Noticing a problem tree I decide to move the tent a few feet to a safer spot.
DAY NINE TRIP 141
JANUARY ON TOP OF THE FROG
It's a fantastic winter night on top of Big Frog Mt as the rain comes and goes inside an on and off wind. The Frog is a thousand feet lower than the Bob and it doesn't have an open meadow so there are no views and no exposed spots on a bald unless you consider you're on top of a fairly narrow mountain peak covered with gnarly Hangover Mt-like trees with some amount of kick ass exposure to windstorms and lightning. Which reminds me---go out and look at the dead trees for lightning strikes and see if this peak gets struck often like at Naked Ground or Cherry Log Gap. There are several dead trees here and there and each deserve inspection.
COAST TO COAST RADIO SHOW
Coast to Coast this early morning is sac-numbingly boring as the deep throated host won't stop talking about the terror of Gun Control and how we need to bristle with arms in case we need to fight a tyrannical govt. Reality wake up message---Do American citizens have grenades or stinger missiles or abram tanks or apache gunships or aircraft carriers or fighter jets or nuclear weapons or drones? If not, you're basically unarmed with your peashooter ar-15's and ak-47's if you're gonna take up arms against the govt. Like one guy said and I repeat myself, the govt can kill you from 2,000 miles away with a drone so how well armed are you really?
HIGH WIND AND MORNING RAIN
Miss Nature may just go ahead and decide my hike for me today and keep me pinned here with inclement weather for the day so I splurge and brew up a pot of tea and sit tight. Why not? There's no point in leaving a dry guyed out camp for a trek thru the mystery mountains. In the meantime it looks like I have Hootyhoo's phone number with me and will try to get a call out to him on my weekend whereabouts although for some reason my phone doesn't work inside the tent but it worked fine last night. Weird. Let's brew up some tea and then look for a better spot to fire up the nokia.
The tea is done and honey added and steeps on the cozy bottom pad as I keep working on using up my first 22oz fuel bottle with another full one in reserve. Winter usage and twice a day cooking uses up the fuel but only when the temps are very low, especially around 0F or below. You'd be lucky to get 8 or 9 days of use on one 22oz bottle during those kind of temps. I usually get 17 days out of a 22oz bottle but not in the winter and not if I make tea every morning. We'll see how many more days I can get with my first bottle as I am in my 9th day already.
HIGH POINT NOKIA
I dressed in rain gear and walked with my tracfone to the top o' the Frog and got a message out to Hootyhoo and told his wife my name and I'd be on Big Frog Mt this weekend so we'll see what happens.
ALL DAY LAZE
I'm weak so I nap all morning and then I have the weirdest dream where I stop at a drug store to get a prescription filled and the male clerk takes my info back and returns, saying I have to leave the store cuz I'm a grouch. Somehow I'm outside at this time and say "no you won't" and outrun him into another entrance and demand to speak to the store manager. Another store clerk says, "You don't want to spend Saturday night in jail do you?" And then the manager walks up and I demand "grouch proof" and immediately wake up. Was that ginseng in my tea or jimson weed?
Today is my first zero of the trip and it's on the Frog and now after calling Hootyhoo I'll have to stay put here for 2 more zeros and a total of 3 days and 4 nights. Yikes, Mags is right I'm a dreaded no good no count Basecamper!! The excuse today is rain but what will be my excuse tomorrow? If I was anywhere else I'd say, "You stupid idiot (to self), Pack up and go!! Hey! I'm on the mighty Big Frog and like the Bob it deserves my attention and my skinny butt to stay put and hunker in for a full Frog experience!!"
Thing is, even if I move today I'll have to be right back here tomorrow for a weekend sit-put just to see a possible Hoot visit and to get a feel for the mountain on a weekend.
I went around to every dead tree on the Frog and there are at least 2 dozen and looked for the telltale signs of bolt gouging but found nothing on any tree. A lightning strike makes a vertical wood gouge down the tree to the ground and blows out a channel in the trunk which is obvious but no tree here seems to be so struck. While out walking I also pulled butt patrol and picked up every bit of trash I could find and the Frog is either remarkably clean or the new dead leaves cover everything up which is probably a better answer to where is the trash.
Dayhikers, backpackers and horsemen can get to the Frog but there is no tractor road like on the Bob and so you won't see SUV's or ATV's up here no way although you could see a helicopter. Let's hope the Cherokee forest boys don't clearcut the top for a chopper landing like they did on the Hangover. It's hard to believe there was once a firetower up here as I looked carefully on top and couldn't find a concrete pad or blocks or any sign of it.
So far just 3---German Tourist and a backpacking couple coming up the Big Frog trail and leaving a pot of oatmeal in camp #2---now gone and probably eaten by a mammal. As noted, there are 4 camps here with the lower 3 separated by about 20 yards apiece and the peak camp about 40 yards further from the rest and at the highest point. It would be the best place of you wanted your privacy though the actual site is a tiny knob with little room. Then if you leave the Frog and walk north on the Big Frog trail you reach my favorite North Frog Camp with dozens more here and there along the long level plateau between the peak and the rhodo tunnel. The only reason a backpacker would camp on this Tongue of the Frog is if the top 4 camps get invaded by boy scouts, bonfire drunks or horsemen out for the night.
Thankfully very few horsemen run a pack train and stay the night. I've never seen them do so in the backcountry unless they are doing so when car camping. All the horsemen I see are day use only and I just can't figure out why as a horse can easily haul them and their gear. Fact is, the 2 horse trails here are long and difficult and steep in places. I can't see bringing a horse up Wolf Ridge and it'd be rough bringing a horse up from Double Springs. I sadly saw clear horse sign on Grassy Gap trail which is a big no-no and off limits but what do they care? They have most of the trails in the Cohutta and yet they demand the Big Frog too.
They also have the hundred or more miles of perimeter dirt roads around the Big Frog/Cohutta to ride which is perfect for a several day loop. Don't bring your horses to the top of the Frog, please.
I found a slightly questionable limb above my tent which is about 90% tight and strong so next time I'll move the tent over 8 feet and get away in case of a truly hellish windstorm. It's a regular live limb but part of its side is missing where another limb sheared off, making it a little bit weaker in the process. So far it looks strong even as a tough wind attacks the mountain.
One of my Icebreaker thumbholes is about to fray apart and I'm looking around for a suitable patch of merino but there's nothing so I'm thinking of getting my needle out and using a couple of my fabric bandaids, or wait till I get home and using a piece of fleece or old merino. There are 2 main weaknesses with Icebreaker zipneck tops---the thumbholes and the neck zippers.
MOVING THE TENT
It would've stayed put but I discovered a 25 foot high standing dead tree by the tent---previously missed---and so I pushed on it and it's barely standing so with one good tug with my bear line it will fall over so I pulled stakes and moved the tent over 8 feet and restaked it and piled everything back in so I think I'm safe from 2 potential widow makers or if not that then 2 tent eaters.
BIG FROG MOUNTAIN
According to Skelton the BF trail is 5.6 miles but Homan says 5.5 miles. And the mileage on the BMT from Thunder Rock campground to Frog Mt according to Sgt Rock is 9.9 miles though another source says 10.4 miles. Just like the Bob has Four Mile Ridge, so does the Frog have the Tongue which is that long level ridge running north and where I was on Day 4. The Tongue of the Frog is a fantastic approach to the mountain and much different than the other approaches, namely Wolf Ridge and Licklog/Hemp Top. It's a great area for camping and easy hiking.
A STRONG WIND PUMMELS THE FROG
Night fell a couple hours ago and the mountain is getting walloped by a strong winter wind thru the tough trees on the peak so my tent is all guyed out as I plan to sit put here for a couple more days and get thru whatever Miss Nature has planned.
BIG FAT WIND
It's coming, boys! And with it comes new rain but it's the wind which you'll notice the most as it's loud and it comes from the east. It keeps getting louder and louder as the night wears on. In the tipi I'd have 40 tipi poles keeping me safe, here I have three 10mm poles, kerlon 1800 and 14 pegs as the wind comes in like ocean waves---that old familiar sound so common in mid January. Fortunately all of the Frog is like the South Col Camps on the Bob and in the protection of small trees and not in a direct fire open meadow. There is no open bald on the Frog and this will save your butt. I can't say you'll be safe from lightning bolts or falling trees but you'll be safe from the wind.
Patman would like this storm and remember it cuz it's just the same as the one we shared in December on the Bob. It has the same velcro-ripping sound of rain slicing across the tent and it has the same thundering locomotive winds roaring across the sky, the only difference and it's a big one is the tents aren't as exposed and the brunt of the wind is strained by the colander of trees to the east and all along the Frog. The wind wants so very much to wallop my tent and pull out the pegs but there's a thousand trees in its way. I'm still at 4,224 feet though so don't get cocky and think you're rolling in deep cotton cuz you ain't. Heck the worst winter winds don't even come from the East so how bad could this be?
IT'S THE WEST WINDS, SON
It's the west winds which really kick ass. So far the Hilleberg is keeping me alive, warm and dry and for this I am thankful. Plus, the wind is not an arctic O Canada subzero hell ride from the West but a tropical warmth from the East by Southeast. My tipi was the same, hurricanes hit from the East and blizzards hit from the West. For this reason my door faced East. There's no real limit to a wind gust, you get used to 90% of all of them but then there's 10% which are off the scale and come with little warning. The usual gales hypnotize (as long as your shelter stays up) and you get complacent. Then pow! A real gust hits and poles bend and pegs pop. Setting up in an open bald is a recipe for disaster but heck I've done it time and time again---
Haw Mt, Whiggs Meadow, Bob repeatedly, Naked Ground Gap, Hangover Mt, Horn Hill, Stone Mt in Mt Rogers, Ma Peak in Mt Rogers, Howard's Knob Spur, Rosebud Rez in South Dakota, and countless places in NC, VA and TN. And now on Big Frog Mt. Oh, don't forget that bad windstorm on the North Fork Citico at Snake Mt Camp. Miss Nature is wide open and free in the mountains no matter how many politicians we elect or how many lawyers are hired. She eyeballs the highest mountain and saves her best stuff for that and so you best be on top and going along for the ride. Once she's satisfied you're not gonna bail she moves onto the next and if you really stick it out she may even send a raven or a hawk or an eagle as reward. Don't expect it and just be glad you made it thru the storm. What we call a hell storm she calls Holy.
big frog mt