Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The 4th Annual SSPBDT Mancation

The 4th Annual SSPBDT Mancation

Mortimer Campground
Wilson Creek, NC
Thursday, October 22nd thru Sunday October 25th, 2009

Bone Breaker!

Photos are posted here:

The first part of this trip report describes things that occurred prior to my arrival. Therefore, I can not be held responsible for the accuracy of my descriptions as to what actually happened on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Scott M and Steve-O volunteered to arrive at the campground a day or two early to grab the prime spots and set up the massive SSPBDTCTPT (Spartanburg Steel Products Beer Drinking Team Camping Trip Party Tarp). If you have ever seen a SSPBDT tarp erection, it is not a sight you are likely to forget.

The goal for any SSPBDT tarp erection is to get the tarp and supporting ropes, strings, and bungees up high enough to eliminate any potential trip or clothesline hazards. This is accomplished by climbing trees, climbing up steep hillsides, standing on picnic tables, and standing on the roof of Steve’s S-10 pickup. Basically anything we can come up with to string the ropes as high up in the air as we can get.

During the tarp erection, Scott was dragging the main 300-ft support rope up the side of the steep hillside behind the community gathering site. Out of the corner of his eye, he spots a full moon and quickly turns to avoid scarring his eyeballs. Then from behind a hissing white uni-fanged cat leaps out of the woods towards Scott.

Scott darts out the way, still hanging onto the rope that is now wrapped around a Holly Tree. The momentum of his 260 pound body causes him to lose grip of the rope. His right foot lands on a tree root stopping it dead in its tracks. Unfortunately the rest of his body continued down the hillside. A loud popping sound coming from Scott’s ankle was heard for miles.

Thanks to Jeff for providing this highly accurate reenactment of the accident

Steve’s Diagnosis of Scott’s Injury: Sprained Ankle.
Treatment: Large Quantities of Frosty Adult Beverages (FABs)

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

The next day, Jeff and I come rolling into the campground at around 11:00am. We were surprised to find them awake as last year they were both sound asleep when we showed up. Scott was limping around and we were given the story behind Scott’s Injury.

Scott R. (not to be confused with the injured Scott M) was also there with his Kayaking Buddy Steve (not to be confused with Commissioner Steve-O), and Steve’s dog Zipper. They were about to go on a hike to check out the Gragg Prong of Lost Cove Creek. I quickly gathered my hiking gear and took off to join them on their hike.

Since they were planning a shuttle hike, we parked one vehicle at the old schoolhouse at the intersection of NC90 and FR981 and then drove 4.1 miles up FR981 to start the hike. As soon as we started the hike, it started raining.

There was a perfectly good trail, but Steve really wanted to check out the river, so much of the hike was spent off trail. There were some really scenic spots, but with the rain falling, and without an umbrella, photography was very difficult.

Small Waterfall along Gragg Prong

Several fairly impressive waterfalls and cascades can be seen along this stretch of River. It is interesting hiking with Kayakers, as they have cool names for every waterfall, cascade, and rapid. What the waterfall guidebooks call “Upper Waterfall on Gragg Prong” and “Lower Waterfall on Gragg Prong”, the Kayakers call, “Death Drop” and “Drag Strip”.

While standing on top of the “Lower Waterfall on Gragg Prong” I heard Steve say, “Dude, your hiking stick is taking a ride down Drag Strip”. Yup, my hiking pole was now at the base of this 100-ft tall waterslide.

At the Top of "Drag Strip"  Where I dropped my hiking pole!
The rock face along side the falls was way to slick to make it down to the base safely, so we searched for an alternate route. We found a faint path through the woods down towards the base, but this soon became a complete bushwhack. We did eventually get to a spot about 200 yards downstream from the base of the falls. I could see my hiking pole circling around in the pool at the base of the lowest drop.

Downstream from the base of Dragstrip
The sides of the river are a lot slicker than they look!

If it wasn’t raining, it probably would not have been a big deal to walk along the rocks and retrieve my pole. But today the rain made the rocks slick as ice with virtually nothing to hold on to. After almost sliding down into the river, I decide it would be best to shed my pack and camera.

Using methods like the crab crawl and butt slide, I eventually made it to where I could safely retrieve my hiking pole. But I still had to retrace my steps back over the same slick rocks.

Several times, I almost slid into the river again, but eventually made it back to the others and we continued on downstream with all hiking poles intact. The rain started falling harder, so I decided to put the camera away for the day.

Zipper fetching a stick in the Creek
Last photo before putting my camera away for the day

We reached the confluence where Gragg Prong joins up with the main branch of Lost Cove Creek. We were planning to continue following Lost Cove Creek downstream. I was a little concerned because my map did not show a trail heading in this direction. On top of that, my map showed that we would be heading through private property.

We did run into a bunch of private property signs that said things like, “No Hunting, No Fishing, No Horseback Riding, No Motorized Vehicles”, but nothing that flat out said, “No Trespassing”, so we continued on.

I had lost count, but up to this point we had probably crossed the smaller tributary creek about 10 times. I had failed to keep my socks and boots dry about 8 crossings ago, but Steve and Scott’s footwear were still relatively dry compared to mine.

We got to a point where we obviously had to cross this now much larger creek. I just trekked through the knee deep water to arrive at the other side, where I waited and watched the other two cursing up a storm, bushwhacking through some thick brush trying to find a place where they could rock hop across.

They both failed miserably and now their footwear was just as saturated as mine. I turned to Scott and said, “Don’t worry; there are only 8 more crossings to go”.

Actually I had no idea how many creek crossings there would be as up until now, I had no idea a “trail” existed along this section of Lost Cove Creek. It was pretty easy to follow most of the way, but the path kept crossing back and forth over the creek. After each crossing I would say, “Only 7 more to go”…. “Only 6 more to go” …. “Only 5 more to go”

Amazingly, my wild ass guess as to the number of creek crossings was dead on accurate.

After the last crossing we passed by a few private residences and got attacked by a pair of yip yip dogs. For about a quarter mile, these two little beasts were barking up a storm a couple of feet from our ankles. I was amazed at how well Steve’s dog Zipper was able to almost completely ignore them.

While the hike was only about 5 miles, it took us close to 5 hours to complete. And it wasn’t because I was spending a lot of time taking photos. All the bushwhacking, creek crossing, rock sliding, river exploration really slows down the pace.

I was soaked to the bone, but still had a great time. A very enjoyable hike.
Since I was not needed to retrieve the other shuttle car, I decided to minimize the number of wet butts in the cars, and hiked the 2 miles along the road back to the campground.

Me soaking wet after the hike

Back at the campground, Scott M’s ankle was not getting any better. Steve-O prescribed some additional FAB treatment for that evening. According to Scott, “The treatment definitely made me feel better, but my ankle still hurt like hell”

The rest of the evening, things get a little fuzzy. I know that Arizona Guy stopped by with his pair of Dingos, and later Skip from my Carolinas Adventures group showed up at the campground to experience first hand what goes on at SSPBDT events.

Skip was not aware of the SSPBDT guidelines of “A case a day plus a case in case” and quickly depleted his miniscule FAB supply. We are always there to help out a friend in need and tossed a few more FABs his way. Skip even successfully did his first ever beer bong, complete with the customary trumpet blast. Fortunately for Skip, the heavy rain prevented me from pulling out my camera, so there is no official documentation that this actually took place!

Several Mason Jars were pulled from various coolers and passed around the campfire. It was raining like hell at times, but we didn’t notice because we were all under the awesome tarp!

Eventually the SSPBDT members and guests started retiring to their tents. I believe I heard a chicken and a hissing cat outside my tent, but the sounds of rain on the tent and a good buzz quickly lulled me into a sound sleep!

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

It was close to 9:00am by the time I woke up. It had rained pretty hard throughout the night. I had several small puddles of water inside my tent, but for the most part things stayed reasonably dry inside.

I was planning to see if Skip wanted come along and check out some sights with me, but found that he had already left to go exploring. After breakfast, I did the short hike to Thorps Creek Falls. This is a real nice 20-ft waterfall and after the heavy rains the night before, the flow was better than I have ever seen it.

Thorps Creek Falls

Back at the campground, I couldn’t find any takers to go hiking with me. Scott R was heading towards Wilson Creek with his Kayak; Scott M. was in no condition to go hiking and would actually end up driving to Morganton to get some medical care for his ankle. Steve and Jeff would be smokin a Butt all day long and didn’t want to leave the keg smoker unattended for any extended period of time.

I wasn’t in the mood for a long hike, and instead opted to do several short hikes.

Big Lost Cove Cliffs
For some reason I had never hiked this trail before. It’s a moderate 1.5 mile (3.0 mile out and back round trip) hike to a really nice view over the Lost Cove Valley. I would say the Fall Color was near peak making the view even more spectacular.

Jack at Big Lost Cove Cliffs

Upper Little Lost Cove Falls
I had hiked this one last spring, but wanted to check it out with better water flow and with some Fall Color.

This time I decided to save a few miles and actually drive the forest service road most of the way. I am pretty sure I would have been stuck in the mud if it wasn’t for 4x4. During dry times you can probably make it without a 4-Wheel Drive vehicle, but after a heavy rain, I wouldn’t attempt driving this road in a 2WD vehicle!

Upper Little Lost Cove Falls definitely had better flow this time. However, to get the best viewing angles you need to cross the creek. The rain slicked rocks made this very difficult and I managed slip and plunged knee deep into the creek soaking the last of my dry footwear. Fortunately this waterfall is worth getting in the creek for!

Upper Little Lost Creek Falls

I elected to skip continuing on down to Lower Little Lost Cove Creek Falls. That is definitely one that should not be attempted solo! Especially with rain slicked rocks!

Little Lost Cove Cliffs
This is one of my favorite short hikes in the area. You can get out and back to the cliffs in a little less than 2 miles, or you can hike a little of the Forest Service Road making a 3.0 mile loop hike. This was my 3rd visit to Little Lost Cove Cliffs, but my first with near peak Fall Color!

Jack at Little Lost Cove Cliffs

Darkside Cliffs
I had time for one more short hike and this half mile (one mile out and back) trail fit the bill. The view is not quite as good as the ones from Big or Little Lost Cove Cliffs, but still very much worth the short hike.

View from Darkside Cliffs

Back at the campground, most everyone was back including Scott M with a cast on his broken leg. Yes, the leg was actually broken. After last months bust down for bailing out on a SSPBDT poker night, Scott redeemed himself for showing the dedication to return to camp and hang out after breaking his leg! His excuse for missing Poker Night was that he had to mow his lawn. Well, he won’t be able to use that excuse next Poker Night!

Scott's Ankle X-Ray

Also at camp was Rod, who had made his arrival earlier in the day and had brought a large load of firewood. Skip was making himself at home hanging out with my SSPBDT buddies. Jeff and Steve’s butt was smoking away and smelling great!

However, once Arizona guy and his two Dingos showed up, I decided to escape for a little while and get cleaned up. By the time I finished my shower, Arizona Guy was gone and I rejoined the festivities around the campfire.

Scott Hanging out with a cast on his broken ankle

Skip had replenished his FAB supply sometime during the day and informed the team that we had to help make sure his cooler was empty by the end of the night. The SSPBDT is always willing to help out in situations like this!

We played wood-pile Jenga and got an impressive fire going. Unlike the fireproof wood we attempted to burn the previous evening, the stuff that Rod brought actually burned!

At around 9:00pm, Jeff and Steve finally pulled their butt out of the smoker and it was awesome! The mason jars were passed around again, the rubber chicken started doing Beer Bongs, and the white uni-fanged cat made another appearance that evening.

Rubber Chicken Doing a Beer Bong

The White Uni-Fanged Cat and the Rubber Chicken

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

The next morning for the first time in SSPBDT Mancation history it wasn’t raining when we were packing up camp. However, things were still damp enough that we would still have to unpack and let our camping gear air out when we got home.

By 11:00am, we were packed up and heading home.

After a lunch stop at Burger King in Morganton a mystery was solved.

Which way is quicker? Jack’s shortcut around Rutherfordton, or the more traditional way through downtown Rutherfordton?

Steve was right behind me on US221 when I made the turn to start my short cut. Steve elected not to follow. About thirty minutes later while rounding the first traffic circle at the I-26 intersection in Columbus, Steve merges into the circle right behind me. Mystery solved! Although my route is about 6 miles shorter and more scenic, the two routes are identical in terms of time.

Despite Scott’s broken bone, it was another awesome SSPBDT Mancation Camping Weekend! I am sure the tradition will continue!

Additional Photos are posted here:

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