Sat, Apr 4 2009 - Backpacking West Face of Blood Mountain (View Original Event Details)

Trip Leader(s): Jason Hicks, Bob Bunner
Participants:Scott Sweitzer, Bob Bunner, Brian Clark, Pam Irwin, Erica, Terry, Scott Ragland, Lisa Maldonado, Charina

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Write Up:
Top this!  Lots of sunshine after a couple of weeks of rain, an all-out assault by swarms of tiny bugs, a bear raid in the middle of the night, and a great and intrepid group of backpackers.  We started our journey on the Slaughter Creek trail beginning at Lake Winfield Scott.  It has rained most of the past two weeks, including the last few days before our trip, but we were greeted with sunshine as we meandered up the drainage of Slaughter Creek.  During a snack stop, about 2/3 the way to our campsite, we began to notice the proliferation of nat-like bugs swarming around us.  They didn't bite, but were very annoying.  And despite putting on various types of Deet products, nothing seemed to put them at bay.

Undeterred, our hearty group completed our 3-mile trek to our campsite on the AT, about a mile below the summit of Blood Mountain.  After setting up our tents, and enjoying our packed lunches, we marched up to Blood Mountain, where hopefully, the bugs wouldn't be so plentiful.  Our strategy did not work out, a consistent theme throughout our trip.  The bugs were out in force on the summit of Blood Mountain, so we had to develop various anti-bug strategies.  We had to out think the bugs - we were doomed!  Instead, we copied this horrifically geeky ruse of putting a hat on a stick or on an outstretched arm overhead, thinking the bugs only liked hats.  The people who did it claimed it worked, but, come on, where was your dignity.  We enjoyed the views from the Summit for a couple of hours as we all sunbathed at the top of the mountain.  As our stomachs began to grumble, we returned to our campsite. Again, we were doomed!

While some of us believe we are rather cutting edge when it comes to preparing meals in the backcountry, nothing compares to the 7 course meals that Scott Ragland brings to the party.  Sitting around panting, drooling and hoping to get some scraps during the procession of food that Scott prepared, we were all shamelessly begging like dogs for just a taste of Scott's cuisine.   Well, all of us except Erica.  Erica was on her first backcountry adventure and had managed to purloin from her friends her entire backpacking ensemble.  Then she preyed upon Scott's good nature such that she presented herself as the princess posed next to Scott, ready for each course, as we all learned the culinary power of white truffle oil.

After dinner, Scott Sweitzer did the heavy lifting, sawing, and stoking that was necessary to maintain a fire.  Our fire was at the end of the campsite, so we had to sit around in an oval at one end of the fire.  A little wine with dinner, a little wine after dinner, a snort of scotch and everyone enjoyed a rollicking conversation of the latest AOC gossip.  Apparently and regretfully, our little club has become a soap opera and there are many stars in our cast.  

Around midnight, people peeled off from the campsite.  All snuggled up in our sleeping bags, we were suddenly awakened by the loud banging of pots and pans by our fearless Pam Irwin as she attempted to scare off a large bruin, as big as a tent, who had confiscated 2 of our bear bags that had been hanging from a tree.  As they say, the bear was bigger, but Pam was persistent, and eventually our bear moved on to enjoy his 7 course meal elsewhere.  Bob, who had gone to bed early, as he was still in the middle of a trial, and Brian Clark, who was shamelessly standing behind Pam as she attempted to scare away the bear, got up to gather any food or garbage that might still be in the campsite and hung it in case our bear returned.  In what could only be described as an episode from the three stooges, sans Curly, Brian and Bob attempted to hang our stuff on a better branch.  But we broke branches, the bags got caught on a limb that was too close to the trunk, it was dark, we were tired.  Finally, on our 113th attempt at hanging a bear bag, we decided it was good enough.  Lisa had begun a new fire and she and Bob stayed up for the next couple of hours as thru-hikers nearby complained about the volume of our conversation.  What's up with that - Bob and Lisa have never been accused of being too loud.  Around 3:00 PM, Bob said good night to Lisa and we all returned to our tents.  About 20 minutes later, Lisa called out that the bear was back.  Scott saw the bear through a vent in his tent.  Where was Pam!!!!  But the bruin apparently wasn't hungry anymore and did not return the rest of the night.

The next morning, Bob got up early (because he is incapable of sleeping in) and hiked up to the top of Blood Mountain to enjoy the morning views from on top.  As he returned, the camp started stirring.  After a couple of more hours, Erica emerged from her tent, complaining that she didn't get any sleep after the multiple encounters with the bear.  We're all thinking, how can you complain about seeing a bear on your first backcountry experience, when most of us have never experienced a bear in a campsite after 100's of combined backpacking experiences.  Sheesh!  Those persons who had had their food purloined by the bear were given snacks by those whose food survived and we headed out, not on the path we intended along Jarrard Gap, but the way we came in on Slaughter Creek.  We hustled back to our cars, so we could stop and get lunch near the outlet mall.  Ahh, nothing like Mexican after a backpacking trip.

And because of our unique bear encounter, our stories, like the size of the fish that got away, keep getting better and better.

See Lisa's pictures of our trip at:

See Erica's pictures on her facebook page.