Ascent of Big Cataloochee Mountain on 2016-05-13
|Others in Party:||Frank Esposito|
|Date:||Friday, May 13, 2016|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
|Peak:||Big Cataloochee Mountain|
| Location:||USA-North Carolina|
| Elevation:||6155 ft / 1876 m|
Ascent Trip ReportWhy I chose this hike: This loop would allow me to knock out 6 of the "South beyond 6000'" peaks left on my list.
The Plan: Frank and I would leave Hickory around lunch time Friday, to head towards the trailhead. The drive was just over 2.5 hours, along the way we stopped to eat and pick up supplies, we planned to arrive at the trailhead around 5 PM. We planned to spend two nights in the woods to form a loop from Beech Gap Trail to Balsam Mountain Trail to the AT, then to Hughes Ridge Trail, to Enloe Creek Trail, to Hyatt Ridge Trail, and finally on Straight Fork Road back to the truck for about 32 total miles of hiking. We planned to bushwhack to 6 peaks along the way. Big Cataloochee, Luftee Knob, Marks Knob, Tricorner Knob, Mount Chapman, and finally Mount Sequoyah. We planned to do this over a short Friday, long Saturday, and a short Sunday hopefully able to drive home no later than 2 PM Sunday.
Parking: I used google maps and typed in "Hyatt Ridge Trailhead" from here I used a paper map to easily get to Beech Gap Trail Head.
The Hike: We left the truck around 5:20 PM. Along the Beech Gap trail there were quite a few wildflowers, including several types of trillium, Showy Orchis, a single Pink Lady Slipper, and False Solomon's Seal, along with many others I could not ID. This was the highlight of this trail as there were no views or peaks. We hiked on Beech Gap trail for 4.75 miles, this included a short stop near laurel Gap Shelter to filter some water. At the shelter was a guy that IDed himself as "Redwood Randy", you could smell the weed on his breath, seemed to be a fun guy though. He pointed out where the water source was, a grey haired man described it as "quite a haul" to the water. In reality it was fairly short, though steep. This was a solid water source. Upon returning to the shelter we told the guys we planned to continue to Tricorner Shelter (this is not what we did). Redwood Randy warned us that we could be fined $75 per person per night for camping without a permit. We continued. (4.75 miles total)
We took a left onto Balsam Mountain Trail. Soon after the left we bushwhacked to the top of Big Cataloochee Mountain. We dropped our bags for the bushwhack and decided to not bring our headlamps, despite darkness quickly approaching. The bushwhack started off steep and in thick rhododendron. Then there were sections of dead-fall, eventually we reached a flat area where it was difficult to tell if one point was higher than another. We put our foot on a few pieces of dirt that had potential to be the high point. As we started back down to the trail all signs of sunlight disappeared, except for the small amount that reflected off a rock in the sky we call the moon. The moon was half lit. It was a clear night and the moonlight was enough to find ourselves back to the trail pretty comfortably, though we had to move slower. We got back to the trail picked up our bags and continued on the Balsam Mountain trail. After 3.25 miles of hiking (inluding 1.6 miles of bushwhacking) since turning onto the Balsam Mountain trail we decided we had to find a place to camp. We went well out of view from the trail and set up camp. Frank wasn't happy with the area, but ended up admitting he slept well in the morning. (8 miles of total hiking)
In the morning we woke up and packed and were back on the trail by 8:30 AM. I had slept fairly well, though I struggled just a little with cold hands, and a bump that prevented me from sleeping in certain positions. We continued on the Balsam Mountain Trail. At 0.9 miles of hiking I had us on a bushwhack up Luftee Knob, unfortunately I had misread the map and had us off the trail too early. We returned to the trail at 1.1 miles. During this short bushwhack we stopped to eat breakfast. At 1.5 miles we went off the trail again and reached the top of Luftee, we followed a manway back off the top reaching the trail again at 2 miles. The manway was marked on the trail by a stack of rocks, but this is not obvious unless you're very aware of where to look.
We continued on Balsam Mountain trail for about 2.5 more miles, then in a sharp turn we went off the trail towards Marks Knob. We quickly found a manway and dropped our packs. I had read that the "bushwhack" to Marks Knob was terrible. I did not find this to be true, the manway, though unmaintained, was fairly easy to follow. There were several areas of dead-fall were you needed to climb over, under, or around logs. It was a long ways off trail to Marks Knob and back, about 2.1 miles of hiking. Marks Knob is the most secluded 6000' peak in the Southeast. Once we returned to the trail we continued on the Balsam Mountain trail for 1.6 miles. During the bushwhack to Mark's knob the skies turned from blue to grey, you could watch clouds dropping in all directions. Wildflowers were not as abundant as earlier, but trillium still popped up regularly. (7.2 miles for the day, 15.2 total).
Next we wanted to bag tricorner. We took a right on the AT and went less than a tenth of a mile before taking a right off of the AT, dropping our bags and completing a short bushwhack to the top of tricorner. We returned to the AT picked up our bags and headed back south, meeting the junction of the AT and Balsam mountain trail again after only 0.5 miles of hiking (7.7 miles for the day, 15.7 total)
From here we headed south on the AT. Soon we got to the Tricorner Shelter where we refilled water and ate lunch. We sat with a thru hiker at the shelter. He was 66 years old and had started the AT somewhere around 4/20, can't remember the exact date. He shared with us that 2 or 3 shelters down someone had been bit by a bear and the shelter was closed, this did not affect us as we were not going that far. After eating we continued south on the AT, we hiked about 1.3 miles and started looking for a way to get to the top of Mount Chapman. After looking around a bit Frank decided he had had enough of bushwhacking and I went on my own. The bushwhack was straight up hill through a dense forest of small hemlock, fir or spruce. I left my trekking poles and was glad I did, having open hands was useful to hold onto trees as I went up and down from the trail. From the peak was a half decent view of Mount Guyot. Near the top I found a manway, but was unable to follow it back to the trail, so eventually I just cut back down the hill. The bushwhack was a total of roughly 0.2 miles. (9.2 miles for the day, 17.2 total)
After the bushwhack we continued south on the AT toward Mount Sequoyah. Through the net 1.2 miles on the AT the clouds continued to drop. We soon met the point to turn off trail to bushwhack to Sequoyah. The bushwhack was short and simple, but a bit steep. This was my 6th and final peak of the trip. (11 miles for the day, 19 total)
The next 2.4 miles we continued south on the AT. For the first time we came to a point that we would safely expect excellent views from the trail, unfortunately thick clouds had sat down on the trail and nothing but a white wall was visible. The cloud could be seen thrust upon the trail swirling from heavy burst of wind. During a heavy burst of wind you would feel a few drops of rain fall, there were only a couple drops of rain here and there. (13.4 miles for the day, 21.4 total)
During the stints on the AT were the only times we saw other hikers. Many appeared to be AT thru hikers. Most seemed tired and asked how far to Tricorner shelter.
Next we took a left onto the Hughes Ridge Trail, here we officially were headed back down. We seriously discussed shortening this trip to two days here, and pushing for the truck. We knew If we did this we would be hiking well into dark. We kind of agreed that this is what we wanted to aim for, but also said that if one of us decides to stop we at least need to make it to the other side of the Raven Fork River, as we should get there as the sun sets. We made pretty good time on Hughes Ridge. After 4.6 miles of hiking we took a left onto Enloe Creek Trail. (18 miles for the day, 25.6 total)
We took a solid 10 minute break to snack and relax before starting on Enloe. It was getting dark pretty quick, and we reached the crossing for Enloe Creek in late dusk. Rock hopping was possible but I tried to do it with one hand for balance and the other for holding a flashlight. I went in deep enough to get my boots soaked. I held the light as Frank crossed and he made it over successfully. Soon after this we pulled out our dim headlights. Next we reached Raven Fork, the water was roaring and there was a group at the campsite with a large bonfire going. We through up a hand waving, but didn't stop. After crossing Raven fork we started climbing our last big hill, it went on for a long time. finally we met the ridge and continued onto Hyatt Ridge trail after 3.6 miles of hiking. (21.6 for the day, 29.2 total)
Hyatt ridge was moderately steep the whole way, after 20+ miles of hiking it was enough to be fairly painful. We were both ready to see the gravel road. Not much to see here in the dark. We reached the Straight fork Rd after 1.8 miles (23.4 miles for the day, 31 total)
Notes: Part of the drive to the trail head was on a narrow gravel road with sharp switchbacks. Google maps wasn't going to take me this way, but brought it up as an alternate route that was 15 minutes faster.
Skies were supposed to be clear all Friday and Saturday, this didn't happen on Saturday. The few views we would have had were completely blocked by clouds.
I've put all of the stats from this hike under Mount Chapman since it was the high point of the trip.
|Summary Total Data|
| Route Conditions:||Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Stream Ford|
| Gear Used:||Headlamp, Ski Poles, Tent Camp|
| Weather:||Cool, Windy, Clear|
|Ascent Part of Trip: Mark's Knob (1 nights total away from roads)|
Complete Trip Sequence:
Total Trip Gain: 6417 ft / 1956 m Total Trip Loss: 6417 ft / 1956 m
|GPS Data for Ascent/Trip|
GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks: climbed and unclimbed by Bradley R
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.
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