Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Username: Password:
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
December 10, 2017, 07:14:05 PM

Login with username, password and session length

Shoutbox

Last 5 Shouts:

 

thedayhascome

December 05, 2017, 09:14:28 AM
Just returned from the Red. Enjoyed beautiful sunrises and the super moon, it was an awesome time!
 

Bazinga

November 23, 2017, 07:22:04 AM
Turkey & wine today, Hiking in the gorge tomorrow. Life is GOOD!!!

ShifuCareaga

October 31, 2017, 10:08:51 AM
That's my surmise as well. I've seen also, about 4 or 5 all black wooly worms. That... is weird.
 

Arthur

October 25, 2017, 02:22:14 PM
There is a little color here, probably be about as good as its gonna get this weekend, but I just don't think its going to be a good year for it

KYhiker40

October 24, 2017, 06:58:54 PM
How are the leaves looking about now? I'm headed to RRG this Friday.

Show 50 latest
27 Guests, 2 Users
 
Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: Trip Report: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area (North Carolina)  (Read 1466 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Mark W

  • Contributor
  • Thru Hiker
  • *
  • Karma: 79
  • Posts: 838
    • My Photo Album of Outdoor Scenery

Trip Report:
Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina
November 22-25, 2012



My initial visit to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, a three-night solo trip in June 2012 (Trip Report here: http://www.kywilderness.com/forum/index.php?topic=6257.0 ), was love at first hike. Enchanting old-growth forest, cascading streams, wonderful single-track trails, superb vistas from Naked Ground and the Hangover -- all those individual features and the overall indescribable charm of the landscape had me planning a return trip before I was finished with the first one. It would be late November, Thanksgiving Day to be precise, before I returned to the area, but it was certainly worth the wait. Adding to the pleasure of the trip was the companionship of my good friend John. Our planned route would be less than 12 miles total over three nights, which would leave us with plenty of time to just sit and be -- having a trip free of hurry and free of worry was our goal, rather than trying to cover as much ground as possible. Our itinerary (or perhaps lack thereof) and adequate gear for the somewhat unpredictable weather we might encounter at the higher elevations in late November allowed us to accomplish that goal.

After a breathtaking drive on the Cherohala Skyway, we arrived at the Jenkins Meadow trailhead parking area shortly after noon. We double-checked our packs and began the short walk down the paved road to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest parking area and the beginning of the Naked Ground Trail. It was a pleasant Thanksgiving Day and we both felt incredibly thankful to be embarking on a three-night backpacking trip. Thankful that we had the physical ability to hike, thankful that we owned sufficient equipment and thankful that we had the social and financial freedom to “disappear” for a few days. And we were particularly thankful that by chance and ultimately by legislation thousands of acres of old-growth forest nestled on the slopes of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world had been preserved for previous, present and future generations.

We set out on Naked Ground Trail at a leisurely pace and exchanged cheerful greetings with the various hikers who were returning to the trailhead parking lot after completing the short loop trail that passes through the most impressive stand of old-growth poplars in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. We had opted to save the loop for the end of our trip when we could hike without our packs and spend as much time as we desired without having to worry about making it to a campsite before dark. On my trip in June, I’d made mental notes about the frequency and quality of campsites along Naked Ground Trail and we arrived at the one I believe to be most ideal well before sunset, allowing us plenty of time to set up camp, filter water and set up a food-hang.


Campsite for our first night near Little Santeetlah Creek

Once the minimal camp “chores” were completed, we spent much of the time before dinner just relaxing by the stream that flowed behind our campsite and engaging in idle conversation. Speculation occurred as to whether or not we should wake up before sunset the next day and try to time our hike so that we reached Naked Ground and the junction with Haoe Lead Trail shortly after sunrise, although no conclusion was reached prior to retiring to our respective tents.

At perhaps 5:45 a.m. I awakened from a restful slumber to John’s soft-spoken morning greeting -- apparently he had made the decision to rise early for both of us. He had also taken it upon himself to retrieve the food and brew a cup of coffee for each of us, which made the wake up call much more bearable on a chilly morning (temperatures were in the upper 20s according to a keyring thermometer). I enjoyed the first few sips of coffee from the comfort of my sleeping bag -- one of the most sublime pleasures of backpacking, in my opinon -- before emerging to reverse the process that I had completed upon arriving at camp the previous afternoon.


Packed up at sunrise

Fully packed and ready to hike at 7 a.m., our boots began the task of moving us along the remaining section of the Naked Ground Trail. The ascent was reasonable for about an hour, but the last mile was as tortuously steep as I remembered it. We reached Naked Ground and the junction with Haoe Lead Trail at approximately 9 a.m. Pausing for a snack and water break, we then continued on the Haoe Lead Trail under mostly sunny skies and a steady breeze towards the Hangover. The trail between Naked Ground and the Hangover was markedly different than when I had hiked it in June; the verdancy of summer had been replaced with the fallen leaves and muted earth-tones of winter.


Haoe Lead Trail

After arriving at the Hangover, we took a long break and soaked up the view -- at times in stunned silence, at times in excited chatter about the beauty of the landscape, and at times in grief-stricken reverence for the thousands of dead hemlock trees we could see in the drainages below, victims of the hemlock wooly adelgid. Aside from setting up our tents, we spent the remainder of the day at the Hangover.


A lounge with a view . . .

The entertainment for the afternoon and early evening was watching clouds and fog roll into the valleys and eventually to the higher elevations -- by the time we retired to our tents after dinner the fog was so thick that visibility was only a few dozen feet. Although it had warmed to the mid-50s during the day, once the clouds rolled in the temperatures dropped to the mid-30s and a light mist was being pushed by the ever steadier and stronger winds. It was really an amazing sight to behold: the mist made the wind gusts visible and it was spellbinding to see the typically invisible force of wind rendered visible. Fortunately, the dense vegetations and rock outcroppings allowed us a spot sheltered from the wind to cook. We enjoyed hot tea and trail mix as a pre-dinner snack, and the soothing and warming effect of the tea was immediate.


Fog


Sheltered kitchen

Shortly after darkness fell and the weather became more damp and windy, we retreated from the Hangover to our tents. Over the course of the night, I learned a valuable lesson about campsite selection. I consider myself an experienced backpacker (over 150 nights, mostly on the Cumberland Plateau) but I made one of the most simple mistakes in choosing where to set my tent up -- I picked the windward side of the crest and paid the price. The site was aesthetically very pleasing. There was just enough opening in the rhododendron to pitch my tent, exposed rock made a visibly interesting backstop; it seemed like an inspiring place to wake up. However, stiff winds hit my tent (Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2.1, for gear nerds like myself) all night and although I had staked my tent out sufficiently, powerful gusts woke me up every hour or so. Combine that with the disagreement between my digestive system and a Backpacker’s Pantry meal for dinner, and it definitely wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in the backcountry.

However, a fitful night’s sleep was a small price to pay to wake up at 5,000 feet in a rhododendron winter wonderland. Frost and a light dusting of snow covered everything outside my tent. The temperature was in the upper teens but the sky was blue and sunny and it warmed up quickly. John and I returned to the Hangover for breakfast and the views were beyond anything either of us had imagined seeing on the trip:


Frost on the mountains


Enjoying the view


Camping in a rhododendron winter wonderland

Rather than packing up and moving on to another campsite, we decided to spend our third and final night at the same location. Other than a trip down Deep Creek Trail to filter water, we just lounged around the Hangover the rest of the day and watched the snow melt. There’s definitely something to be said for being semi-sedentary in the outdoors for extended periods of time. Immersion in the landscape, which is one of my favorite aspects of backpacking, is experienced in a different way when you’re hiking and when you’re just being somewhere. Both have their merits and on this trip we enjoyed the merits of simply sitting and being in awe. There was the awe at the dramatic view and the stunning mountains, but also of the incredible biodiversity that wasn’t readily visible. The streams and vegetations of the southern Appalachian mountains contain such a multitude of species that it is beyond comprehension.

I slept much better the third and final night (I moved my tent to a better location) and we packed up slowly the next morning before enjoying (as much as you can enjoy leaving a beautiful landscape) a leisurely hike to the Volvo via the Haoe Lead and Jenkins Meadow trails.

Three nights was not nearly enough in such a beautiful place, but fortunately we were only out of the woods for a night before embarking on a three-night backpacking trip in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I intend to post a trip report for that hike in the near future.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2013, 05:37:42 PM by Mark W »
Logged

eukeofearl

  • Over Nighter
  • ***
  • Karma: 6
  • Posts: 237
    • Travels and pictures of 'eukeofearl'...aka RoJoYo
Re: Trip Report: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area (North Carolina)
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2013, 08:09:45 PM »

A great read and pics...really enjoyed it.
Logged
"You don't stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing." 
Ben Franklin

matt colvin

  • httpBL whitelist
  • Day Hiker
  • *
  • Karma: 8
  • Posts: 62
Re: Trip Report: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area (North Carolina)
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2013, 05:08:34 PM »

Mark, your use of the written word was beyond effective; I truly enjoyed reading the post and then connecting with your aptly chosen photos.

As I sit here in a classroom in Morehead studying pharmacology on a sunny afternoon, this post helped bring a smile to my face and happy anticipation to my mind as I contemplate my next opportunity to just "get out" some! 

Thank you for the time and thought that you put into this trip report!
Logged

copper creek

  • Thru Hiker
  • *****
  • Karma: 42
  • Posts: 1016
  • I hope my knees hold out
Re: Trip Report: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area (North Carolina)
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2013, 08:59:09 AM »

Thanks for taking the time and effort in posting about your trip.  Sounds like a great time.  Those pictures from up top are fantastic.  Gone is the clutter of human existance.  Looks like a nice place to just be present in the moment.

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.” John Muir
Logged

CheeseyDean

  • Over Nighter
  • ***
  • Karma: 2
  • Posts: 122
Re: Trip Report: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area (North Carolina)
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2013, 01:03:22 PM »

Amazing pics and a good read. We're planning a trip to the Smokies this summer, and stuff like this is whetting my appetite.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2013, 04:06:25 AM by CheeseyDean »
Logged

eukeofearl

  • Over Nighter
  • ***
  • Karma: 6
  • Posts: 237
    • Travels and pictures of 'eukeofearl'...aka RoJoYo
Re: Trip Report: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area (North Carolina)
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2013, 02:52:13 PM »

Amazing pics and a good read. We're planning a trip to the Smokies this summer, and stuff like this whetting my appetite.

Leaving for 4 days of  hiking ths Friday in the Smoky's....can't wait.
Logged
"You don't stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing." 
Ben Franklin

Ewker

  • Over Nighter
  • ***
  • Karma: 5
  • Posts: 141
Re: Trip Report: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area (North Carolina)
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2013, 12:03:40 PM »

really good pics and trip report.  that area is a place i want to go but have never gotten there yet.
Logged
Conquest: It is not the Mountain we conquer but Ourselves

Lizking531

  • Over Nighter
  • ***
  • Karma: 3
  • Posts: 165
Re: Trip Report: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness Area (North Carolina)
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2013, 12:42:31 PM »

Excellent report!  I need to venture out that way - Heck I just need to get out period....      ???
Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
 

Recent

Privacy Policy