Re: Slick Rock Creek
I just returned from a 2-night stay in the Slickrock Creek Wilderness Area. We went in on the Slickrock Creek Trail, which begins at the parking area below Cheoah Dam. When we used the trail in the early '80s, it was very safe and not terribly difficult. NO LONGER! IMHO it is no longer safe for backpackers. There are several landslides and deadfalls. I was very concerned for my wife's and my physical safety. Things got worse after we turned away from the lake to go up the creek. The trails have been heavily damaged by flooding. There are at least 2 points where the trail goes across a rock face, and those places have been torn up. There are no longer any footlogs, and there are two fords between the lake and the Yellowhammar Gap trail junction. We met a younger couple on the trail, and the guy said that he considered the Slickrock Creek Trail to be one of the most technically demanding in the area. From what I have seen, I agree. It is not just physically hard, as a steep trail would be, but also demanding of one's skills as a backpacker. Unless you are very confident of your abilities as a backpacker, I suggest that you avoid using the Slickrock Creek Trail between the Ike Branch junction and the Yellowhammer Gap junction. It is really quite risky in places if you're carrying a heavy pack. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
We went out on Yellowhammer Gap and Ike Branch Trails. Both were relatively safe after Slickrock Creek, but Ike Branch is very steep for the last 1/2 mile or so. It crosses a lot of contour lines in a very short distance. Tough to go uphill with a heavy pack.
The only trail I would feel reasonably safe on now is the Big Fat Gap Trail. The problem with that trail is that it is steep, but it is relatively short . It joins the Slickrock Creek Trail higher upstream. You can pick a campsite, and then move up and down the Creek without the balance problems that a heavy pack creates.
We saw a Forest Service employee at the Cheoah Ranger Station. I told him about the dangers on the Slickrock Creek Trail. His reply? "It's wilderness." It's wilderness alright, but the trail has become nearly impassable and certainly dangerous because of the "It's wilderness" philosophy. In defense of the Forest Service, I'm sure that they don't have much money and fewer volunteers than the Park Service for trail maintenance.
You asked about the fishing? I was so beat after getting to the Yellowhammar Gap junction, and relieved that neither of us were injured, I didn't even want to fish. We were so glad to get out of there without getting injured that we took the Cherohala Skyway, avoiding all the motorcyclists on 129, and went home. Heading for the Jacuzzi!