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  1. #1

    Default Citico Expedition in 21 Days

    This June/July trip starts in Citico Creek Wilderness in Tennessee as I get dropped off in Grassy Gap and start the long trip on the Grassy Branch Trail.

    CITICO
    EXPEDITION
    IN
    21 DAYS

    TRIP 198

    HIGHLIGHTS
    ** ONE BACKPACKER SEEN IN 21 DAYS
    ** 58 CREEK CROSSINGS
    ** THE HELL THICKET GAUNTLET OF FODDERSTACK RIDGE
    ** FALLING BRANCH RIPS TENT FLY IN GLENN GAP
    ** RATTLESNAKE ON BIG FAT TRAIL
    ** HELL STORM ON HANGOVER MT
    ** 25.5TH BRUSH MT BACKPACK WITH COMPLETE TRAILWORK
    ** MEETING RASPUTEN AKA MARK ON THE SOUTH FORK TRAIL
    ** NEW NAME FOR BRUSH MT---SKULL MT
    ** BURSITIS IN RIGHT KNEE
    ** TRAILWORKED GRASSY BRANCH TRAIL



    TRAILS (** denotes overnights)
    Entrance at Grassy Gap
    Grassy Branch Trail Down and Crossed South Fork Creek
    **Eagle Camp**
    South Fork trail Down/North Fork trail Up
    **North Fork Crossing 1 Camp**
    North Fork Up
    **Hootyhoo Camp**
    North Fork Up
    **Blue Rock Camp**
    North Fork Up
    **Rock Ledge Camp**
    North Fork Up
    Fodderstack Ridge Heading North
    **Glenn Gap**
    Fodderstack Ridge North
    **Harrison Gap**
    Fodder Ridge North
    **Crowder Top Camp**
    Big Stack Trail Down
    Slickrock Creek Upstream and 12th Crossing
    **Slicnic Ledge Camp by Big Fat Creek**
    Big Fat Trail Up
    **Big Fat Gap Camp on Windy Gap Trail**
    Hangover Lead South Trail Up to Seven Mile Ridge
    **Low Airjet Camp on Hangover Mt**
    Seven Mile Ridge Heading West
    **Fir Tree Grove on Bob Mt**
    Seven Mile Ridge West and 54A South Down to Cold Gap
    Trail 149 Heading North
    Brush Mt Trail Down
    **Brush Mt Ridge Gap Camp**
    Brush Mt Trail Down
    **Audrey Camp by Brush Creek**
    Brush Mt Down and Cross South Fork Creek
    South Fork Trail Upstream
    **White Rock Camp**
    South Fork Down and North Fork Up
    **North Fork Sidemeat Camp**
    North Fork Up to Crossing 7 and Backtrack Down to SF
    **Donner Camps on Citico Creek on SF Trail**
    South Fork Up
    **White Rock Camp**(2)
    South Fork Trail 2 Crossings to Grassy Branch Trailhead
    Grassy Branch Trail Up
    **Woodstove Camp on Grassy Branch Trail**
    Grassy Branch Trail Up and OUT.


    All backpacking trips have to start somewhere and this summer 2019 trip starts in Grassy Gap at the trailhead to the Grassy Branch trail---a steep descending creek trail with 8 creek crossings---and dropping me to South Fork Citico Creek with its 9th crossing. The pack of choice is my McHale load hauler at around 8,000 cubic inches and around 90-95 lbs of mostly food and fuel . . . and 4 books.


    Once I finish backpacking down the steep Grassy Branch trail I cross South Fork Creek and just on the other side is this campsite. I call it Eagle Camp (cuz Eagle Creek is nearby). Tent of choice is my Keron 3 Hilleberg coming in at 8 lbs 10 ozs. Perfect solo tent for long trips living in the woods. Many of my trip pics seem BLURRY and so maybe it's time for another camera.


    On Day 2 I backpack down the South Fork trail which junctions with the North Fork trail at this trailhead footbridge. A yellow jacket nest is on the bridge and so I get my first Citico vaccination of the trip (of two total stings). Pack shows my big tent on bottom in green and my Thermarest Trail Pro pad on right in blue. Yellow spectra back pocket holds my tent poles and stakes and water filter and folding saw and extra food.


    I spend my second night on North Fork Creek and pull all of the NF trail up to Cherry Log Gap, a stiff nut hump. Here is NF Crossing #2 out of 7---with about 15 minor crossings above Old Goat Falls.



    The North Fork trail is a great wilderness backpacking trail and it doesn't really start getting steep until before reaching this landmark---the Blue Rock Gateway. Just beyond is Old Goat Falls and the steepest part of the whole trail.


    I pass Old Goat Falls and pull two crossings above the Falls and reach Blue Rock Camp on this little mountainside ledge just big enough and flat enough for my tent.



    II finally punch out the North Fork nut hump and get on Fodderstack Ridge, a long 14 mile trail running from Beech Gap north to Farr Gap and the dividing line between Citico wilderness and Slickrock wilderness in NC. Once on the ridge I find the Forest Service honchos came out and re-painted the old state line rock---I consider it mere Ranger District vandalism and an eyesore.

  2. #2

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    North Fork trail punches out in Cherry Log Gap and I take Fodderstack Ridge north to Glenn Gap and set up and go on a water run to a "secret" water source about 200 yards off the ridge on a bushwack. It's a'flowin"!!!\



    This trip is a trip of daily thunderstorms and some are mean and nasty. While in Glenn Gap a big windstorm hits and drops a tree branch directly in my Hilleberg tent and rips open a wonderful 7 inch tear---after all these years it was bound to happen. I always carry a pre-threaded needle with waxed dental floss and immediately had it sutured properly. I also always carry a tube of McNett's Silnet seam sealer and coated the rip liberally to make it waterproof.



    Crude but functional and it gets me through another two weeks of rain and lightning bolts.



    I leave Glenn Gap and continue my journey north on Fodderstack Ridge---and the trail is in TERRIBLE shape due to thickets and overgrowth etc but I make it to grassy Crowder Camp which is always a sweet place to stay. And it's right next to my Big Stack trail dropping two miles down to Slickrock Creek.



    While in Crowder Camp I pull a water run down to Crowder Spring and use my McHale lid as a daypack to haul the water and my water filter. This pic is on Fodderstack Ridge showing the Crowder Branch trailhead post.


    By Day 9 I finally make it down off Fodder Ridge and reach Slickrock Creek for some water romping. I'm camping where Big Fat Creek junctions Slickrock Creek.



    After one night on Slickrock Creek I decide to climb up the Big Fat trail and find the usual redneck garbage pit from backpackers who can't be bothered with hauling out their own crap.

  3. #3

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    As I climb the nut hump that is the Big Fat trail (it's a thousand foot gain in 1.5 miles)---I fun into my old friend Billy right on the trail by the Big Fat Creek crossing. We talk and since he's so close to the foot trail I prod him away with a stick so visiting random idiot hikers won't see him and kill him.



    I get Billy off the trail and he waddles his way (after a big meal apparently) under this rock.



    As I continue my trek up the tough Big Fat trail I find one of the weirdest things ever---a potted plant from Lowes sitting in the middle of nowhere. I think it's a hydrangea. ????? My first thought is Leon the Professional with his most favorite potted plant.



    I finally reach Big Fat Gap and set up camp nearby and call it a day.



    On Day 11 I leave Big Fat Gap and pull a tough climb of 3 miles with a 2,000 foot gain on the Hangover Lead South trail. I stop at the "cave" for a breather.



    I make it to Hangover Mt on Seven Mile Ridge and pull up to Haoe Peak at 5,240 feet for a mandatory reststop. My goal now is to take the ridge to Bob Bald and make my way to Brush Mt aka Skull Mt. Let's see---Asolo Fugitive boots, North Face shorts and NF Reaxion T-shirt (the best!!)---Patagonia crushable baseball cap etc.



    Even though I don't see anyone for 15 days I see their sign---problem boots in Naked Ground Gap. How good are Garmont boots? You decide.

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    Seven Mile Ridge heading West gets me to Bob Bald where I find they replaced the old trailpost---and wonder if this new post will last longer than the month the old post lasted.



    The best place to camp on the Bob in the summer---and the coolest and shadiest---is in the Fir Tree Grove on the East side of the mountain.



    On Day 13 I leave the Bob at 5,300 feet and drop down Trail 54A South to Cold Gap and take Trail 149 about 2 miles to this spot---the top trailhead to SKULL MOUNTAIN aka Brush Mt---the most rugged and remote trail in the Citico wilderness. It's time to gird up thy loins and tackle the beast. This will be my 25.5th backpack of the thing.



    Welcome to Skull Mt Trail. My trek begins in a godawful section full of blowdowns and thickets and crap. Out comes the folding saw to get me through the mess.



    Another new blowdown on the Skull trail stops me so I pull out the Corona foldng saw and cut about the side limbs for an easy scoot-over.



    Another nasty section of the trail requiring some sawing work. This is where the trail leaves the side-hill contour hiking and climbs up to Brush Mt Ridge.



    I reach the Mother Blowdown on the Skull Mt trail and have to remove the big pack and slide it under the beast. It sucks.

  5. #5

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    After 2 days on the Skull Mt trail I finally reach its bottom end where it crosses South Fork Creek so I place some new ribbon by the crossing where the trail gets confusing.



    After I finish the Skull Mt trail and cross South Fork Creek I hike up the South Fork trail and run into the first and only backpacker I see on the whole trip---RASPUTEN!! He's a whiteblaze member and I think we planned some kind of meet-up and here he is. His plan is to go up the dreaded Skull trail---the one I just came down---and then use Trail 149 to reach the North Fork trail and come down etc etc. Knowing this, I camp on the North Fork trail waiting for his Passing but he never arrives. I never see him again. Is he a ribcage on Skull Mt? Who knows.



    As I wait for Rasputen to pass by on Day 16 I set up on North Fork Creek at this new campsite.



    I spend the last several days of my trip next to creeks due to the furnace heat and while I'm camping on the South Fork trail I find this new trailsign put in by the FS.



    My Black Diamond cork hiking pole finally eats it on this trip as the cork peels off.



    I spend my last days on the South Fork swimming and dayhiking various routes from camp. This is on SF Creek by the Grassy Branch trailpost---my exit route. Always bring a headnet, boys!!



    On Day 20 it's time to leave the South Fork with my much lighter pack and begin my exit journey up the Grassy Branch trail.

  6. #6

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    As I climb Grassy Branch trail on Day 20 I run into a familiar blowdown mess so I cut a detour to the right down to the creek and around.



    In 3 weeks since my last visit a mini tornado came through and toppled a dozen big trees over the Grassy Branch trail and so I cut my way through and crawled.



    Another clump of crap I had to cut my way through.



    And so my trip ends where it started as Day 21 pops me out in Grassy Gap and I wait for my shuttle ride to end another great trip.

  7. #7

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    Sorry I missed you this trip Walter. My trusty Subaru developed the dreaded plastic end tank coolant leak on the way into Robbinsville and it delayed me a couple of days. I camped at my usual spot on the Bob. The grass was all mushed down so I thought you might have stayed there recently but I see you were in the grove. I got hit with a bad lightning storm first day out. As a matter of fact a bolt, with instant thunder, hit just on the other side of where you camped. A hair raising moment. I like the fir grove but, with lightening storms about, not gonna camp there.

    20 minutes later it was all over, or so I thought, and I made a "quick" water run down by the firs. As I got the bag full it opened up. I had the rain jacket on so top was mostly dry. Pants were soaked by the time I go back to the firs, though. Rained very hard for about a half hour and then the sun came out and I had everything dried out by dinner.

    First mountain test of the Notch Li.


    Drying out in the late afternoon sun
    .

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by martinb View Post
    Sorry I missed you this trip Walter. My trusty Subaru developed the dreaded plastic end tank coolant leak on the way into Robbinsville and it delayed me a couple of days. I camped at my usual spot on the Bob. The grass was all mushed down so I thought you might have stayed there recently but I see you were in the grove. I got hit with a bad lightning storm first day out. As a matter of fact a bolt, with instant thunder, hit just on the other side of where you camped. A hair raising moment. I like the fir grove but, with lightening storms about, not gonna camp there.

    20 minutes later it was all over, or so I thought, and I made a "quick" water run down by the firs. As I got the bag full it opened up. I had the rain jacket on so top was mostly dry. Pants were soaked by the time I go back to the firs, though. Rained very hard for about a half hour and then the sun came out and I had everything dried out by dinner.

    First mountain test of the Notch Li.
    It looks like you're using my old campsite I call the "South Col Camps"---a decent site under saplings where I always go in tremendous Bob Mt windstorms---cuz the saplings can fall and not kill me. When I was up there (on June 25/26) I noticed a grassy spot obviously used recently by a tent. Maybe it was you??

  9. #9

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    Tipi, as you descend Bob Bald to Cold Gap there's an alternate 54A (I think that’s what it’s called) that goes through the bear sanctuary. Did you happen to check out that trail’s condition? I’m headed there next week. Last time I hiked it, it was overgrown and had to push my way through but it thinned out after a while and turned into a pleasant hike.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traffic Jam View Post
    Tipi, as you descend Bob Bald to Cold Gap there's an alternate 54A (I think that’s what it’s called) that goes through the bear sanctuary. Did you happen to check out that trail’s condition? I’m headed there next week. Last time I hiked it, it was overgrown and had to push my way through but it thinned out after a while and turned into a pleasant hike.

    I think you're talking about 54A North which is a sister trail to 54A South---which is the BMT trail that leaves the Bob and drops to Cold Gap. The north 54A goes the other direction and drops to a big campsite on Fodderstack Ridge just south of Cherry Log Gap.

    The last time I backpacked it in March 2019---it was overgrown with several new blowdowns and as you say the first top part is the worst as far as briars and thickets.

    Here are some of the blowdowns on the trail I cleared---

    Trip 196 (75)-XL.jpg

    Trip 196 (76)-XL.jpg

    Trip 196 (77)-XL.jpg

    These pics show 54A North looking up the trail like you're coming from Cherry Log Gap and climbing to the Bob.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    It looks like you're using my old campsite I call the "South Col Camps"---a decent site under saplings where I always go in tremendous Bob Mt windstorms---cuz the saplings can fall and not kill me. When I was up there (on June 25/26) I noticed a grassy spot obviously used recently by a tent. Maybe it was you??
    I didn't get up there until the 27th, so, not me. I had originally planned a four nighter, beginning on the 25th, on the ridge but my car issue took two days away from me.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    I think you're talking about 54A North which is a sister trail to 54A South---which is the BMT trail that leaves the Bob and drops to Cold Gap. The north 54A goes the other direction and drops to a big campsite on Fodderstack Ridge just south of Cherry Log Gap.

    The last time I backpacked it in March 2019---it was overgrown with several new blowdowns and as you say the first top part is the worst as far as briars and thickets.

    Here are some of the blowdowns on the trail I cleared---

    Trip 196 (75)-XL.jpg

    Trip 196 (76)-XL.jpg

    Trip 196 (77)-XL.jpg

    These pics show 54A North looking up the trail like you're coming from Cherry Log Gap and climbing to the Bob.
    Yes, that’s it. And thank you so much for the trail maintenance work that you do.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traffic Jam View Post
    Yes, that’s it. And thank you so much for the trail maintenance work that you do.

    You are a Welshman!! I mean you're welcome!!!!

  14. #14
    Registered User DSPeabody's Avatar
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    A "Leon, The Professional" reference. Love it.

    Also, you mentioned that it may be time for a new camera, what are you currently using?

  15. #15

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    “You’ve come far, pilgrim. Feels like far. Were it worth the trouble? Ahhh,what trouble?”

    Not a rib cage in the Wilderness but tenderized by mother nature’s hairy legs and brooding inferno.

    I will call this one- Quest for Skull Mountain- Apropos title if there ever was one- well done…
    Sorry for breaking your no backpacker streak! I ended up deviating from my original plan and just let nature have it’s way with me at her time and place of choosing. I could write a book about it but I think most folks here get it...
    As you approach your 7th decade I hope the knee(s) and your health continue to hold up and allow you many more days in the backcountry. You are a great steward/advocate and caretaker of the outdoors.
    Hope to see ya down the trail for years to come…

    All the best, Ras...

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by DSPeabody View Post
    A "Leon, The Professional" reference. Love it.

    Also, you mentioned that it may be time for a new camera, what are you currently using?
    I've been on a Panasonic Lumix LX kick for several years, LX3, LX5, LX7---now back to my LX 5. I don't like the looks of my recent trip pics so heck I'm in a quandary. Any suggestions??

  17. #17
    Registered User DSPeabody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    I've been on a Panasonic Lumix LX kick for several years, LX3, LX5, LX7---now back to my LX 5. I don't like the looks of my recent trip pics so heck I'm in a quandary. Any suggestions??
    I'm no professional photographer so I don't feel I would be qualified to be giving much advice on the subject of camera choice. One website I found that helped me find my latest camera however was cameradecision.com. They can do a pretty extensive side by side comparison of any models you may be considering.
    I settled on a Nikon DSLR, but if you like the Panasonic brand for example, here is the Panasonic GX85 vs. Lumix LX5.

    https://cameradecision.com/compare/P...-Lumix-DMC-LX5

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    Really aprecciate your trip reports, Walter.
    Basically my biggest inspiration when it come to hiking.

    Regarding cameras, what I'm missing in all modern cameras is extended battery life.
    I have an old Lumix DMC FZ18 that can do ~700 shots with one battery, so carrying one spare lets me cover a whole 6-weeks desert trip.
    Once tried one of the more recent Travelzooms from Panasonic, and it did 200 shots and the battery was empty, and could only get charged via USB.
    This might be fine when doing holiday trips near civilisation, but for hiking, not so much.
    I need to replace the FZ18 soon as it starts falling apart due to rough treatment over many years, and am ready to get the same model by ebay in hopefully good condition.

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    Any suggestions??


    poloraid point and shot.......

    ya know, the one that pops the picture out like a toaster.....

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasputen View Post
    “You’ve come far, pilgrim. Feels like far. Were it worth the trouble? Ahhh,what trouble?”

    Not a rib cage in the Wilderness but tenderized by mother nature’s hairy legs and brooding inferno.

    I will call this one- Quest for Skull Mountain- Apropos title if there ever was one- well done…
    Sorry for breaking your no backpacker streak! I ended up deviating from my original plan and just let nature have it’s way with me at her time and place of choosing. I could write a book about it but I think most folks here get it...
    As you approach your 7th decade I hope the knee(s) and your health continue to hold up and allow you many more days in the backcountry. You are a great steward/advocate and caretaker of the outdoors.
    Hope to see ya down the trail for years to come…

    All the best, Ras...
    Quest for Skull Mountain is a good name for any backpacking trip---and it might be the name for my next trip as I seem to want to tackle the Brush Mt trail again on repeated up-and-down treks. It has an excellent campsite at the bottom trailhead on South Fork Creek and at the top trailhead there's several good camps with water.

    Citico has a way of changing our pre-planned route schedules as many of the trails there are in terrible shape---like Trail 149 leaving the top Brush Mt jct and going to the North Fork trail. It'll be on my next trip's schedule as it needs alot of work.

    7th Decade sounds serious! On this trip I accidentally spun around and tweaked my knee backpacking going up Hangover Mt and so it was "barking" for the last week of the trek. Bursitis might be the correct diagnosis. A couple knee compression sleeves might now be part of my standard load.

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