5 Days in the Slickrock Wilderness 5/24 - 5/28
Back by popular demand....
The boys and I haven't been on a long backpacking trip in a while. A few short one nighters, but nothing big. We were supposed to do a big 4 day trip on Forney creek back in March, but was cut short after the first night by a death in the family. So I was determined to get a BIG trip in so 5 days over Memorial Day weekend seemed like a good way to go big. Since Julie was coming along as well, that meant the dogs too, so it was off to the National Forest instead of the Smokies. The plan was to start at Big Fat Gap (3060'), hike to the Hangover (~5200') for views of the sunrise, over to Naked Ground where we would take the Slickrock trail down the second nights camp by the creek. The next day we camp just below Wildcat falls, and though we had planned originally to keep going, we decide to stay at Wildcat two nights, and head out via Big Fat Gap Trail Monday.
We got a late start Thursday, so I didnt get many pictures on the way up. It was getting dark by the time we got near, and since I hadn't been here before and I didn't have time to scout around for the actual "Hangover" we found a campsite on the mountaintop and setup for the night. The next morning, Nolan and I climbed a tree in camp and snapped a few pictures of the sun rising over North Carolina.
Our camp viewed from the tree.
When we were coming down from Naked Ground we passed though another amazingly beautiful azalea bald (which the boys affectionately dubbed "Purple Death Land", and Jack asked if it was possible to die from claustrophobia.) I had to stand on a rock and hold the camera over my head to get this picture. The rest of the trail was a blur of purple, green, and bees.
Then we had the rest of the slickrock trail to get down. There isn't much to say or show about that trail. It is unmaintained, overgrown, steep, miserable, with a couple of steep 6-8' dropoffs thrown in for fun. Somehow though, the boys pushed through it all without a single complaint! We've been on much easier trails that I had to drag them along, I almost thing it was the fact that the trail was so challenging that kept them engaged the whole time. Even going downhill, it was the worst, and most exhausting trail I've ever been on.
We made camp near the confluence of Slickrock and Hangover creeks. The next morning Jack and I went fishing. Jack was the first one to hookup, and I was happily surprised to see that he had caught a brookie on a yellow neversink. I was curious whether brookies existed in the upper Slickrock drainage, and searching online, I never found a definite answer, though i saw opinions both ways. Now I know.
From here we packed up and hiked down below Wildcat Falls. We decided to take it easy and spend two nights there. We found a wonderful campsite, well off the trail. right on the water with plenty of room for all all five of us.
And the boys did what boys do... swam, caught salamanders and crayfish, made hiking sticks with their names carved in them, played stickwars, read books, swung in their hammocks, and ate, ate, ate.
to be continued.....
The next morning, I woke up early before everyone, and went off to go fishing. I just worked the short section up between camp and the falls. The trip was more about family time than fishing, but I had to get a little in. I managed two browns, both 10", which were nice fights on the 3wt. The second one I caught in the tail of the pool below the falls, and for some reason he didn't want to swim off when I released him, so I kept him.
Since we weren't going anywhere, I made a huge breakfast of cheese biscuits with gravy, pancakes, and that brown trout was SOOO good mixed in with the gravy and biscuits.
Jack and I did try some fishing downstream from camp that evening, but neither of us had any luck that round. Didn't matter though, it was still a great time rock hopping up and down the streams, sharing pools, and watching my boy cast to that rock a hundred times refusing to leave because he "just knows there's one hiding on the other side of it." I didn't have the heart to tell him he'd probably spooked the fish to death by now.
Finally Monday morning had arrived, and still none of the boys were ready to go, but we had to. We packed up camp, headed back across the creek, and up Big Fat Gap. The trail was surprisingly easy, but I think all of our expectations of "easy vs hard" trails have been raised since doing the upper slickrock trail.
Wow great report it is cool to have your whole family out backpacking for that long you have some real troopers there JayB. It is good to know there are folks like you out there doing things like this with your kids.
Nice report Jay. I like the family photo.
I left that creek a bit frustrated a few weeks ago.
I will second both Grannyknots and Crocketts comments. Really great report and thanks for sharing. Spending time in the backcountry with family makes it unforgetable.
Great report! It is good to see families out backpacking. You are a blessed man.
We came down Slickrock Creek trail once and only once. It was in 1980 and even back then someone had had carved "Abandon hope all ye who enter here" into the trail sign at the bottom.
Awesome report. I can't wait until my crew is old enough to do that kind of trip,
Outstanding report JayB. What a great time with your family. Those were some nice campsites and fish as well:smile: Thanks for sharing with us all.
I am jealous. I wish that I could have spent that many days on Slick Rock. Those are some great pictures. I was up there the day before you all started your trip. I will make it up to the brookie water some day. Did you happen to see all of the big rocks that someone had managed to balance on their ends? I didn't notice any above Wildcat falls the day that I was up there but, there were some not far below it.
I wish I had more time to fish it more thoroughly, but I enjoyed the time I had. I didn't notice any balanced rocks. We made it down as far as the first crossing below Wildcat, which is less than ~15 minutes on the trail, and worked out way all the way back from there. Did see the big indian cave and all the trees and rhodo that were sliding off the cliffs down into the water in that area. Craziest thing seeing a huge tree sitting rootball first in the middle of the stream, and a big bare spot of rock up on the cliffside.
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