Saddle Tree Gap in 5 Degrees Trip 42
TRIP 42 January 2005
** Rainbow Trail Camp On Sycamore Creek
** First Hike From Baby Falls to the Bob
** Jody and Robert on the Hangover in 5 Degrees
Bald River--+Big Pine Camp+--Bald River--Holly Flats Road--Brookshire--Sugar Mt--+Pretty Pine Gap+--Sugar Mt--Sycamore Creek--+Rainbow Trail Camp+--Sycamore Creek--Whiggs Meadow--Mud Gap--BMT Skyway--Beech Gap--Fodderstack--54A South--+Bob Bald(2)+--Four Mile Ridge--+Naked Ground+--Nighthike to Hangover Mt--+Bob Bald+--54A South--BMT Skyway--Mud Gap--+Whiggs Meadow Camp+--Sycamore Creek--Sugar Mt--Brookshire--+Horse Camp+--Brookshire--Holly Flats Road--Bald River and OUT.
This is only a 10 day load but it looks enormous. The trend of a big heavy pack continues for the next 8 years. The Dana Designs Terraplane holds it well.
TRAIL Bald River
CAMP Big Pine
To whomever is interested or concerned about long winter trips with a very heavy pack, this backpacking journey should get your attention. The beginning photo shows me getting ready to leave Little Mitten and proves that a 77 pound pack sure looks big upon a near vegan backpacker. We weighed it before I left and the total with pack came to 230 pounds, 153 of it mine(without boots)and 77 of it in nylon though I told Mitten it was "just" 74 pounds cuz I couldn't bring myself to say the higher weight.
Why the enormity? I am carrying 14 days worth of food and 32 ounces of fuel and a heavy winter tent all topped off with a complete load of winter clothing. I'm certain I have too much food but I can eat my way out of this Sisyphean travail.
That be said I am presently sitting at the Beaverdam section on the Bald River trail in the Gorge Wilderness. My goal for today is the Big Pine Camp and I shall be to it soon after this short rest break. Shunka is with me and has a full load too with I hope enough food for 12 plus days. It is cloudy and cool as I sit in t-shirt and shorts, a light drizzle here and there but nothing serious. It's time to move.
CAMPING AT BIG PINE CAMP: Here(look see)is a photo of my first night and I sit at the pretty campsite next to the singing waters of Bald River. It is very peaceful here. On this trip I brought a Thor Heyerdahl book called "FATU HIVA" which just may suit my mood. He and his wife Liv forsook civilization and found an island in the Marquesas where they could return to nature. It will be my companion on cold nights in the tent. A quote: "The sun shone as merrily as before on the golden walls of the bamboo cabin. We missed nothing. We certainly did not miss civilization." Chapter II.
Night falls in the great roadless valley as I sit up with a candle burning inches away from this paper and pen. I awoke again from an early evening/late afternoon nap disoriented and in a sour mood, what causes such a thing? I feel better now as I contemplate tomorrow's navigation thru and out of this valley and east to southeast up this river to the top of Sugar Mt once again. My pack is probably too heavy but it's weight will enable me to make it as far as Crowders or the Fodderstack without resupply so I can stay out longer than a week. I haven't seen a soul or even a passing car or parked one at Baby Falls or on the walk to the gorge entrance so this will be a lonely hike for many more miles.
On this trip I brought my Muir Trail tent as it is stronger in the wind and a better snow tent than the bigger Mountain Jet. I also brought a thicker and warmer "watch" style cap to replace my lighter wool one. It is very thick, very snug, very soft and very warm. Though bulkier and heavier it is worth the effort and will prove itself at 5,000 feet this weekend. I have no idea who makes it as Mitten got it at Walmart for one of her winter trips. My long johns are Patagonia capilene and though light are not too thin and very warm and comfortable.
At the Little River Outfitter store in Maryville I talked to Jody Brown and he recommended a pair of winter pants made by Patagonia. We had a great talk and he told me of 2 upcoming trips, one to Mount Rogers and the Grayson Highlands area and one to West Virginia to see "how cold we can get." He is taking his wife and they will use a Mt Hardwear Trango tent and he has a subzero down parka twice as warm as my North Face Nuptse jacket. Little Mitten and I passed Jody on the Fodderstack trail way back on Trip 15 but I don't think he remembered us. He's a backpacking fool and loves it as far as I can tell for all the right reasons. It would be good to share a trip together in these mountains someday.
THE CLOTHING ISSUE
My upper layer starts with a medium tall men's silk turtleneck as a baselayer which is very light and comfy. Over this goes two Duofold type thermax tops and when removed all 3 become "one layer" which is rolled and packed as such. Over this is a large wool and polyester lined Woolrich style shirt made by Great Plains and it covers my thermal tops. Over this I zip on the down jacket and all is set for frigid conditions. I also carry goretex pants and jacket to use either in the rain or cold. But the thing with all this stuff is that I hardly wear any of it when I'm backpacking.
The t-shirt and shorts are my usual hiking clothes, in bitter cold I will wear my capilene under the shorts and possibly the silk turtleneck under the t-shirt, only rarely do I wear the thermal top when backpacking and then usually only when I'm starting out on a cold morning. In a mean wet blizzard I will keep the shorts on but add the rain jacket either over the t-shirt or if it is really cold the thermal top.
The main consideration in all of this is to keep every warmth layer as dry as possible especially from sweat. In the dead of winter hauling a heavy pack up a mountain will produce a lot of sweat and the torso layers must be removed early on before they moisten, usually at a time on the trail when you most DO NOT want to stop and change out.
This is why most backpackers start out cold in scant dress and warm up quickly on the trail. When the hiking layers are wet from yesterday's walking in a cold rain, it is very difficult to put them on(including the socks!)but it must be done and the rain jacket atop will at least generate some heat and not get saturated as will shorts and t-shirt. All this extra clothing is for basecamp, sleeping, sitting around, cooking; in other words, when not backpacking.
dana terraplaneheavy packstipi walter