Citico Creek Wilderness (TN)

wsp_scott

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May 16, 2016
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Still catching up on photos/blog posts, here is another SE trip

May 20 - 21 2019 (1 night)
2019 bag nights: 3

The weather forecast looked reasonable, i.e. not too hot at higher elevations and not stormy. I had family permission to disappear for a couple nights. So, I decided to check out the Citico Creek Wilderness (TN) which is on the TN/NC border and next to the Joyce Kilmer/Slickrock Wilderness (NC). I've been to Joyce Kilmer a number of times, but never spent much time in Citico Creek.

I started at Beech Gap on the state line and had a short hike to Bob Stratton Bald. The forecast for the bald was lows around 50 and highs around 70, basically perfect hiking weather. I set up my hammock and wandered around a little bit. I had camped here before and was planning on getting water from a small spring on the edge of the bald, but it was mostly dry and muddy. So I hiked back about a half mile to a better spring. Then, I cooked dinner and wandered around some more. A family appeared and ruined my hopes for mid-week solitude, but they were nice and I told them where the good spring was. They ended up camping up in the trees on the edge of the bald and I did not see too much of them.


I laid in my hammock and enjoyed the view for a bit and ...



... waited for sunset ...



... the clouds mostly disappeared, but the sunset was still nice and ...


... I waited for the stars. The milky way was not going to come up for a couple hours and it was close to a full moon, so I wasn't planning on much astrophotography. I was just enjoying the view. I laid in my hammock and watched the moon rise and fell asleep.


It was a little chilly overnight, but I woke to another beautiful day.



Interesting flower


I wanted to explore the wilderness and had plans to hike north on the Fodderstack Trail and loop back on other trails over the next couple of days. There is a waterfall (Old Goat Falls) mentioned in the guidebook for the area, so I headed down the North Fork of Citico Creek to find the falls. I did not have the book with me but I knew it was close to the Fodderstack Trail. It was only about a mile down the trail, but it ended up being ~1000' lower. The falls weren't that impressive/not worth hiking down for, but once I was there I decided to keep heading lower and then would connect with another trail to head further into the wilderness.

Old logging/railway stuff


The trail is pretty easy to follow, but a little overgrown ...


... and as you get lower, the trail gets wetter ...


... and wetter. Unfortunately, as I dropped further down from the ridge, it also got a lot warmer. Instead of low 70's, it was more like mid-80s and very humid.


I was beginning to regret dropping off the ridge and then I saw this in the middle of the trail. I still hate snakes.


And then not much later I slipped and fell on a rock crossing in the process banging up my knee and opening a nice cut on my shin. And then, I saw another snake (different species).

At this point, I was soaked with sweat, my knee and ankle hurt and I had blood dripping down my shin. The good news was I had not seen anyone since I left the bald, the bad news was I was not having much fun. I looked at the map and realized that I could connect the North Fork with the South Fork and aim back towards the car and I could make a stay or leave decision later. As I got closer the the lower trailhead/intersection the bugs began to get worse and that pretty much made up my mind.

There was a stretch with a lot of mountain laurels blooming, so that made me happy, but the bugs made them hard to really enjoy.


I went from the North Fork Citico to the South Fork Citico to the Jeffery Hell Trail and then to the road and walked the road the last 1.5 miles and 500' up. All in all it made for a long day ~17 miles and ~ 5000' down and 4000' up. I was very happy to see my car, but then had to drive the 4 hours back home. A very long day. I decided that late fall through early spring is my ideal time for this area. I'd rather deal with cold and wet vs. hot and humid. And the snakes are all hibernating :)
 

BJett

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May 3, 2013
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Old Goat is best after a good rain, or winter into early spring. Of course the creek crossings are much more epic then :)
 
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That is a serious dayhike - especially in the humidity. I chuckle whenever people say there is no challenging trail elevation climbing out east....

Remember, snakes eat the mice. I had a mouse chew a huge hole through my tent a year or two back. Personally, I think snakes are beautiful. Especially the well fed ones. And btw, I think I have encountered impressive-sized Timber Rattlers &/or Copperheads every time I have hiked or backpacked in the Slickrock/Citico. Great place to see them.

Late May, huh? Did you see a lot of ticks? The big giant one? Last time I backpacked there during late May of 2018, we encountered more ticks than I have ever seen anywhere. In fact, more ticks on that one 3-day trip than the total of all the 50 years of hiking prior to that. HUGE ticks too.
 

wsp_scott

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May 16, 2016
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That is a serious dayhike - especially in the humidity. I chuckle whenever people say there is no challenging trail elevation climbing out east....

Remember, snakes eat the mice. I had a mouse chew a huge hole through my tent a year or two back. Personally, I think snakes are beautiful. Especially the well fed ones. And btw, I think I have encountered impressive-sized Timber Rattlers &/or Copperheads every time I have hiked or backpacked in the Slickrock/Citico. Great place to see them.

Late May, huh? Did you see a lot of ticks? The big giant one? Last time I backpacked there during late May of 2018, we encountered more ticks than I have ever seen anywhere. In fact, more ticks on that one 3-day trip than the total of all the 50 years of hiking prior to that. HUGE ticks too.

Yeah, I laugh inside every time I hear someone dismiss hiking in the southeast. I think it is largely because the elevations are so low relative to out west, but 2000 to 6000 feet is a serious climb especially if the heat/humidity is pounding on you.

I know that snakes eat mice, but I never see mice on the trail :) I have had some nibble on my pack near shelter and such, but better than snakes. I've never seen a rattler or copperhead in Joyce Kilmer or Citico Creek in 6 or 7 trips, but I've seen photos of them, so I know they are there. When I see them, I don't kill them, but I'd rather just hike past and not notice them at all (as I'm sure I have done multiple times).

I think I picked a couple ticks off my legs, but they have not stuck in my memory, so I don't think they were too bad.
 

OwenM

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I decided that late fall through early spring is my ideal time for this area. I'd rather deal with cold and wet vs. hot and humid. And the snakes are all hibernating :)
For sure. I don't get that far east, coming from AL, but am all over the Cumberland Plateau fall through spring.
Summer? I can sweat my butt off and see dry waterfalls a lot closer to home, thanks!
 
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