i had been planning a backpacking trip to eagle creek for a few months along with my brother in law, stu and two buddies from the fly shop. we were to leave on friday the 26th and come back on sunday the 28th. unfortunately due to work reasons they had to cancel in the week leading up to the trip, leaving just stu and myself. looking at the high percentage rain forecast we were growing more concerned about having trouble when it came time to leave. on friday morning the noaa forecast called for up to an inch of rain on saturday and sunday. we decided it would not be wise to risk the water coming up with us camped on an island, as well as 7 stream crossings, and a four mile paddle across fontana lake to get home.
i had talked to a guy who i was told was the head guy over the trails in the tellico ranger district a couple weeks ago, and i asked him about the criteria for back country camping in the cherokee national forest. he said there was none, no permits or checking in, just park and go. he also gave me directions to some spots in the bald river gorge wilderness, so we decided to eat the **** smoky mtn backcountry fees and try bald river instead.
and i'm glad we did.
the hike from the trailhead to the first camp we crossed was a short one, maybe a mile, tops. we stuck with it because we did not know how far it was to the next one.
after setting up camp and preparing a dry place to chill during the rain, we hit the trail. there was not as much access to the river as i had hoped. we walked downstream a ways and found a long accessible stretch of water and gave it a try. i used a thunderhead and tried various droppers. i was getting hits on the dry and nothing but trees on the droppers, so after losing several i "dropped" it and just fished the dry. i caught two that afternoon, both on the dry. i was surprised at the quality of trout in this river, both in size and color. stu did a little better than i did, landing three. he got two on a dry fly, and one on a tellico nymph.
i had to do without for a few months, and i keep forgetting i have a camera again. this was the smaller of the two, and the other was just as vivid
a dry tent is a happy tent, so before i went to bed i moved my tent so the front door was also under the tarp. it rained over night, and my new tent with the "ever dry lasting rain protection" wasn't very dry saturday morning. the window seams puddled up and dripped all night. i awoke with the floor puddled up, my pillow, sleeping bag, camp pad and half of my clothes were wet. i wiped the floor with the clothes and hung everything on the hammock hoping i would get lucky. after the tarp under my tent became the tarp over my tent, we hit the trail again and ventured even further..
the trail looked like a wet tunnel
we hiked for about 1 1/2 miles fishing what little water we could get to safely. most of the trail was on the side of the gorge looking down on the river through the trees. it would sprinkle off and on so we didn't want to get too far from camp. on the way back we found an opening in the trees and a clearing that looked like we maybe could access the river. it tuned out to be another campsite that looked like it hadn't been used in a few years. the fire ring was almost covered by leaves. i can understand why nobody uses it, it is hard to spot from the trail. we fished the water around that camp for a bit and neither of us were having any luck, but we did find a snake. i thought it was dead at first as i was too close for it to be comfortable, but it was just cold and lethargic.
i think it was a garter snake
we got back to camp a little before noon and none of my bedding was drying out. the rain was getting heavier and steadier, standing under the tarp i was considering my options. i did not want to spend the night wet and freezing, and i had no desire to share a sleeping bag with my brother in law that night (i'm sure it was mutual) so we packed it up and headed home.
i had a great time up there and am sorry it was cut short. i will be back though