Backcountry Camping

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COTrained26
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Backcountry Camping

Post by COTrained26 » Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:22 pm

Hey, everyone. I know backcountry camping is allowed, for a small (very small) price, but i was wondering who had done such before in the Red? Two other friends and i have decided that we wanted to spend a night or two away from the crowds and camp in as much seclusion as possible, but my experiences at the Red are limited to climbing, thus i was hoping someone more familiar with the overall lay of the land could point me in a direction so i could purchase a USGS Topo and be prepared for a couple of nice days camping out! Thanks in advance!

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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by pkananen » Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:07 pm

It can be hard to find a flat spot for tents. You may have to bushwhack a lot. I once found a small stream that flowed underground as a limestone cave, with enough room to crawl in it for a hundred feet. It's fun, but you'd be surprised how hard it is to really feel like you're in the backcountry because the gorge isn't that big and there are a lot of loud party campers. Try hiking in Clifty Wilderness for some cool spots.

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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by toad857 » Wed Jun 22, 2011 10:46 am

Yes, clifty wilderness is more secluded than the popular trails that run right through the middle of the red.

When planning for a camping spot, here's what you can do: hike a trail that follows a creek or river... when the trail leaves the creek and heads uphill, keep following the river farther into the drain. That's where the best, flattest, most secluded camping spots are... and they're away from the trails.

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Jeff
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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by Jeff » Wed Jun 22, 2011 12:29 pm

For topos:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/boone/maps/#topo

Or you can stop by FS HQ in Winchester.

COTrained26
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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by COTrained26 » Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:55 am

Thanks for the suggestions! I just ordered the Pomery Quad and will be studying it before our upcoming trip! Thanks again.

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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by TradMike » Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:10 pm

Top of Cloud Splitter doesn't see much traffic. A unique place as well. Just don't roll in your sleep.

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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by heath » Fri Jun 24, 2011 1:44 pm

The ridge at the top of Eagles Nest is nice and there is some good climbing out there. You'll also be real close to Wall of Denial.
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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by Barnacle Ben » Fri Jul 01, 2011 6:37 pm

Auxier Ridge is incredible and has flat spots but is also popular. Take either courthouse trail, or hike the tunnel ridge road past the point where it's closed to vehicles. Plenty of spots with mind-blowing views.
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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by COTrained26 » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:04 pm

Well, camping was an experience this weekend, and that is putting it mildly. We climbed way to late on Saturday evening (until ~ 8:00) in Muir and then made our way to Clifty Wilderness. By the time we pared at the Wildcat Trailhead it was 8:30 and darkening fast. I was a little worried but according the USGS Quad i had of the area there were a few flat spots just down the trail half a mile or less. WRONG! I didn't see these spots and the TOPO misrepresented which direction the trial traveled in the beginning. Upon studying the trail map located in the parking lot the next day i saw how the trail was portrayed as following the road for a ways (which it does) instead of head directly away from the road like it says on the Pomoyerton Quad.

Anyways, eventually my friend and i decided to drop our packs and run down the trail a ways to see if we could see an reasonable places to set up camp. We probably went down the trail about 3/4 of a mile or so and didn't see anything, so we turned around and met up with the rest of our group (4 of us in all). When we got back to where we left them, the two we left back on the trail were talking to a group of 5 people who declared that they were camped about 1 1/4 miles down the trail and that it was flat with some running water. At this point, it was 9:10 or so, so we told them thank you and decided to push on towards where they were staying. They probably got a jump of about a minute or so on us while we were shouldering our packs and heading down the trail again. Two of us took off down the trial pretty quickly so we could catch up to them and made sure we knew where we were going. Well, we never did catch up to them. I still have no idea where this group went off to, but i never saw any of them again that evening or the next morning.

Eventually, we began to descend fairly quickly and i was starting to get my hopes up again. I figured the trail was leading us to the bottom of the valley where we could find some flat spots to pitch our tents. I wasn't sure about this assumption because it was nearly 9:45 and i couldn't see anything except what my headlamp was illuminating, but i was pretty confident. About halfway down we spotted a sign that pointed back the way we came and say that Wildcat trail was what we had just traveled (we knew that much) and it also said something about Rock etc trail going off in another direction. I was pretty sure from what i remembered about looking at the map that we were now on Swift Camp Creek trail but i based on where the map had already led me, i wasn't putting much stock in it.

We eventually made it to the bottom of the valley, or what seemed like that, but the imagined camping areas were non-existent. Continuing to hike through wet soggy areas and up and along cliff bands, we eventually saw a campfire and headlamp shining not too far off. We finally found the people, right?! That's what we thought anyways, although their judge of distance would have been extremely poor because i was estimating that by this time we had hiked nearly 2.5 miles. We were, of course, wrong about who's camp it was. It was a single camper who had found the first good camp spot i had seen in the last two hours since taking off at the trailhead. We asked him if he knew anything about anymore nice camp spots close, but he didn't seem to be very happy that we invaded his privacy, and although he did show us his map (it looked the same as the one i had) i got the feeling we weren't wanted so we continued on down the trail.

It was now 10:30 or so and i was starting to get worried. The only thing that kept me from really being worried was that, A) i knew if worst came to worst i could retrace our steps back to where we started, and that B) we were beginning to see white diamonds painted on the trees and the occasional sign that read 219, which i knew corresponded to a certain trail in the wilderness although which one i wasn't positive. I thought it was Swift Camp Creek but i couldn't be sure. After another hour of hiking, a couple of detours and some tricky route finding we finally found a place to pitch our camp. It was on an extended sandy bank of the creek and it looked as if it had been inhabited before. I got a fire started as the others pitched camp and we soon fell asleep. By this time the others in my party were fairly disgruntled with me, and i can't blame them. I have accurately read TOPO maps before, but this time either I or the TOPO map was WAY off base.

I woke up the next morning around 6:00 after a restless night sleeping out under the stars. I threw my shorts and shirt on and took off running down the trail as the others slept. I knew i had to figure out where we were and i thought that if i followed the trail and got a general outline for the direction, any change of direction, as well as change in elevation i could fairly accurately pinpoint where we were. Well, after going for about a mile i figured i had a pretty good sense of the how the trail was traveling so i went back to camp and took a look at the map. Once i did this, i was pretty sure i knew where we were because the trail took a hard turn west away from the creek about 400 meters from where we camped and began ascending quite rapidly. I saw this on the map and thankfully i was right that it was Swift Camp Creek Trail. It was the first time i had been right about the map/trail in about 12 hours and my man ego couldn't take much more of a beating! The others finally woke up and we packed up camp and headed for the road (715). They were understandably apprehensive about whether i knew what i was talking about or not, but this time i was pretty sure. I thought we would come out on 715 and have about a mile or so walk, south, to the Wildcat Trail parking area. Luckily for me this is exactly what happened. I think the others would have killed me had i gotten them mixed up again.

All in all, it was quite the adventure and i was able to hone my map reading skills a bit. I am convinced that the TOPO map is extremely misguided when it comes to the beginning of the Wildcat Trail, so beware of it if you are using the Pomoyerton Quad. Swift Camp Creek trail is a beautiful and rugged trail, and even more rugged when you are traversing it at night. There are a couple times the trail is hard to follow (at least in the dark with only a headlamp) because it travels down into a wet spot it is hard to define where the trail comes out, but if you look closely and take your time it isn't bad.

Hopefully this post keeps someone from going through the same thing we went through this weekend. At least my friends have now experienced a nice adventure!

Cheers

JT

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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by EricDorsey » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:19 pm

wow what an epic. Maybe next time think twice before heading out into an area you are totally unfamiliar with a half hour before dark, especially if you can't read a map. If you can't even manage to camp in the red river gorge with out it turning into a major epic I would think twice before heading out in real mountains out west. COTrained?

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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by Jeff » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:42 pm

Kind of hot out for a fire?

COTrained26
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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by COTrained26 » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:51 pm

EricDorsey wrote:wow what an epic. Maybe next time think twice before heading out into an area you are totally unfamiliar with a half hour before dark, especially if you can't read a map. If you can't even manage to camp in the red river gorge with out it turning into a major epic I would think twice before heading out in real mountains out west. COTrained?
As i stated before, the beginning part of the trail was misrepresented on the map. Was going out a half hour before dark stupid? Yes, it was. But based on the map a level area should have presented itself within half a mile of starting out. Thanks for the advice :roll:, but i have been to the real mountains. I lived in Colorado for quite a few years and have successfully navigated backcountry areas via a TOPO map without trails numerous times.

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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by COTrained26 » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:52 pm

Jeff wrote:Kind of hot out for a fire?
Yeah, but i wasn't eating raw hotdogs and we were famished! :wink:

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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by milspecmark » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:20 pm

Sounds like an exhausting day. That is one thing to know about the red, you can't just camp anywhere. Glad you eventually found a spot to camp.

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Re: Backcountry Camping

Post by Jeff » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:41 pm

COTrained26 wrote:Yeah, but i wasn't eating raw hotdogs and we were famished! :wink:
HOT DOGS!!!!

Just kidding ya. Good thing you didn't cross paths with any copperheads.

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