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Pappyhighlife
2006-11-09, 15:45
My 28 year old son and I started on October 27th 2006 The objective goal was to drive North of Morganton North Carolina to I-40 west from Charlotte to Morganton then north on hwy 181 to Clay St (Left) which is the dirt access road that leads up to Table Rock Mountain just south of Linville Gorge you will see a National Park sign as soon as you turn on the right. This land has been dedicated for annexation to the National Park system to eventually become part of Pisgah National Forest.

As you drive west on this winding dirt road that leads up to the Table Rock trail you past numerous trails that lead to various primitive camp sites of which most all have access to water. A few hundred feet from the Table Rock Foot Trail sign is a
Fire road and another large sign that says Steel Creek trail that was our stop point.

We made our camp at a primitive site near the trail head with the intention of exploring the large creek and maybe do some fishing the next day. (We have rods light weight that collapse and fit in a 10 inch bag)

This is where I really appreciate my Jeep Wrangler it gets me into some good spots and it has all my base camp gear everything from a Dutch oven to camp chairs. Setting up the base camp in a very secluded, seldom used campsite with a nice creek running through it. First on the agenda was setting up my Explorer HH I donít use the tree wraps anymore because I found by running the ropes through a thick rubber tube in this case an old garden hose I can get better stability from the HH, no sagging and the hammock holds itís position better. I line the inside with my poncho liner secure it with some tape and put my bag in. The low temperature this time of year is only between 45 to 50 F. I learned last year that the rain tarp has got to be put on a certain way so as not to get wet during a rain storm so I marked the tarp with a sharpie indicating the proper positioning takes the guess work out and is faster to set up.

The only event that night was about 10:PM when a group of drunken ďtrunk monkeysĒ tried to bush hog their way into a campsite near us, they got their city pick up truck stuck on a log and it took them 45 minutes to unstuck it, they finally decided they had enough and ex-filtrated our AO. Since we seldom use a campfire they never even knew we were there watching them. It was a good laugh watching their antics.

The next morning I woke at dawn and began making my famous mountain man breakfast in the Dutch oven: Eggs, hash browns, and sausage layered then covered with a coat of melted cheddar cheese, served with toasted bagels. Uhhmmmmm.
With our bellies packed and the base camp gear secured we headed out with the intention of spending the night by the creek, but that didnít work out to well. The Steel creek trail splits just inside the trail head, common sense would dictate we take the lower trail, but since it seemed pretty overgrown I made a command decision to take the upper trail which was more open. I was humping my A.L.I.C.E. which weighs in at about 42 lbs, my son JJ who is 6.5 and 300 lbs was humping his Becker patrol ruck at just shy of 60lbs. About two hours into the hump of going up steep inclines I realized I had screwed the pooch, we could hear the river running loud, but could not see it the canopy was so thick and we were still climbing and it was getting hot and the bugs were swarming. We carried little water as we were supposed to be at the river, the trail went from about four feet wide to three then two at one point the trail was less then eighteen inches wide with a shear drop down the mountain. We did come up on a large granite rock that had a cold stream of water bubbling from itís top like a baby waterfall, we hugged the trail wall and took turns drinking the ice cold water until we had our fill, then we filled our empty canteens and nalgene bottles couldnít get to our MSR water filters, trail was to narrow to pull them from the packs we just drank. We estimated we had gone about eight miles and trying to continue to the river was futile, we were only pulling about one mile every thirty minutes due to the terrain, so we turned back.

About two hours later we came upon a cut off trail that headed up the mountain we had passed it earlier. JJ decided to recon it we needed a flat area to rest, the hump had burned off the big breakfast and we were getting hungry. Ten minutes later JJ called down to me, come on up Pop there is a huge flat meadow up here. After an exhausting climb I came up on the meadow simply beautiful maybe thirty meters long and twenty meters wide grassy with no trees. Momma I was home!
We set up our hammocks in the chair position broke out the MREís and had a great lunch. JJ spotted some black course hair matted down to the ground in a patch about six by six and asked me what it was, I was too beat to pay much attention and said maybe an animal died there.

I was taking a little nap when I woke with a jolt it just dawned on me that the friggin hair was bear hair, On closer examination I realized that the patch of hair was a bears day bed and a big bear it must be, mother of Mike did I feel like a jerk, at 53 years old Iím supposed to know better, it was like arresting someone and not doing a weapon pat down, just STUPID. We scanned the treeís figuring the bear maybe was hiding; I also found soft brown blondish hair indicating the bear probably had cubs.
We had been here over two hours, I decided it was time to bug out, two hours later we were back at the fire road base camp. If you find yourself in North Carolina at Table Rock mountain and you come up on the Steel Creek Trail remember take the lower leg.

bird dog
2006-11-09, 18:15
Pappy, Good Report. I cant wait till it gets warmer, and taste that "famous mountain man breakfast" you fix. Just maybe I will happen to be on the same trail as you by coincidence!

Good report. The Gorge is infamous for swallowing people. Even seasoned packers get lost thier pretty often because the trails are primitive and not marked well. I found that the trails are especially hazardous since the forest fire in 2000 that has not been completely cleaned up yet. At one point on the Conley Cove trail, a VERY LARGE tree had fallen over the trail. The tree was teetering over the narrowest part of the trail (maybe 18 inches) and you had to go over it, but couldnt wrap your hands all the way around it.

Nice call on the bear nest. No search incident to arrest? I'll have to keep my eye on you after that mountain man breakfast next year.

No matter what happens in the woods, its always better than being in the city! Good report, enjoyed it.

BD