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Topic: Trip Report: Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, Three-night trip June 2013< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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markweth Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 02 2013, 9:40 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Last month I went down to western North Carolina for a three-night backpacking trip in the Joyce Kilmer-Slirckrock Wilderness. I’d made two prior trips to the area in the past year and was eager to share the intense natural beauty of the area with a friend who has accompanied me on several backpacking trips.


Trail junction.

When we hit the trail we knew from the sky as much as the weather forecast that it would not be if we would get rain but when. The when came at the most ideal moment possible. After hiking at a brisk pace for about two miles, and hearing rumbles of thunder and feeling scattered drops of rain, we established camp at our intended site. I had barely gotten the small, lightweight tarp used for our dining shelter set up when the rain started, the skies darkened and a nearly hour-long thunderstorm of moderate intensity began. It was definitely worth the extra weight (perhaps 10 ounces, between the tarp and stakes) to be able to sit under the tarp and engage in idle conversation while actually watching and experiencing the thunderstorm rather than being confined in our separate tents.

Once the thunderstorm moved along we filtered water from the noticeably fuller and swifter creek nearby and proceeded with the other camp chores, like hanging the bear bag and -- nearly as important -- hanging the hammocks that we would relax in before and after dinner. It was the after dinner hanging that proved especially enjoyable; an abundance of fireflies provided an excellent light show that captured our attention and was imminently more enjoyable, and required considerably less effort, than a campfire. Nothing short of packing in and powering randomized blinking Christmas tree lights could replicate the mesmerizing ambience created in the dark of the forest by those insects. We alternated between listening to music and allowing the sounds of the stream to prevail, spending the rest of the evening absolutely enchanted. It took a great deal of determination to rise from the hammocks and head to the tents. Exchanging a hammock and light show for a sleeping pad and sil-nylon separation from the night was a neccesity we begrudgingly accepted.

The next day we made the steep climb from our campsite to the crest of the ridge where the campsites we would stay at for the next two nights was located. Upon reaching the crest, we made a detour to a nearby bald which had some azalea beginning to come into bloom.


Azalea blooming at a bald at approximately 5,300 feet.

We then began the three mile hike to where we would set up camp for the next two nights. Although I typically prefer to camp further off the trail, the location of this campsite makes it difficult to resist. It’s relatively sheltered by trees and is only a few hundred feet from a spectacular overlook.


A hiker enjoying a vista of the wilderness as twilight settles across the landscape.


View into the Slickrock Creek basin.

We enjoyed dinner and several hours of stargazing at the overlook before heading to bed with a plan of waking up in the morning and descending to a creek for a day of creekwalking.


Off-trail waterfall.


Negotiating a particularly tricky section of creek. A deep hole requiring a swim to get to the other side and continue down the creek was at the bottom of this sluice.


Creekwalking.

The descent and climb back up (about 1,600 feet over two miles) was more rugged than I recalled it being on my trip the previous year and, in hindsight, was perhaps a more strenuous excursion than either of us would have liked for a “vacation”. Live and learn, I suppose.

We woke on the last day of our trip early enough to enjoy the sunrise and packed up after breakfast. Our hike out of the woods was the easiest hiking we had done since the first day of our trip and the blooming azaleas and mountain laurel punctuated an already scenic hike with bursts of color.


Overgrown is not an understatement.


It was nice to see colors other than green or brown after hiking through overgrown trails for a few hours straight.

Despite the rugged, overgrown trails (or perhaps because of them) the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness is one of my favorite places for backpacking. The old-growth forest and mountain streams are superb and make for an inimitable atmosphere. The views from the ridges are breathtaking and campsites are cozy and, if properly planned, are as conveniently located for loops as any “official” backcountry trail and campsite system I’ve encountered.

However, one of the most enjoying aspects of my visits to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness is the solitude. On this trip, for example, we encountered 8 other hikers -- all on Friday -- on a Thursday to Sunday with ideal weather for mid-June and shrubbery in bloom. Most of our hiking was done on official trails and our campsites were on popular trails near popular point-of-interest. In the Smokies or the Red River Gorge, we likely would have seen more people in four hours than we did in four days. Hopefully, the uncrowded charm of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness will last as long as the giant tulip poplars that line its trails.

That said, I would be happy to share more detailed information about my trip (i.e. trails, campsites, etc.) with anyone who is planning a trip to the area. Feel free to PM me on here and I will do what I can to help you out.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 02 2013, 9:59 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

very nice. what creek did you guys head down?

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 02 2013, 1:52 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

QUOTE
However, one of the most enjoying aspects of my visits to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness is the solitude. On this trip, for example, we encountered 8 other hikers -- all on Friday -- on a Thursday to Sunday




i've been out the last 8 weekends, and only have seen people on maybe 3 of those weekends......

however, one of those weekends, i did run (or rather they ran into me) a group of 22 scouts....

but, for the most part, i've been by myself on the trails...

i have run into Tipi at a trailhead, and last weekend ran into a guy who was doing the BMT.......

i was surprised that this past weekend i didnt see anyone on the stretch of slickrock creek that i did (from stiffknee to big stack gap branch).........
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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 02 2013, 4:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(ashepabst @ Jul. 02 2013, 9:59 am)
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very nice. what creek did you guys head down?

Deep Creek. The trail from the ridge to the creek was much worse than I remember it being last year.

There were some other very pretty sections of that creek that pictures don't do justice. Lots of small drops, sluices, vibrant moss, etc.


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kevinumberger Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 02 2013, 5:34 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

ahhhhhhh.....

deep creek....

i really enjoy that trail a few weeks ago also coming down from the hangover........

ya'll musta walked right down the creek instead of using the trail as i dont remember tricky crossings like one in photo.....
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markweth Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 03 2013, 10:27 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah, Deep Creek Trail definitely didn't impress my friend too much. I kind of like it though. It's got it's own special charm to it, but is also probably the trail that makes me most nervous about rolling an ankle due to the poor tread.

And yes, we intentionally left the trail to check out some waterfalls that I had scouted out last time. We dropped down into Deep Creek and then hiked upstream to the confluence of Deep Creek and two other unnamed streams, after which point there creek narrowed so much to where there wasn't much creek to hike.

I'd really like to creekwalk Deep Creek downstream of where the trail crosses it. There's a lot more water in it there and it sounds like there are some nice falls and cascades from the trail. But then again my ears always seem to hear the imagined 25-foot waterfall and not the rhododendron choked, boulder-jammed creek that has lots of water but no one main attraction.


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kevinumberger Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 03 2013, 5:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

yeah.......the stream is a little wider after one crosses the bridge down there....

the trail parallels the stream for a bit, before turning away from it......

a good overnighter would be to hike in deep creek trail to the campsite just after the bridge, stay there, and then check out the lower part of the creek.....
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paula53 Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 12:05 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks  for posting this trip report.  I have read about the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness,  but I have never been in that part of the US.  The pictures were beautiful. The greenery, unbelievable. So beautiful.
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markweth Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 9:31 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(kevinumberger @ Jul. 03 2013, 5:25 pm)
QUOTE
yeah.......the stream is a little wider after one crosses the bridge down there....

the trail parallels the stream for a bit, before turning away from it......

a good overnighter would be to hike in deep creek trail to the campsite just after the bridge, stay there, and then check out the lower part of the creek.....

That was actually our exact plan for this trip. I had planned on us spending the first night along Naked Ground Trail, second night up near the Hangover, and third night down along Deep Creek with the majority of the day spent walking the creek. Then hiking Deep Creek Trail to Haoe Lead Trail and out to the trailhead via Jenkins Meadow Trail.

I ended up altering the plans a bit to fit my hiking partner's ambition, ability and energy, so we ended up only making it a day trip down to Deep Creek -- but it was one rough day going down and then back up AFTER putting ourselves through the wringer walking a section of the creek.  I was really hoping to get to explore the creek below the bridge; maybe next time. I'm hoping to be able to get down there once more before it gets too cold to swim/creek walk but if not it will have to wait for next year.

I think we ended up making the right call though to stay two nights up near the Hangover. It was my friend's first time seeing a view like that and actually being up in the mountains, and he was in no hurry to leave a campsite with such an awesome view nearby. I think there would've been a mutiny if I'd insisted we keep with our original plan.  All our previous trips together had been in the Big South Fork or Daniel Boone National Forest, with one poorly planned trip to the Smokies where we camped near creeks and never got above 1,700 feet in elevation. That trip was where we both caught the creekwalking bug, so I guess it wasn't a total loss!


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PostIcon Posted on: Jul. 05 2013, 2:41 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

yeah.......you really cant beat the campsite up near hangover for a newbie......

take him out to stratton bald next time.......

not as great as views as hangover, but still well worth it....
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