TRIP 51 November 2005
** Bryson City Couple
** Charlotte Phillip
** The Big Stack Nighthike
** The New Hilleberg Tent
South Fork--+Eagle Camp+--South Fork--+Iron Camp+--South Fork--Cold Gap--Trail 149--BMT Connector--+Snow Camp+--54 A North--+Bob Bald+--Four Mile Ridge--+Watauga Camp (NG)+--Four Mile Ridge--+Saddle Tree Gap+--Four Mile Ridge--54A North--+Snow Camp+--Fodderstack--Crowders--Big Stack--Slickrock Creek--+Slicnic Camps+--Slickrock Creek--Big Stack--Crowders--Fodderstack--Pine Ridge and OUT.
The big thing for Trip 51 is dumping the Light Wedge tent and finally getting a Hilleberg tunnel, this one the Nammatj 3 as above. So begins my Hilleberg fixation.
JOURNAL TRIP 51
WELCOME TO THE SOUTH FORK CITICO
This trip report is for all those outdoor lovers, hikers, backpackers, yogis, treehuggers, campers and adventurers who will read it and perhaps write their own trail or trip report and add to the Slisgah's library of forest stories and tales.
I am presently sitting on the South Fork Citico trail with a monsterly heavy pack fully winterized at the first crossing by the south bank detour. Shunka is sitting with me fully loaded for 10 days as we rest after an initial muscle busting introduction to the Holy Slisgah waters. When I first got here I wanted to jump in but now a wind blows thru the sweaty t-shirt and cools me down. It is November, y'know?
I'm thinking of keeping my boots on for the next 3 crossings as the water is very low leaving all the rocks exposed. I brought the Prolite 4 and will give a complete gear review of it in a week. The pack is too heavy because I am carrying several unnecessary items such as a full pint of fruit juice, 2 Knudsen sodas in cans, 2 small Nalgene containers of mouthwash for my tired gums, 5 rolls of newspaper articles which seem heavy, too many candles and 2 bulky books!
All else I feel needs to be with me as I climb up into the high ground where it is really winter and not this strange autumn heated sphere. I see the trail across the creek and it is really inviting so I'm off to Eagle Camp!
OVERNIGHT AT EAGLE CAMP: I arrived in flip flops and threw off the huge pack and eyeballed my usual wedge site and squeezed the Hilleberg into it without any problem. A snack was chewed as I sat reading about Einstein in some pages torn from the Smithsonian magazine now burned. The sky above me has a white haze to it but there won't be rain today, maybe rain tonight.
It is time to bathe the hands and face. Ok, dusk slowly comes to the valley as a pot of couch potatoes cook up on the MSR. By the time this pot is cleaned it will be almost dark and time to sequester the gear and enter the pretty and spacious Nammatj. Though it is not cold I am at Defcon 2 with shorts and thermal tops, it may get cold tonight and in the morning for my walk up the mountain to Iron Camp.
Right now all is quiet and though the water is low I hear the sound of the creek nearby and it is medicine from the Naturopathic doktor called Nature Herself. The meal is cooked and I let it cool and feel good again to be out on this 51st trip to the Citico/Slickrock forest. The Fields were empty and gave me solitude to cross the bridge and climb the hill to the South Fork trail and pass by the first two turnoffs at the beginning, the North Fork trail and the Brush Mountain trail. Night has now officially fallen and I've moved the party indoors, a candle lights the page while the teeth need to be cleaned.
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SOUTH FORK
Eagle Camp is a pretty spot located right past the 3rd crossing and right before the Grassy Branch trail intersection. It has 2 or 3 tent sites and a large firepit with close access to water and it sits close to the South Fork trail. Past camp the trail stays level for almost a mile whereupon it cuts left and steeply shoots up the hill to cross a little creek and past it up to the spur of a ridge and still upwards to finally join the level log cut and briar boulevard.
At this point a reststop helps to cool down and then it is some miles on a level to gradually up hill hike to reach the 4th crossing and the eventual creekside tentsite I call Iron Camp. I've come by now around 5-6 miles and it is time to set up camp again for the second night in anticipation of the strenuous hump to Cold Spring Gap.
Ok, I layed down for a bit and had a disturbing nightvision of a huge mountain on which I lived heaving and letting loose it's load of huge slabs of stone one by one, each sliding down the side with massive force as I stood and scrambled from one to another. My home was a pit beneath those rocks but no more and the house which sat on the middle of the mountain didn't have too long of a future. I was vexed and the earth was shaking. I awoke to find me still in day one so it is going to be a long night upon the old thermarest.
A CHAPTER ON TENTS
This tent(Hilleberg Nammatj 3)is a pure joy to use and is becoming a new version of the old Tuolumne though the tent itself comes from a long line of similar tents just as old or older. By saying hello and committing myself to this make and model I will feel something I haven't felt since the mid 1980s: A strong affection for a particular nylon tent, the North Face A-frame Tuolumne to be exact.
It had a good 10 years of use all the way to Lost Valley in 1989 and the South Carolina Rainbow gathering in 1991-92, maybe 14 years altogether. In 1989 I got the Westwind and it served me in California, at the Tipi, in later Pisgah trips, at numerous powwows and many other places. The Tipi curtailed the use of a tent but I still had to rely on one at various times but it wasn't until I started these long backpacking trips in the fall of 2001 that I really got back to living out in a tent.
The Westwind was used frequently in Laurel Springs where the fly ripped one final time and I retired the whole thing in a garbage can. At this point I was without a good tent for some years and used a variety of substandard shelters like the Ozark Trail dome and the Eureka Timberline until 2000 when the Mountain Hardwear Muir Trail was purchased.
It was used at Johnny B's house in Butler a couple of times, at various powwows, in Pisgah and at the church right up until I left Boone for Tellico. At Little Mitten's I used it my first night and beyond until I set up the Iron Mountain tent on Chickasaw creek. When Mitten and I went out in the fall and winter of 2001 we used it but before that when we went to the Tipi together we used and carried the large yellow Iron Mountain tent.
But on my trips to Citico/Slickrock I used the Muir Trail most, then the Light Wedge, then the Mountain Jet and finally this tent, the Nammatj 3 Hilleberg. Over time it will overtake the Muir Trail tent of choice. Do I miss the Muir Trail and do I have the same regard for it as I did the old Tuolumne?
Well, no, for some reason the Tuolumne has a unique place in my green heart, maybe it was the constant companionship in 7 straight years of camping around Boone where thru constant setting up and taking down it became my best friend, my loyal servant and my shelter from the rain, cold and wind at the Cemetary, the Swamp Site and the #9 Camps, the Conehead camps and especially the Pond Site, the Rhodo Grotto and the Stone Altar site.
It was there for me in Lost Valley and on the AT thru North Carolina and Tennessee, at Pisgah on Upper Creek and everywhere else. When I lost the fly on that tent I lost the whole tent and I lost a friend. No tent becomes such a friend unless it is used EVERYDAY for 7 years in all conditions. In all the years I used it I only have 2 photos if it and both aren't very clear or revealing.
One is at night in Lost Valley and the other shows the front in South Carolina set up in the Marion NF. I never had a camera those 7 years I lived out and by the time I got one at the Tipi I had my Westwind. I will have to call North Face and pry into their historic vaults to get an old catalog showing my little blue and brown beauty.
I've been thru a load of thermys and 3 sleeping bags but no piece of gear makes me so sentimental as that tent. I was an outdoor infant and it was my Momma's loving arms and my first true home. I first found the tent for sale on a bulletin board in the ASU student center for $100, then about half price from a new one. This was in 1978 and I called the guy and he gave me the almost new tent and there began my love affair with a piece of equipment.
At the time I was living in a tiny apartment on King street in Boone and I would often set up the tent inside on the floor and sleep. I first set it up outdoors at either the cemetary or the Swamp Site and for educational purposes I set it up on the side yard of the apartment house and on the grass by St Lukes church.
After the house fire in the winter of 1979 and after the short emergency stay at Hagaman's house on Cherry street, I became more and more an outdoors person and my fnal apartment was a funky room in a brick apartment house on Hippie Hill.
It was here I finally gave up the rental life and took the bedroll and the Tuolumne for a real-life adventure that has lasted 27 years and is still going strong(witness the current Chickasaw tent and these trip reports). But back then it was a heady, spontaneous and innocent, idealistic yogic time filled with Watauga campsites of beauty, purity, snow, wind, sweat and bliss and the Lost Valley camps epitomize the deepest and highest of those times.
It was Lost Valley and I was lost in this wonderful world of pristine freedom and still capturing it as I sit on the bank of Citico Creek in a freedom not too tarnished at age 55. The tent of choice is now a Hilleberg.
south fork citicohilleberg nammatjeagle camp