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  1. #1

    Default 21 Day Quest for Camp Hope

    A New Year comes and I was fortunate to be able to go out in January for a trip into the NC and TN mountains. I also got to meet up with my Alabama backpacking buddy Hoppin John with his new Dan McHale pack---on Days 1 and 2. Other than John I didn't see another backpacker during the 21 day trip.

    Too see all pics of this trip go here---

    https://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backp...for-Camp-Hope/

    21 DAY QUEST
    FOR
    CAMP HOPE
    TRIP 202
    January 17-February 6, 2020

    HIGHLIGHTS
    ** I MEET HOPPIN JOHN WITH HIS NEW MCHALE BACKPACK ON BOB BALD
    ** HOPPIN JOHN'S HILLEBERG TENT COLLAPSES IN A BOB BALD WINDSTORM AND BENDS A POLE SO HE LEAVES ONE DAY EARLY
    ** 27 COLD CREEK CROSSINGS
    ** 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF ARCTIC OUTBREAK 1985
    ** SNOWFALL AT 12F IN NAKED GROUND GAP DAY 4
    ** 5F ON HANGOVER MT
    ** 4 MILES IN KAHTOOLA MICROSPIKES
    ** 12F ON THE WINDY GAP TRAIL
    ** TRAILWORKED NICHOLS COVE TRAIL DOWN TO SLICKROCK CREEK
    ** 4 DAYS ON SLICKROCK CREEK
    ** 8 MILE DAY TO FARR GAP AND DOUBLECAMP CREEK
    ** SOUTH FORK'S DEATH ROCK PARTIALLY FIXED
    ** 2 COLD NIGHTS ON NORTH FORK CREEK
    ** 54 HOUR RAIN AND WINDSTORM ON FLATS MT TO END THE TRIP

    TRAILS
    Entrance at Beech Gap on TN/NC State Line
    Seven Mile Ridge Trail Heading South
    54A South to Bob Bald
    **South Col Camp(2)**
    Seven Mile Ridge Heading East
    **Naked Ground Gap**
    Seven Mile Ridge to Hangover Mt
    **Clearcut Camp**
    Hangover Lead South Trail Down to Big Fat Gap
    Windy Gap Trail
    **Windy Gap Spring Camp**
    Windy Gap Trail Down
    Nichols Cove Trail Down
    **Dog Hat Camp by Nichols Creek**
    Nichols Cove Trail Down
    Slickrock Creek Trail Upstream
    **Buffalo Rock (2)**
    Slickrock Creek Trail Downstream
    Nichols Cove Trail Backtrack All the Way to Slickrock Creek
    **Slicnic Camps on Slickrock Creek**
    Slickrock Creek Crossing 12 and Downstream
    Big Stack Trail Up
    **Grassy Crowder Camp (2)**
    Fodderstack Trail Heading North to Farr Gap
    Doublecamp Roadwalk Down
    Mill Branch Trail Up 100 Yards
    **Low Mill Camp**
    Doublecamp Roadwalk
    Rocky Flats Trail Up
    **Chimney Camp**
    Rocky Flats to Warden's Field
    Citico Creek Roadwalk
    South Fork Trail Up
    **Donner Camps**
    South Fork/North Fork Trails Up
    **North Fork Crossing 1 Camp (2)**
    North Fork/South Fork Trails Down
    Citico Creek Roadwalk up to Beehouse Gap
    Flats Mt Trail Up
    **Flathead Cove Camp**
    Flats Mt Trail Up
    **Camp Hope (3)**
    Flats Mt Trail Out to Skyway Roadwalk to Lakeview Overlook and OUT.


    This cold and wet 21 day backpacking trip starts at the NC/TN state line in Beech Gap and enters Citico Creek wilderness on the Benton MacKaye trail aka Fodderstack trail #95. I'm all geared up for a long winter trip with a McHale pack containing about 95+ lbs of food and tent and down bag and down pants and parka and 5 books and microspikes and 44ozs of white gas and even a snow shovel---what I call my Accoutrements of Idiocy.

    It's alot of weight but I only have to go 3.5 miles with a gain of a thousand feet of elevation, i.e. it kicks my BUTT. The big red blob on the right is just my down garments only---down vest, down parka and down pants.


    My backpacking buddy Hoppin John from Alabama messaged me here on WB and wanted to show me his new McHale pack so we arranged to meet up in Cold Spring Gap which is 2 miles in from Beech Gap. He spends the night in the gap and the next day waits for my arrival---so we backpack together up the nut climb to Bob Bald at 5,300 feet.


    Hoppin John with his new McHale pack---made almost exclusively of spectra fabric. It weighs about 50 lbs on this trip.


    We get to the Bob and Hoppin John sets up his Hilleberg Kaitum tent in an exposed and open spot I call Raven Camp---while I set up a hundred feet away in the protection of some trees. A big rainstorm with tremendous winds hits on Day 2 so we pull a zero day and Hoppin John's tent gets walloped.


    The calm before the storm as John airs out his old Marmot down bag and bolts down his tent for the wind.



    My tent is set up a hundred feet away so I get lunch and go visit John's big Kaitum and check out his gear. My tent is also a Hilleberg and it's a Keron 3 tunnel and similar to Hoppin John's tent. I set up in a place I call South Col Camp as it's a little more protected from the hell winds which can attack Raven Camp---I know because I spent many a night in Raven Camp in terrible windstorms---and one time a storm bent one of my tent poles.


    Smartphone fun before the big storm.

  2. #2

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    On Day 2 the big windstorm hits Hoppin John's camp on Bob Bald and it ends up bending a tent pole "in a 90 degree angle" and collapses his tent so he packs up and comes by my tent in a cold rain and tells me he's leaving the mountain and pulling his 90 minute hike back to his car and out. He's the last person I see for the next 20 some days.


    Day 3 of the trip starts my 4 Day Celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the Arctic Outbreak of 1985---as Yes I was backpacking and living outdoors around the town of Boone NC during that Arctic storm in 1985 where Boone got -30F temps and Knoxville got -24F etc. I was camping up in the woods behind the App State football stadium and the cold was so bad I had to hike into town and spend a couple nights under a pew in the First Baptist Church on King St---as my gear was only good max to about -15F.

    Anyway, on Day 3 of this trip I'm finally able to get off Bob Bald in a very cold wind and hike to Naked Ground Gap where snow hits and the temps drop to 12F and thus begins my 35th Anniversary of the big 1985 polar plunge. Btw, my tent is a beefier version of Hoppin John's Kaitum tent---it's called the Keron 3.


    It's time to leave Naked Ground Gap in cold temps and of course I lose 2 tent stakes under the new fallen snow dangit but I cover the pack to protect it from falling snow and ice. I end up whittling two tent pegs for the windstorm I get in Camp Hope on Flats Mt at the end of the trip.


    After 4 tough hills I reach Haoe Peak at 5,240 feet and take a needed break to slap on my Kahtoola microspikes as they are needed for the steep drop off the peak to Saddle Tree Gap.


    Ye Olde Microspikes! These babies save my butt especially on Day 5 when I leave Hangover Mt in ice and descend 3 miles to Big Fat Gap. Wet snow doesn't work with these things but when temps are 10F with powder dry snow and ice they work great.


    Seven miles from Beech Gap I reach Hangover Mt in my microspikes and see the coldest night of my trip at 5F or 7F---Mt LeConte gets 2F. The hardest part of winter backpacking is packing up in the morning.


    On Day 5 it's time to leave Hangover Mt at 5,000 feet and descend the Hangover Lead South trail which I do in microspikes cuz it's a sheet of ice in places and covered in snow. After losing several hundred feet I stop in the heath tunnel section and take this pic showing Fodderstack Ridge looking west into Slickrock Creek valley and past the long ridge into the Citico wilderness side. My only job is to lose 2,000 feet of elevation in 3 miles.

  3. #3
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    I've been looking forward to your newest trip report as you mentioned you'd be doing a January excursion. And as always very impressive, nice pics and report! So I guess your buddy should have set up in a little more protected area as well ? Being that the hillenburg tents are so expensive do they replace bent poles? What water proof bags do you go with to protect the precious down? And I noticed you make your warmers out of the blue foam padding stuff not reflextex. I also use kathoola micro spikes love em. That huge bag and other bags strapped to makes me giggle every time. you the man , living the dream. Thanks for sharing brother.

  4. #4

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    I finally reach Big Fat Gap and check out the FS bulletin board. When you're moving thru ice and snow you keep your spikes on but when you leave the snow a good place to put them is on your pack's sternum strap so this way you don't have to remove your pack. Once I reach Big Fat Gap I take the Windy Gap trail to a hidden spring water source and camp and then on Day 6 I follow Windy Gap trail to Windy Gap for a break.


    I make it to Windy Gap where the Windy Gap trail junctions the Nichols Cove trail (all this is part of the BMT). From this gap I take the Nichols Cove trail down to its jct with Yellowhammer traill and set up camp next to Nichols Creek.


    On Day 7 I finally leave the BMT and take Nichols Cove trail down to Slickrock Creek. There are 10 Nichols Creek crossings and so I get into crocs and put the boots under the pack lid so I don't have to carry the things all day.


    Nichols trail drops me down to Slickrock Creek and I set up camp by this feature I call Buffalo Rock.


    Slickrock Creek trail has 12 major creek crossings and this is crossing #5 which is upstream from my Buffalo Rock campsite which I explore on a dayhike.


    Day 8 begins in an all-day rainstorm so I sit put for a zero day on Slickrock Creek and by Day 9 I'm ready to backpack up Slickrock Creek trail and pull 8 crossings but dangit the creek is way too high to cross so I leave Buffalo Rock Camp and the creek and backtrack up Nichols Cove trail and pull all 3 legs of the thing back to Slickrock Creek but 8 crossings above my morning camp.

    This pic shows Slickrock Creek at crossing #4 with the trailsign faintly visible on the other side. That's where you have to go boys to get to the other side. Have fun doing it with your 75 lb pack.


    So I pull all 3 legs of the Nichols Cove trail and reach a higher section of Slickrock Creek 8 crossings above Buffalo Rock camp---as Nichols allows me to side sweep around the creek and not pull a single crossing until I pull crossing 12 on Day 10.

  5. #5

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    I do have to pull a Slickrock crossing but it's on Day 10 and way up the creek where the waterway is smaller and the ford easier. I'm now on the west bank of Slickrock Creek and backpack upstream to my exit out of the creek valley on the Big Stack Gap trail. It's a 2 mile trail with a gain of 1,500 feet.


    The Big Stack trail pops me out in Crowder Camp on Fodderstack Ridge on the Citico side of the wilderness. The next day I get caught in yet another cold rainstorm so I zero out Day 11 here.


    Day 12 becomes an 8 mile day when I leave Crowder Camp and hike Fodderstack Ridge north to Farr Gap and roadwalk Doublecamp road 3+ miles down to this bridge showing Doublecamp Creek on left merging with Crowder Creek on the right.


    I eventually tie into the Rocky Flats trail and reach this old homestead where I set up camp on Day 13.


    On Day 14 I pull all of Rocky Flats trail out to Warden's Field but along the way I'm stopped by several blowdowns so out comes the folding saw---


    And the dang thing is cleared. Most of these are the result of the big hemlock tree dieoff due to the woolly adelgid pest.


    Rocky Flats trail swings me down to Warden's Field and Citico Creek so I head up the South Fork trail and jct with the North Fork trail and set up by crossing 1 at North Fork Crossing 1 Camp.

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    On Day 17 it's time to leave North Fork Creek and pull a big day of backpackaging out of Citico wilderness and up Flats Mt. Here's the new NF trailpost.


    After a 1+ mile hike I reach Beehouse Gap and the start of the Flats Mt trail---a climb from North Fork Creek of about 2,500 feet in elevation.


    About 3 miles up the Flats Mt trail---and it's got some nut climbs---I reach a little invisible hollow several hundred yards off the main trail---a stealth camp I discovered years ago---and set up near water. I call it Flathead Cove Camp.


    On Day 18 I leave Flathead Cove Camp and pull the remaining 14 switchbacks to the top of Flats Mt where I reach the goal of the trip---Camp Hope. My pack now is about 50 lbs.


    CAMP HOPE IS REACHED! And so begins a huge rainstorm and tremendous windstorm which pins me here for 71 hours---and 54 hours of straight rain. The storm floods the area and by Day 21 I'm ready to leave.


    On Day 21 and my last day I unclip the inner tent from the fly and pack it away and wait for a good shove off time if the rain stops and luckily mercifully I get a 2 hour window of no rain which allows me to pack up fast and hike 2 miles to my shuttle ride evac point---and once I get into the car the rain starts up again. A miracle end to a great trip.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    I've been looking forward to your newest trip report as you mentioned you'd be doing a January excursion. And as always very impressive, nice pics and report! So I guess your buddy should have set up in a little more protected area as well ? Being that the hillenburg tents are so expensive do they replace bent poles? What water proof bags do you go with to protect the precious down? And I noticed you make your warmers out of the blue foam padding stuff not reflextex. I also use kathoola micro spikes love em. That huge bag and other bags strapped to makes me giggle every time. you the man , living the dream. Thanks for sharing brother.
    Yes, Hilleberg will replace his tent poles and they are sending him a set of new poles but upgraded to 10mm instead of the usual 9mm on the Kaitum. My Keron is a beefier version of his tent and uses standard 10mm poles.

    Thanks for the positive feedback. It's weird---the more I go out the more I want to go out again. Simple geometry---"There's too much of Nature and too little of Me."

  8. #8
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    Harpers ferry wv.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Yes, Hilleberg will replace his tent poles and they are sending him a set of new poles but upgraded to 10mm instead of the usual 9mm on the Kaitum. My Keron is a beefier version of his tent and uses standard 10mm poles.

    Thanks for the positive feedback. It's weird---the more I go out the more I want to go out again. Simple geometry---"There's too much of Nature and too little of Me."
    Yeah well , for me there's to much nature and not enough vacation time. Not complaining to much though I'm very fortunate to have a good job and great benefits. 6 years to retirement and I'll be pulling them kind of trips, I'm out at 62.

  9. #9

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    Great Report Walter! So now if my memory is correct, is this not the second Hilleberg tent Hoppin John has lost to high winds on the Bob? Note to self: never setup near Hoppin John in any camp.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Yeah well , for me there's to much nature and not enough vacation time. Not complaining to much though I'm very fortunate to have a good job and great benefits. 6 years to retirement and I'll be pulling them kind of trips, I'm out at 62.
    You can do it, especially if you keep backpacking intermittently until you hit 62. And you probably know this but you'd be surprised how a 10+ day trip is so much different than a weekend trip. Such a trip "peels the onion" if you know what I mean.

    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    Great Report Walter! So now if my memory is correct, is this not the second Hilleberg tent Hoppin John has lost to high winds on the Bob? Note to self: never setup near Hoppin John in any camp.
    You have a good memory. Yes, he was on the Bob a couple years ago and got hit with a terrible windstorm (katabatic winds???) which tore into his Allak tent and ripped off a guyline attachment tab (webbing)---requiring immediate panic at midnight and quick packing to get off the Demon Hill. I swung thru a few days later and found some items buried under the snow like a canister stove and a WM sleeping bag stuff sack. They left in a hurry.

    Here's a pic of Hoppin John with his Allak on a trip before the storm trip---



    This is what ripped off his Hilleberg tent---



    I call Bob Bald the Tent Testing Facility as you never know what will happen. You could set up in the open meadow at 5pm and by 3am a terrible windstorm hits and everything changes.

    Patman---you were in such a storm on the Bob back in December 2012 and set up near Raven Camp in some terrible winds. Here's a pic of that trip just before the hell winds attacked---




    The inside of my big Hilleberg tent got crazy and I could only imagine what crap you were dealing with.


    I remember by 7am that next morning you were ready to say goodbye but I stayed put in the cold rain. What fun.

  11. #11

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    Nice trip again. Go McHale. How much does Hoppin John's pack weigh empty? Thanks Ron

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by BIG TIGER View Post
    Nice trip again. Go McHale. How much does Hoppin John's pack weigh empty? Thanks Ron
    That's a darn good question. I'd say since it's all spectra and about 6,000cubic inches I'd say about 6 lbs empty. Mine is much bigger and uses ample cordura 500 so it's heavier.

  13. #13

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    Mine is heavier too. Wasn't using the lightweight material when I got mine. I took mine into Panthertown a couple weeks ago. Still carries like a champ. Ron

  14. #14

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    No way am I setting up in "raven" camp with any sort of expected storm. Learned my lesson quick on the Bob one summer evening with "10% chance" of rain and me and the Allak get pummeled with 50mph gusts and lightening close enough to make your hair stand up. I camp in the "south col" camp whenever I'm up there. It's a great spot when nastiness is expected.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by BIG TIGER View Post
    Mine is heavier too. Wasn't using the lightweight material when I got mine. I took mine into Panthertown a couple weeks ago. Still carries like a champ. Ron
    What does it look like??

    Quote Originally Posted by martinb View Post
    No way am I setting up in "raven" camp with any sort of expected storm. Learned my lesson quick on the Bob one summer evening with "10% chance" of rain and me and the Allak get pummeled with 50mph gusts and lightening close enough to make your hair stand up. I camp in the "south col" camp whenever I'm up there. It's a great spot when nastiness is expected.
    It looks like we've all gotten our butts handed to us up there---I know I have---


    I spent five days stuck up in Raven Camp back in 2003 during a cold snap.


    Another time in 2007 during a pesky hellstorm.


    And another time in 2009 during a blizzard.


    One of the worst though was in 2006 during a howling windstorm which pulled the stakes out of the ground---notice the rocks on top to fix the problem---and one tent pole was bent on my Hilleberg tent.

  16. #16

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    Yes I still remember that night (hard to believe it was 2012!!); it is in my all-time top 5 worst wind moments. I remember packing up all that I could in case that tent shredded, and during the worst of it, opening the door and grabbing the poles for additional stability. I was indeed ready to get the hell off that mountain that next morning.

    Just a couple of weeks ago I had a stake pull out in heavy gusts while camped between the AT and Crest trail in Grayson Highlands. Spindrift had been blowing in all night and the inner mesh of that Stratospire was thoroughly crusted in snow and ice; the corner of the tent blew in on me and I got a face full of ice; and with each surge of wind, mother nature was rubbing my face in it. I was super tired and stubbornly pushed it off of me until my arm couldn't stand any more, then grudgingly got out and took care of business.

    This is Phil Mays photo and my tent is the one in back. We are about .25 miles off trail, in the trees.

  17. #17

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    Another terrible wind storm was in that gap (I forget the name..probably deep, or cold, or low, or beech) in the Big Frog when I was testing that Hille tarp:


  18. #18

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    Wow , looking back that Big Frog trip was 2015. Time is flying by. That was my second watermelon carry and just to crack you up:


  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    Another terrible wind storm was in that gap (I forget the name..probably deep, or cold, or low, or beech) in the Big Frog when I was testing that Hille tarp:
    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    Wow , looking back that Big Frog trip was 2015. Time is flying by. That was my second watermelon carry and just to crack you up:
    Yeah, I remember that Low Gap windstorm in Big Frog. It was October 2015 and things got crazy. And amazing because you were in a minimal Hilleberg tarp---





    Patman Lives!! I went to check on you in the morning during/after the big storm and it was rough.


    I also remember another butt cold trip to Bob Bald when you were using this contraption of a tent.


    My favorite pic was walking off the mountain in 10F or something and we looked it.

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