View Full Version : I feel like I have died and gone to heaven (Long)

08-20-2011, 11:42 AM
The Raven Fork watershed is one of the most special places in the Smokies. A wilderness that except for fishing and hunting parties, has escaped the destruction of man, and remains much like it was 10,000 years ago. It places like these that leave me yearning for my next Smokies visit. So many places to explore while taking in all the sights and sounds of Mother Nature has to offer in a beautiful setting of virgin forest filled with wild orchids and other flowers blooming everywhere. Even the nettles were trophy size.

After a conversation with the wife of how I was eager for a backcountry trip, she offered the next weekend to me. With low water and high temps in many places of the park, I knew I wanted to get up high, and I thought 47 would be the perfect spot to set up a base camp. I then called my friend Sean who maintains site 47 as a volunteer for the park service, and see if he had any interest in going. All I had to do was say let’s go, and he was in, although he wanted to go for 2 nights. I knew one night would be enough on my wife with the twins and the new puppy at home, but I asked anyway, and to my surprise she said that was fine. She only asked I come home in a reasonable time on Sunday so that I could give her a break from the kids for a few hours. I told her that sounded great, and confirmed my plans with Sean.

It used to take me only a couple of hours to get ready for an overnighter. Now since I don’t go much any more, It was real hard trying to remember all the “little things”. I took several days and went through everything to minimize weight, and to make sure I had all I needed. I was up to about 45 pounds when it was all said and done. A bit heavier than I was wanting, but easy enough for the short haul to 47. Sean called a few days before to let me know he had our reservation and to give me an updated weather report. The forecast was calling for 60% chance of thunderstorms on Sat with a cold front and some real rain pushing in Saturday night into Sunday. I told him I had my new tent (Big Agnes Fly Creek 2) and my rain gear, and we agreed I would go buy a tarp so that we would have a dry place outside the tent to hang out in the rain. I tied a few more neversinks that week, and finished up my food planning for my trip (Thanks again to all who contributed to that long backcountry food thread a while back).

Friday morning I got the oil changed, and finished up some chores around the house. I met Sean at his house about 1:30 on Friday, and we headed out to paradise. After a few stops for gear to maintain the site, gas, and food, we arrived at the Hyatt Ridge trailhead and stretched for our trip. There was one other car at the put-in, but it had a real long rod tube in it with local tags, and we figured it was someone fishing Straight Fork. We geared up and started the death march to the pass at the top of the ridge. Hyatt Ridge is one of those trails you hike in the Smokies because of where it takes you, and not because the forest there is great. The trail is a horse trail that has tons of loose rock scattered everywhere and climbs 1800 feet in 1.9 miles. There is a small stream towards the bottom that offers a few decent glimpses of beauty, but not much else to distract you as you lug your pack up the mountainside. We soon made it to the pass where we took off our packs and took a nice break as the wind gently cooled us off. As we stared off into the Raven Fork watershed, one is struck with the powerful beauty, as you are lured into the paradise before you.

After a nice descent to the campsite you cross the famous metal bridge that signifies you made it to 47. Usually my first sight of the bridge is when coming from the gorge below and is a view I will always appreciate as it usually means in the words of my fising buddy Freddie “That you’ll live to fish another day”(Mac & Colby you will soon know this too). This time it meant that I could take off my pack which is a great feeling within it self. 47 while being a really small sight, is one of the best in the Smokies. There were already 2 tents set up (so much for having it to ourselves) and a peek over the horizon showed 3 people fly fishing upstream. The next glance was disappointment as we saw all the trash people had left in the last 6 weeks since Sean had been there. There were 3 air mattress pool floats, a sleeping bag, a full bag of trash, and at least 30+ beer cans. Pretty nasty to see all this trash is such a nice place, and since there was so much, I knew I would be carrying plenty out. Initially I planned to set up my tent away from the other campers at the other fire ring, but Sean explained that when it rained that’s where the water washed so we cozied up to our new neighbors we had yet to meet and made camp. We gathered our fishing gear and in record time were heading upstream. As we set up camp we noticed the fisherman weren’t moving very fast, and that they would not be making it up too far so we planned on jumping them. As we got close I waved then eventually went up and met them and shared our plans. We gave them several hundred yards of fresh water then started fishing. It was great to be in the Raven Fork, and we started catching fish almost immediately. Sean quickly had 4 nice fish for dinner, and I had landed a nice dozen fish before we headed back for camp. I thought we only made it up about ¼ mile, but we probably got .4 miles upstream as we realized climbing back.

Back at camp we formally got to be introduced to our camp mates. Josh Kelly was taking his buddies two grandkids to teach them fly fishing since the grandfather was now not physically able. One had just graduated from University of Florida, and other grandchild was 15 and lived in Miami. Josh is a botanist with the Eastern Native Tree Society and spends his time finding and protecting champion trees in the Smokies and surrounding National Forests. He was a wealth of information, and I hope to meet him again and fish a remote section of stream with him. Adam (Crockett) linked to one of his articles on Simmons Branch a while back on an off-trailing forum, and it is really cool when you meet some of the people you learn to idolize on the internet. Sean and I shared our plan on fishing Enloe the next day, and they said they would fish above the camp. Friday night ended in beautiful weather. I ended the evening lying on a huge rock downstream of the bridge staring at the stars and moon and soaking in the sounds of the forest in the background as the sound of the rushing water tried to block it out as well as all other sounds.

Continued in reply as post is too long:eek:

08-20-2011, 11:45 AM
I was the first to wake the next morning so after sitting there for 5 minutes, I decided it was time to fish. I crawled downstream sever hundred yards and slowly started working the huge pools. When I made it back to camp there was still no one up so I proceeded upstream. I caught 3 fish on the dry, but most were taking my dropper that morning, which seemed to make sense. The fishing was good, and the size of the fish was great.

After breakfast, 3 day hikers came in to fish for the day. Josh told them to head upstream, and they would have fresh water (First Class guy). We prepared for the Thunderstorms and set out to fish Enloe. We dropped in just below the falls and fished for 4.5 hours. The fishing was excellent, and so was the scenery. Beautiful multi-story canopy, Bee Balm, Golden Rod, even the nettles were pretty. Stream has plenty of nice drops, and the size is perfect for my taste. The fish were eager, and it felt like it was springtime. It rained 3 brief times, but the fish were still hitting the dry. I saw some nice orange mayflies hatching, which were a perfect match for the orange caddis Sean was using. It was a great day of fishing for sure. Using the GPS we jumped out just before the stream leaves the trail (for a good ways) and hiked the trail back to camp. Sean was lucky enough to catch a 10 inch male! Lots of fish were starting to change color getting ready to spawn soon. I can’t wait to get back to this special place.

Back at camp we ate dinner, had a fire, and prepared for the impending rain. Josh carved a spoon out of Basswood as he answered my many questions about tress and plants. Josh also works with the Biodiversity project that finds all the new species in the park and is a wealth of information. The night ended with the rain drops starting as I lied in my tent listening to my iPod singing me to sleep.

As I awoke the next morning the rain was subsiding, and I was glad the majority or rain had happened while we were sleeping. Most of all I was glad my stuff was all dry. I had 5 or 6 drops that came down through the screen of my tent where pole was misplaced, but all else was dry. We slowly got going that morning and didn’t seem to ever make much progress. By the time we had dried our tents enough to hike out, and clean out the fire rings it was already pushing noon. Josh was kind enough to hike out the sleeping bag. I took the air mattresses, and Sean was stuck with all the real nasty trash. While I thought the 55 pounds I was now carrying was bad (wet fishing gear added to weight), it was nothing compared to the 80 pounds I’m guessing Sean carried out. We soon had everything packed up and were on our way out. The climb back out is steady, but we eventually made it to the pass for another break. There we find a “Bear Grills” shelter someone had just set up since we hiked in, and had to take 10 minutes to disassemble it, and again make the area look like someone “left no trace”. We then started our fall down the mountain which is fine to keep your heart rate down, but gives a punishing to your knees. Eventually you see Straight Fork, and then soon after, the road. You know you have made it back. After a stop to Hardees and KFC we headed back over the mountain home. While I did make it home in time to put the kids to bed, my wife got shorted her break, and I learned that puppies and full moons are not a good combination, but that’s another story within itself.

Way too many pics at :

http://www.duckypaddler.com/raven-fork-8-12-11--8-13-11.html (http://www.duckypaddler.com/raven-fork-8-12-11--8-13-11.html) &

http://www.duckypaddler.com/enloe-8-13-11.html (http://www.duckypaddler.com/enloe-8-13-11.html)

08-20-2011, 05:52 PM
That is an awesome story. I felt like I was there, minus the leg cramps from that steep hike. :smile:

Great pics, looks like y'all caught some pretty good sized char.

Just curious, you ever stayed at #44?

08-20-2011, 11:24 PM
Looks like some seriously nice trout fishin'. Thanks for sharing.

08-21-2011, 06:48 AM
That was a long post. I though you were going to say your new puppy was not going to let you go for a while. Enjoyed the read. With the lack of work and the high cost of gas I dont get out as much anymore.

30 beer cans? Nobody toted that into 47 not even a college kid. Horsemen did that crap.

08-21-2011, 09:25 AM
Great report DP! I have the pic of hideaway brook that your new friend Josh took as my desktop wallpaper. Here is the link to his quest to find a champion red spruce in that area:

My son and I read your whole story James and looked at all the pics. He loved the crawdad shots the best. He is requesting more of those from your next trip.

08-21-2011, 06:54 PM
I fish - I have stayed at 44, but it was a decade ago, and before I fished. I would think there would be better base camps for fishing, although if your wanting to get to 3 forks in a day trip it is the way to go, but will be more of a hike than a fishing trip:rolleyes:.

I have seen Indians with beer cans much further in the interior of the park, but you are most likely correct about it is most likely a horse person. There was also a DR Pepper can laying on the trail that was not there the day before that I'm also guessing got dropped from a horse person as i saw some fresh tracks and droppings. It could have also been the day hikers, but if I had to place a bet. People like this make the resonsible horse people look bad.

Crockett - I sent you a few more crawdad shots from Chapman Prong. I know you would like Josh.

08-24-2011, 05:37 PM

That was an absolutely excellent story from a wonderful place in the smokies. I really enjoyed reading your story, thanks so much for taking the time and sharing your trip with us.

We are really looking forward to our trip and hoping to get the chance to say

"That you'll live to fish another day". :biggrin:

08-25-2011, 09:45 AM
Great story and thanks for the photos

08-25-2011, 10:18 AM
Yes, it had to be horsemen. I really wish horses were banned on Hyatt Ridge.

Also, it sounds like that stream is really receiving some pressure. I never knew that many would fish it in a weekend.

08-25-2011, 10:55 AM
Also, it sounds like that stream is really receiving some pressure. I never knew that many would fish it in a weekend.

I was thinking the same thing... and I almost went up there as well but just didn't have enough time to get over to the NC side. Now I am kind of glad I didn't as I had the streams that I fished all to myself. Only saw one other guy the whole weekend.

Tight Lines,

08-25-2011, 10:56 AM
Mac _ I hope we all get that feeling in a few more weeks:biggrin:

MBB - I think it had high pressure that weekend. Although with all that water there is plenty for at least 8 fisherman to all have fresh water between Raven Fork & Enloe. My buddy Sean says he has the site to himself most of the time he stays there.

08-26-2011, 09:50 AM
Great report. I enjoyed the telling and it made me wish for a trip to the mountains.