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mtnman2888 06-02-2008 01:24 PM

Murphy's Backpacking Trip
Murphy's Law: "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong"
(Can't take credit for that one, that was all Justin's idea)

After arriving at the Oconaluftee visitor's center at 7:00 to fill out our permit for campsite #53 on deep creek, we found out that the campsite was closed due to aggressive bear activity. At this point, i should have known things weren't going our way. We didn't see anything about that on the parks website when we looked thursday midday, but that doesn't really matter i guess. Since we had such good luck there on our fall trip, we decided to go lower on deep creek and fish the bend. That was an area we didn't get to fish in the fall and figured it would be a good stretch to fish since it gets so far away from the trail.

After setting up camp, we started fishing about 12:00. I started off with a dry/dropper combo of a stimulator and a yellarhammer softhackle and justin tried one of his own flies, a carolina wulff (i think). The temperature was warm and the water temp was about 61. Fishing was, at best, sporadic throughout the day. I used the same combo to catch the majority of our fish as i found nothing else that they were keyed in on. There were no major hatches occurring and the fish just didn't seem to be looking up. I had my short bamboo rod with me since we were planning going up high for specs, so i couldn't really throw heavy nymphs to get to the bottom. Had i brought another rod and been able to dredge the bottom, i think the results would have been better. The fishing wasn't bad by any means, just not what we were expecting. Plenty of fish were brought to hand including one nice 12" brown that smacked my stimulator the instant it hit the water. We both thought it was about a 16" fish when it was fighting but it was a little smaller than we thought and guessed it at about 12". It put up a heck of a fight on my bamboo rod, though!

This is where things began to get interesting. After fishing until about 6:30, we returned to camp for supper only to find that my stove won't work. I fiddled with it for a minute and could get nothing, but no big deal right? We'll just start a fire.....wrong! It had rained that morning and all of the wood was soaking wet. We tried and tried but couldn't get anything going, the wood would just smoke when the flame hit it and it would go out. This posed a problem due to the menu of dehydrated meals for supper that was supposed to last us until sunday. After a rather bland supper of roasted almonds (lance crackers and jerky for justin), we made a plan to pack up the next morning and head out to fish straight fork all day and head back home saturday night. If only that plan had worked out.....

We awoke about 4:30 saturday morning to some moderate rain and lightning, although it was short lived and the lightning wasn't close. After a quick nap, we woke back up at daylight to find it lightly raining again. We started to execute our plan of packing up when the bottom fell out, this time accompanied with close cloud to ground lightning. It's hard to explain the feeling of being caught out during something like that knowing that you are basically helpless. There were several strikes that hit so close that the noise it made hurt my ears a little. I'm sure some of y'all have experienced a similar and probably worse situation and know what i'm talking about. After tearing down the tent and packing out in record time, we began our hike out with a little haste and packs that felt like they weighed 10+lbs heavier due to everything being rain soaked.

The creek was up, we were filthy and soaking wet, and our nerves were shot so we just decided to chalk this trip up. We would like to think that everyone has had at least one camping trip like this in their lifetime, but maybe it is just us. We did learn some valuable lessons about extra rations and an extra stove, though. I'm just glad we didn't do our trip that we had planned on doing: 12 mile hike down from the dome to upper hazel. It would not have been fun to find out the stove didn't work that far back! I got home and noticed that was about the only spot in the park that received rain that morning, but oh well, when things aren't going you're way the seem to snowball and accumulate exponentially.

Will post some pics when i get home, hope y'all were able to get out and enjoy the weather this weekend.


buzzmcmanus 06-02-2008 03:06 PM

Glad you got out of that OK. I'm allergic to a few things, lightning being one of them.

Enquiring minds want to know, what kind of stove should I not buy? Did you figure out what was wrong with it?

Rog 1 06-02-2008 03:10 PM

Like you said I think all of us have experienced just about everything that went wrong on your very first backpacking trip was a ditto to yours...first night I heated water over a hurricane candle due to wet firewood...storm was so bad that the ground I don't go into the backcountry without a couple of sticks of lighter wood or some of those firestarter sticks....several times I have found myself racing water to a stream crossing just to make sure I could get across and back to the car...but, it is still better than being at work even if you are a little drier.

mora521 06-02-2008 03:35 PM

You just had what is known as an adventure!I know the memory sucks now,but later on you will recall it differently.Now that I am old and grey some of my fondest memories involved adversity.One of them started exactly the same way when a girlfriend and I got to the trailhead to 53 and saw it closed because of bears.It was July 4th and we went to another site and discovered that Elkmont ain't the only place the lightning bugs put on a show,or the time I walked from Tremont to Hazel Creek and It rained so hard that fishing was out and so was leaving since the creek was so high I could not make the numerous creek crossings to get back up Welch ridge.I spent 4 days exploring instead,and there are some mind blowing stuff to be found aroud upper Hazel for those who look.I always enjoy reading your posts about the backpacking trips,thanks for sharing.

PeteCz 06-02-2008 06:27 PM


Originally Posted by mora521 (Post 53394)
some of my fondest memories involved adversity

I agree with that one. It sucks during the moment, but time somehow has a way of turning some of our most arduous times into great stories...

When my sons were 4 and 2, I decided to drive 5 hrs to a remote part of Colorado to do some wilderness camping (as a first camping trip!). Upon arriving and setting up camp it started to rain. and rain. and rain. We wound up sitting in the tent eating pop tarts for lunch and dinner because I had planned to cook over a fire. That evening the thunder and lightning kicked in and could have waked the dead. There's something about camping under trees on a plateau that doesn't have "brilliant" written all over it. The storm broke about 3am, and thats when the "wild kingdom" took over. Elks were bulging and coyotes were howling frightfully loud and shrill tones, while all sorts of critters paraded around outside of and pawed on the walls of the tent. Needless to say, it ended up being a very sleepless night.

In the morning, it took more than two hours to get the rain soaked wood to light. When I was finally able to get a fire going and had cooked scrambled eggs and bacon in an iron skillet, my oldest son looked at his plate and said "that's not how they look when Mom makes them". Well that was it. We threw the eggs to the birds, packed up the car and drove home 5 hours...As painful as it was at the time, now that my oldest is 18, that memory always makes me smile...

mtnman2888 06-02-2008 07:56 PM

I'll definitely remember this trip for awhile and i won't look back on it in regret. The only dissappointment i have is not being able to fish as much as i would have liked.

Anyways, here are some pics:

First fish of the trip

Deep Creek in Bumgardner's Bend

Here is the nice brown that clobbered my stimulator

A shot of the mountains overlooking the creek

mtnman2888 06-02-2008 07:57 PM

Here is a section of the river that had really deep runs

Justin fishing some pocket water

ALflygirl 06-02-2008 09:18 PM

Nice photos! Enjoyed your trip report...glad ya'll got back safe!

Speckleman5 06-02-2008 11:47 PM

That first night I was in there a few weeks ago we barely got camp up before the storm hit.....It was about 3 hours after dark and it was close it rattled the ground and lit up the world......It felt like it sat on top of the high ridge above 53 to the left looking up upstream for an hour.....anyway, glad you got to catch a few a bad trip fishing is better than any day at work

mtnman2888 06-03-2008 06:26 AM

The fishing wasn't bad at all, it definitely wasn't a bad fishing trip, it was a bad camping trip. Oh well, there will be other trips soon enough. We are going to try and do at least 4 more backcountry trips this year, hopefully with a little better results.


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