There's a cold wind blowing across the Tongue but I'm warm enough in my geese and merino.
DAY FOUR TRIP 141
TRAIL Fork Ridge/Big Frog
CAMP Big Frog Fourth Camp
MORNING IN THE GAP OF FORK RIDGE
It's almost 2 in the morning and cold enough to have frost inside the tent canopy but it's minimal as above me is a star studded black sky. Some idiots are calling for rain to come soon but they are droolers known for loose bowels and having almost no teeth. If dawn ever comes my hope is to pack a tremendous storage shed full of gear and hump it all to the top of Big Frog Mt where I'll get water and backtrack to a fave camp north of the peak a quarter mile. Today I believe is Saturday but I haven't really seen a single backpacker other than GT. Evil horsemen have access to the top of Big Frog (just like they have to the Bob) and they can only get here on the Hemp Top trails (south and west) so my north camp is free of the trail eaters as is every other trail in the Big Frog. They just ain't allowed and for good reason as these turd-loving trail destroyers gleefully churn up trails to an ungodly rutted and muddy mess. Just look at what they do in Mt Rogers.
THE HORSE LOBBY
The horse lobby is like the gun lobby---the worse it gets the more adamant they become. When confronted they wail "Horses do no more damage than hikers!" but this shows their fanaticism and complete loss of sense and shows how out of touch they are to reality. This was proven to me in the Mt Rogers backcountry when I compared the hiker-only AT (which gets thousands of boots) to the horse trails in the Little Wilson and Lewis Fork wilderness areas. Go see for yourself if you don't believe me. Horsemen and bicyclists---both fringe groups who don't belong in the eastern wilderness like Cohutta or Citico or Rogers or the Smokies. They are trail eaters and trash spewers.
With a million miles of remote dirt roads to use, they demand our last remaining foot trails. If I see them where they don't belong like here or the bicyclists I saw on the Fodderstack or the horses I saw sign of on Four Mile Ridge, I will not hesitate to mention them in my trail journal. Enough of mister nice guy when it comes to these trail eaters. Bicycles have no place on foot trails, period. In fact, trail crews need to leave trail blocking blowdowns in place on occasion to block these guys along with the horsemen.
Forest supervisors are clueless about horse damage and clueless about horse turds in creeks and streams and water pools along foot trails. Why? Because they apparently are planning the next logging clearcut and could care less about fouled watersheds. Who cares about horsemen ruining your trails when you're busy ruining a whole mountain side with chainsaws and bulldozers? But don't take my word for it, go look at the clearcut the boys did below Flats Mt near Indian Boundary lake or the hundreds of other patches of mange these boys favor. They are forest eaters and somehow sleep at night.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Ultralight is a great marketing tool that convinces people the sole means of judging a product's performance is its weight or lack thereof. As such, they can put a higher price on a lesser product that's made from fewer materials and will break sooner, and people laud them for it." TaigaTreader. 7/18/12 on Bushcraftusa.com.
I'm up and listening to a little radio with a 3 tea bag pot boiling and it's nettle and peppermint and one bag ginseng with a tablespoon of organic raw honey. It sits cooling at my side while I read thru a Bushcraft forum thread on UL backpacking. Today's plan is to climb to Big Frog Mt and go to Elderberry spring for water and backtrack a quarter mile to my favorite camp or maybe I'll just stay put on the mountaintop above the spring where the Hemp Top and Big Frog trails meet.
A TRAILSPACE DISCUSSION ON TARPS
EtdBob starts a thread titled "A Beginners Guide to Tarps"(3/23/12) at http://www.trailspace.com/forums/beginners/topics/120382.html#120382
He goes thru the advantages of a tarp for a backpacking shelter and lists some of the negatives such as bugs, " . . . or when a storm is trying its level best to blow you off a mountainside, or really wet weather when the rain and wind is swirling around constantly changing directions from every compass point, or when it's so cold out you need to conserve every last bit of heat."
I encounter these conditions regularly, even on summer trips and Patman will attest to the drawbacks to a tarp on our last trip together to the Bob (see Trip 140). I may see such conditions only once or twice on a 15 day trip so what do I do? Carry a tarp for everyday use and have a tent in case I get hit with one of these hell storms? Naw, just carry a tent and forget about it. Plus, he doesn't even mention ground water, ground sheeting and lake effect. But to his credit he does say,
"With a tarp, taking advantage of natural windbreaks, dips in the terrain and so forth is far more important."
Problem is, the main camp criteria for me with a good 4 season tent is finding a level open spot---all else is forgotten because my tent can handle exposed spots so I don't have to look for natural windbreaks or dips or favorable terrain and even if I did find such an area it could be so overgrown with saplings and briars and blowdowns as to be impossible to string a tarp.
A TARPIST'S MYTH
He reiterates a myth close to the hearts of tarpists---being closer to nature. Tell Patman about how closer he could've been to nature in that storm if he instead just used a tarp.
THE LEAN-TO PITCH
His last tarp pic is of the lean-to pitch or a baker tent style. It's a lean-to and looks like a large A-frame tent with one half missing. He says, " . . . . it's more open than the other" and he's got that right.
Then he says, "The lightning struck, the thunder boomed, and marble sized hail stones came down in a torrent and bounced all around. I pulled the edge of the ground cloth over me to keep off the ricochets. Camping with a tarp shelter I think it is a good idea to use an oversized ground cloth that can go around your sleeping bag."
A ground cloth is usually wet and muddy so good luck in wrapping your nice WM bag in it. Why not use a bivy bag? Plus, in a windy deluge he and his stuff would've gotten soaked. He ends it by saying of course---
" . . . . you don't get a view like that in a tent."
I have a fantastic view out the large door of of my Hilleberg Keron, thank you. His final paragraph says tarps " . . . will keep you dry in a rainstorm . . . ." and so he's obviously never experienced a deluge where the entire landscape and campsite accumulates sheeting ground water and runoff.
Peter comes in with the voice of common sense---"A concern or Two", and goes on---
" . . . there are 2 big problems with using a tarp for a shelter. One is the lack of a waterproof floor, which can result in a non-insulating wet sleeping bag." Hear! Hear! Finally someone gets it.
Tom really nails the coon skin to the cabin wall when he posts, "You have also presumed that everyone wants to be in a "more open environment." Not sure, but even if that were true, the implication that a tarp is a better shelter than or equal to my bombproof winter tent is easily refuted. Sure, you can use a tarp in winter, but I know from personal experience the advantages of a tent like mine (or something similar) in a storm or heavy snowfall. I can assure you that the advantage is more than just psychological. I can put up the pictures to prove it if need be."
"Lack of waterproof floor? Huh!! One carries a generous ground cloth when using a tarp. It gets spread out after the tarp is up and the dry ground cloth is sheltered from any rain." Problem is, a ground cloth under a tarp is not a waterproof floor because in a hard rain you will get over-the-cloth runoff.
UNCLE FUNGUS TO THE RESCUE
Here's my complete post on the matter.
"I've written long screeds against tarps in my trail journals over the years and have seen several "operators" bailing into tents when conditions turned south. I spent the winter of '82 and the winter of '86 in a tarp in the mountains of North Carolina and gotta say, never again.
** Let's not even talk about the bugs---noseeums, black flies, gnats, mosquitoes.
** Ground Water---this is a big one in the Southeast. I call it the Lake Effect. In a deluge, two things happen, ground sheeting and lake effect. No campsite will stay dry in a butt heavy rain deluge. Ground sheeting is the mvt of a half inch of rainwater moving downslope and into your tarp. A good bathtub tent floor will not leak and will lift the floor like a water bed in such a rain. You'll stay dry. A tarp ground sheet will invariably get swamped since all edges must be elevated several inches, i.e. like in a sewn-in floor.
The Lake Effect occurs when the water settles onto your campsite for 10 or 20 or 30 minutes during and after a deluge. Water bed time. A good tent floor will keep it out. A tarp? Get ready for squatting and placing everything you own on top of your boots or sleeping pad, and prepare to stuff your sleeping bag while you're at it. Stay in squat mode until runoff stops. I haven't even mentioned the water splatter than bounces sideways and under a tarp.
** High Winds---Let's set up at 5,500 feet during a windstorm or blizzard and see what happens. First, you'll have tremendous snow spindrift---it's happened to me and to my tarpist friends. What is spindrift? When you wake up in the morning after an all-night blizzard with 50mph winds and are covered by 10 inches of snow---WHILE STILL INSIDE YOUR TARP. Not good. And then there's the bugaboo of high wind. Tremendous winds. Butt cold winds. Tarp vs Tent? Always a tent."
** The guyline footprint of a tarp is usually as big or bigger than a tent footprint.
** Possible single wall condensation and "misting" whereby drops of water hit your gear in a devilish rainstorm.
** Finally, my tent goes up very fast---2 minutes. The interior is hung by the fly and so little gets wet.
None of this is to say I have a beef with tarpists, and I applaud your enthusiasm for starting this thread. And thanks for sharing your pictures.
"I am not a tarp fan. To me tarps are an emergency shelter, nothing else. Unless you are positive of no bad weather tarps are a bad idea. If you are into sleeping in wind, rain and bugs, by all means."
SNOW GOOSE COUNTERS!
"I use tarps exclusively when backpacking in the Rockies for their versatility and light weight and for the connection to the environment. That connection is the reason I am out there and I do not want to be cut off from it in a tent. I only use tents for privacy when car camping."
Here we go again with the connection to the environment. Come out with me on a 20 day winter trip and you'll find all the connection you need burrowed deep inside my 4 season double wall tent.
Peter 1955 says---
"Since I have some experience and some proper outdoor training, I could probably survive a winter night in the snow by curling up in the snow pit under a spruce tree. To me, that's pretty close to camping under a tarp in winter. If I want to have a more pleasant night, I'd make a quinzee. But if I want to be comfortable, I'll use my tent."
Tom D has a good post and here it is---
"Contrast that with Yosemite the year before---I expected snow and got it. I was in my five pole, double vestibule winter tent and as comfortable as possible. Could I have survived with a tarp? Sure, but I'm not interested in just survival. I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone or even myself. I'm not making a tv show, I'm out to enjoy myself and sleeping in comfort with my gear nice and dry is a big part of that."
Then Tamerlin comes in with some major rebuttals---
"Tents will "always" be more profitable than tarps and therefore most people will be "trained" to prefer them, regardless of what little things like "reality" tell them."
He completely didn't even read my post on tarp realities---wind, spindrift and ground water. He then says this crazy thing---
"Reality, however, tells us that tents are basically shaped tarps with customized poles, nothing more." Tell this to a guy in the South Col on Everest. Tell this to Patman on the Bob in December 2012.
Then Eppo comes in with this---
"Tarps are superior in every way and if you are committed to ultra-light packing you cannot pack a tent and be ultra-light. It's like there is no point in cutting off the handle of your toothbrush if you are going to carry a 3-6 pound tent. One of the best features of tarps is no condensation which means a nice dry sleeping bag in the morning even in rainy, humid weather."
Thankfully my buddy Gonzan comes in to dispel this notion---
"Actually, this is not true. I have personally seen condensation on the underside of tarps, and on the objects under it, multiple times. As far as tarps being "superior in every way," that is just silly, if that was the case, then your admittance that a tent being needed for winter above treeline is inherently contradictory. A tarp cannot protect an occupant from shifting wind. A quality winter tent can almost completely eliminate the wind shifting horizontal precipitation in even a truly fierce storm. Not so of a tarp. That does not equate to universal superiority."
And so ends the thread, at least the part I brought out.
ABANDONED TARP CAMP
I find a big orange tarp on the ridge where the Big Frog trail jcts the Fork Ridge trail and so I take a few pics of it and the trash scattered liberally around the old camp. I also found another good place to put my tent nearby at a level spot with the possibility of water down the east hillsiide. My Fork Ridge journey is finished and now I'm on the Big Frog trail to the top where I'll get water and look for a campsite.
I'm not sure but I think I either went around Chimney Top or I'm sitting close to it now as the Frog trail passed the Big Creek jct and circled around a big knob and thankfully not over it and now sit on the trail as it climbs thru some slanted east facing rocks. Let's face it, I've been climbing since this trip started at Thunder Rock and the climb is almost over as I add 4,000 feet and then 4,224 feet of Frog top. In the distance I see a big scar in a mountain side towards Dry Pond Lead and the Little Frog which could very well be the hated Corridor K ruination of what's left of our Unicoi mountains. Let's not rant on this fecal-stained subject.
SUNNY DAY WITH HIGH CLOUDS
They're wispy but awesome and the wee'tards call for rain tonight with possible snow. I doubt the snow but we shall see.
ON TOP OF OLD FROG
It's good to be back and the spring hole is the highest I've ever seen it so I set up camp a quarter mile back north on the tongue of the Frog and only set up the tent in the wind with all the guylines and took my pack full of the food bags and hoofed it to the forehead of the Frog and dumped it for a quick descent to Frog pond which is the spring hole, a headwater seep of the East Fork of Rough Creek. I got both jugs full and at least 142 oz to hold me over if it rains tomorrow. A short recon on top of the Frog revealed a perfect campsite if I want to move tomorrow and come here as it's closer to water but subject to horse interference if the trail eating and turd dropping cowboys want to swing by and cause a ruckus.
99% of them are day use saddle potatoes that never camp but there's always that 1% who believe an overnight on horseback is not complete without heavy beer consumption and huge bonfires and general rowdiness. If you camp on the head of the Frog you're subject to such madness. Two dayhikers just passed by from Wolf Ridge and I yelled "You made it!" and they looked at me as if I was Ted Bundy with a hammer and quickly booked up to the high point without a word. Ah well. But if you go to my camp a quarter mile north you won't see horses (not allowed) and you won't hear a frat party or smell woodsmoke or hear the screams and bellows and low chortles of the grab ass bonobos.
Big Frog is better than the Bob because it's much harder to reach and there's no godawful skyway motorcycle racetrack nearby although I suppose on a calm summer day you could hear them roaring and racing along Interstate 64. I suppose the closest access to the Frog is either from Wolf Ridge off FS 221 or the old Chestnut Mt trail off the obscure FS road 62 a couple miles northeast from the Beech Bottoms trailhead and the same road stretch I hiked to connect the Cohutta at Jacks River Falls to the Big Frog. Or you could park further north on 221 and come in on the Big Creek to Grassy Gap to Wolf Ridge and here. However people get here it's a long dirt road drive and it's a hump, amen and pass the beans and rice.
Okay, let's load up the water and return to a cold and windy camp.
BACK IN CAMP
There are 2 ways for most mere dayhikers to reach Big Frog. The closest is a long involved drive on a primitive dirt road FS 62 to the old Chestnut Mt trail and then connecting to Wolf Ridge trail. This route gets the day gawkers to the mountaintop in 3.7 miles, a good hump of around 2,200 feet. Round trip will be 7.4 miles. Enjoy. The other is from FS road 221 at the Wolf Ridge trailhead at 1,660 feet but it's a haul of 4.5 miles and round trip of 9 miles and an elevation gain of 2,564 feet, a real fun day hike so guys just keep away.
Yes! Two friendly young backpackers pass by and they started 5.6 miles ago at the Big Frog trailhead and I told them about the big pool spring on top and that's where they're headed.
BIG FROG SPRINKLE
A very light rain hits the tent at dusk but it's not much and it isn't snow so go back to bed, folks.
IT'S AN ALL NIGHT GERMAN TOURIST RAIN
Yup, it's not a GD rain but a GT rain---that specific kind of rain which falls in 35F temps and comes with a cold 4,000 foot ridgetop wind. She knows this kind of rain well cuz she's hiked thru it since Christmas. Me? I can stay put when it starts at 6pm and continues thru the night. I went out at 10pm to take up the slack and pulled the vestibules tight on both ends and pulled the tunnel tight by reseating one vent guyline and tightened up a couple slack side guylines. How this stuff is not snow or sleet is beyond me as it's cold up here! GT is somewhere out on the trail but she's not at 4,000 feet and she's certainly comfy inside her tarptent somewhere on the Pinhoti. I'm also in the Raven's Yard but won't even have to pack and move tomorrow as she must if this crap continues.
There are 2 backpackers on the Frog tonight and they are sharing in the festivities with me so I hope they are inside a warm dry tent and not in hammocks or a tarp. You'd want a good floor and protection from a cold wind which won't happen under a drafty tarp. Here's where the Hilleberg Keron at 8lbs 10 oz comes in handy. Very handy. In this kind of weather and at this elevation I come in and out of consciousness, more so after my big dinner of dehydrated mac and cheese with broccoli and dehydrated butternut squash is digested leaving room in my brain for relaxation.
The cold rain intensifies and you would not want to be out in it as it's ice cold. I called Randy Cadenza a couple days ago and he's been sick with the flu and wants me to call him back on Day 7 but he shouldn't get out in this kind of crap as it won't help his health. Neither Patman or Randy has ever been in the Frog or the Cohut so I told them about Thunder Rock parking and the ease of access for the boys if they ever decide to come in from Knoxville or Nashville. I love the Frog and I love Big Frog Mt. It's remote and it's the most beautiful place in the world.
No hunters will break thru the gates to get here and no ATV's or SUV's will drive up here no how and no way. No tractor will come up here to mow and no Wolf Laurel backpackers will drive close to the high ground for easy access. Here you have to earn it and the long dirt road drive is rough. Most Big Frog backpackers will not come in at Thunder Rock as it's too far outside the wilderness and will instead take FS 45 to FS 221 and park at the Big Frog trailhead. It's only 3 to 4 mile drive from Thunder Rock but then it's a 5.6 mile hike and a gain of at least 2,500 feet.
big frog mtgear