoes needing excitment without expending effort and calories. Of course this would have to be true otherwise easy rolling wouldn’t be so popular if it required work.
EASY ROLLING So you see a million loud motorcycles out here in the mountains but very few bicyclists. Or you see car drivers all thru the woods and ATVs but few dayhikers and hardly any backpackers. It’s a normal human tendency to be lazy, it’s just not an American trait but Americans take it to a high level. Wow, where is this screed coming from? Coming out and ending a trip ain’t easy but let’s get this done.
TO ALL THOSE WITHIN THE SOUND OF MY VOICE, GIRD UP THEY LOINS WITH NYLON UNDERWEAR AND LOAD UP YOUR WINTER KIT AND LET THE DOOR OF YOUR HOUSE HIT YOUR PACK AS YOU RUN OUT TO THE STILL FROZEN WOODS FOR A WEEK TO SLEEP IN THE ARMS AND UP AGAINST THE BREASTS OF MISS NATURE. LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO LIVE INDOORS.
And so I pull the two legs of the roadwalk and get off Flats Mountain and sit in the warming sun of the TN orb and wait for my ride back to the lowlands.