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Pappyhighlife
2009-06-22, 11:41
1330 hours: So as not to waste a camp I decided to drive to Morganton NC, 150 miles and then camp at the Skull. As my journals reflect The Skull is a campsite up near Table-Rock Mountain that I named five years ago. It has a small creek running through it, and one day by myself I was washing some dishes about dusk when something white flashed in my peripheral vision, I stood up when I saw the huge white teeth going for my ankle. Well I screamed like a child and did a high jump and threw my empty pot at the evil creature.

In the failing July night I realized the creature was just an old skull and on closer examination of the medium football size cranium I determined it was that of an old sow deer. Hence the name Skull Camp I kept that old skull in my office naming it Matilda for many a year as a reminder of what happens upstream doesnít necessarily stay upstream, and I drink that water.

I arrived at the trailhead about 1600 hours and began the twisting drive up Table Rock Mountain. Going up the just over one car road I met a black SUV coming down. The person was driving too fast and nearly hit me head on (That was a rush!). The kid stopped just in time and we were able to squeeze past each other exchanging dirty glances. Under the canopy it was getting dark and I had nine miles of dangerous narrow gravel road to go to get to Skull camp. Knowing more stupid rookie campers might be coming down the mountain I turned on the Jeeps headlamps. The shear drop-offs to my left fell several hundred feet straight down I figured the trees would break a fall or at least slow down the descent if one of these tenderfeet were to knock me of the road. The foliage was so thick that I couldnít see much of the road in front. Then it began to rain.

1645 I found the camp but nearly missed the cut-off where the Steel Creek sign is and because of the vegetation I nearly missed the camp cut off. I started down the steep trail to camp and the Jeep began sliding in the mud, it was as slick as the Virginia mud trails earlier in the day. So I actually sort of slid into the camp 4X4 and all. Another little Rush, Whew!

Thunder was rumbling off in the distance. The camp again was grown over with vegetation it was so thick I couldnít see the smaller campsite adjacent to Skull nor the small creek. The heat was oppressive at 90 degreeís the humidly so thick in the air it could be cut with a dull knife. The first thing I noticed in this wet environment was the bugs, mosquitoes mostly, but flies and gnatís galore and some creatures I couldnít really identify.



The rain was dripping down through the canopy and I was dog-tired on top of the Virginia ordeal I had just driven 300 miles in an old Jeep Wrangler (1997) Not built for interstate travel, not to mention the rock crawling that was done on the old deteriorating Dugspur, VA logging roads. First order of business was setting up the HH and in true fashion I had it set up in minutes, the thunder was right on top of me and the fly was not set. I only had a few commercial stakes with me and no time to make additional ones, fortunately there were some small trees and shrubs close by, which allowed me to tie and secure the fly sides. The HH hammock needed to be tweaked, but there was no time. The skies were dark as night the wind was up and it was raining even harder now.

I keep an old ďWally WorldĒ camouflage tarp in the Jeep 10X10 so I strung a line using paracord between two trees and threw the tarp over the line. I keep an additional 100 feet of paracord in my pack cut into 20-foot lengths (That I never cut). Using these lengths and some large rocks as anchors I was able to string up a protective shelter tying off one side of the tarp to trees making a porch lean-to type of configuration, bugs and all. The wind was blowing in from the Northwest the tarp was set accordingly tight and right. The HH was empty and swinging about so I placed my ALICE in it to weigh it down.

1730 hours I was about set up almost. Soaking wet from rain and sweating on top of that, I had broken one of the cardinal rules and allowed myself to get wet. If I didnít change out of the wet clothes, well come about 0-Dark-30 the temps will drop and Iíll be cold and miserable. Anyway for now I was protected from the rain and so were the bugs that were under the tarp with me. So I broke out the deet and sprayed it liberally about, didnít seem to deter the spiders or woods roaches crawling about.

I really felt like I was in a tropical rain forest instead of the Foothill Mountains of western North Carolina. In years past this area was usually in drought condition or close to it. But with all the real heavy rain weíve had since the first of the year, the area has taken on a rich lush tropical rain forest look and feel. A bit intimating to be embraced by this claustrophobic surreal setting in which one canít see 30 feet in front of ones face without facing a green obstacle of sorts blocking the vision. The creek can no longer be seen even though I can hear it just past the dense fauna.

I was glad to have the Jeep Wrangler so close because I have luxury items stored in the back just for occasions like these. For example there were two campstools one I could use as a chair the other a table and there were extra canisters of butane for the MSR Pocket-Rocket. With which a simmering spaghetti sauce would be the basis for the evening meal. I hung my camping candle lantern over the cooking stool, the bugs didnít like that candle it must have burned there nasty little asses when they tried to land on it so for the most part they kept away.

I got this recipe from a gentleman who owns Mini Bull Design his name is Tinny and he is an eccentric fellow that builds strong alcohol stoves from believe it or not beer cans and heís a real joy to watch on You-tube. You take a heaping tablespoon of tomato powder and a heaping tablespoon of McCormickís spaghetti sauce mix and add one cup of water. Which makes a good base sauce to which I double the recipe making two cups then adding re-hydrated gravel (Dried Hamburger) dried tomatoes, raw sugar, salt and pepper garlic, olive oil and a little shelf staple parmesan cheese which is added in last. But first I cook the elbow macaroni Ĺ cup in this case. I can brew the tomato gravy slowly so that the spices marry nicely; after all I have the extra luxury of spare fuel tanks.
Last I make of hunk of Bannock bread to sop up the sauce with. Even the bugs liked it. And excellent meal was devoured by all this night.

I should add here my food stores consist of homemade dry ingredients the last few years Iíve been into FBC Freezer Bag Cooking. My entire food supply is kept in a covered clear plastic shoebox thatís stored in my backpack and it mostly consists of dehydrated food beef, and veggies and powders like potato flakes, milk, flour sugar bullion cubes and such. The basic 3-pound load will last 3 days and can be stretched out to 6 days.

Spaghetti Hamburger brown gravy and mash potatoes Grill cheese tortilla Veggie soup Chicken soup with real chicken chunks Beef stew / dumplings
Beef Mac Shepardís pie vegetables- beef- mashed potatoes Fried rice with beef
Tuna salad Pan fried fish, fried in cornstarch w Mac & Cheese Cream beef /Bannock
Sloppy Joe Angel hair pasta with olive oil Ė Parmesan cheese SOS and Bannock

This is a quick sampling of what can made in camp sometimes using just a canteen cup. The meals are simple and filling, clean up is quick. Plus itís very light-weight to pack in.




2030 hours the rain had stopped the dishes washed and stored back in there rightly place,
I decided to tweak the Hennessy and giver her a test lay down. However exhausted from the dayís events I promptly fell asleep and at 2330 hours painfully waking up with leg cramps from the dropping cooler tempís and my stupid diabetes so the doctors say. It was black this night humid under the canopy of the forest, but a cool breeze was starting to blow from the north. I suppose I could have made a fire I have the know-how and equipment to do so, but not the energy so a nice cup of hot chocolate cooked on the Pocket-Rocket will have to do.

Its midnight and there is a cool mist settling in the canopy like a heavy fog blanket wrapping around the trees. As the temps drop so do the pesky bugs, however the tranquil lightening bugs takeover, and with no Dragons to slay this night, I light a cigar and just sit on the Jeeps rear bumper for a bit and simply enjoy the peaceful North Carolina night. Puffing on an expensive Macanudo that my son bought for me I listen to the drone of a far-away single engine plane and then the commercial jetís; break the stillness of the night flying so very high. I never heard jetís fly above before here in these mountains and I wondered to myself this world is morphing from the teachings that I was taught as a young man into something I know absolutely nothing about. The world has become cluttered including my skies my mood darkens for a time.


Then I ready the Hennessey for sleep by placing the close-cell pad at an angle lay down the poncho crawl in cover my self with the protective poncho liner and itís a wonderful quiet, peaceful sleep undisturbed not by bugs, cold, Bears or even a call from nature.

Pappy