I so greatly appreciate the times I can get away to the park. This weekend granted me a few days there.
I started the drive after work Friday and managed to get to the park around 10 that night. On the hike up, some time after passing Cumberland Gap trail but before Husky Gap trail I hit I encountered some hogs and nearly crapped myself. I've seen them around the park before, but never up close and in person. I hiked louder and slower with my lights on hi beam the rest of the way up. I had a bit of trouble finding a pad when I arrived, didn't see a fire ring anywhere and wanted to keep my light off the reflective surfaces once I noticed 2 tents. I finally spotted the bear bag cables and noticed a spot that had clearly had a tent on it recently. It was closer than I like to the cables, but there also weren't any dead trees nearby. Adrenaline kept me awake long, so I slept in a lot more than I had wanted to. Site 21 has never struck me as a nice site, but it is just terrible now. The people who visit it must have never heard of LNT. It needs some attention from volunteers with power tools. If I were able to volunteer in the park, I would think twice about keeping up 21 and just do other sites.. After my late slumber, I quickly packed my gear, picked up a bunch of trash, and was hiking by 10. On my way out I saw the other tents again further back in the site, and then the fire ring which I missed the night before because it was obscured by fallen trees. Hope nobody's tent was there when they fell. My parting sight at 21 was a late teen/early 20s young man digging a cathole. I can't decide if he was closer to the campsite or the actual trail; but it was 20 feet at most instead of the suggested 200. I was really tempted to tell him off but decided against it. At his age I wouldn't have taken the criticism from a man my age; who knows what he might have done out of spite. I passed a couple of day hikers close to the intersection of Husky Gap and Little River trails. I warned them of a potential full moon experience suggesting they walk slowly.
I hiked back down the trail a bit and did notice some wallows. Hopefully the rangers will have the time to cull them before it gets worse. There are so many beautiful wildflowers along the trail right now that the hogs will ruin. While looking at the flowers I also noticed a lot of ramps. With my horror about site 21 and its current residents, I decided I could do better as well and have dinner without them. Wouldn't think anything about others who still do though.
On the way up to 23, I kept asking myself why I haven't, in 20+ years, hiked the Goshen Prong trail before. I kept thinking about stopping and taking a few casts, but I was ****ed hungry and really wanted to fish above site 23. I did stop for a breather and to refill my water bottles at one lovely pool. I noticed a bunch of what this amateur entomologist decided to be Quill Gordons leaving the water; but I can never tell them apart from the Red Quills. Decided to keep trucking but knew what the first fly I was going to throw would be. Arrived to camp at 3, set up camp, cooked some "Max Patch Mac and Cheese" and quickly consumed it. I toured the whole camp and cleaned up empty packets of foil chicken chunks still leaking juice, Lipton Spanish rice packets, a tent stake recently hammered into the side of a tree, foil pieces in each of the fire pits, a titanium stake left at a tent pad (score), 3 hairbands, 5 rubber bands, a bandana, and 2 mismatched socks. I also noticed most of the big sitting logs surrounding each fire pit were burnt/charred in the middle,
Frustrated, I sat down for a nice Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe and some Ancient Ancient Age Bourbon. Set the cigar on a rock beside me, finished my pour of bourbon, and closed my eyes for just a moment. Woke up (****it, how did I fall to sleep?!?) to girls singing in another area of the site. I went over and introduced myself. I didn't ask but assumed they were on Spring break from one of the many Christian colleges in TN. I told them I would be keeping to myself but just ask if they needed anything and not to worry about sending campfire smoke my way (they apologized about that right away) and not to worry about being quiet; especially with their singing.
I grabbed my gear and rushed up river; hoping to finally get in a bit of fishing. Threw a Quill for about 30 minutes with no takers. Should have started with the Yellow Neversink. In the next 40 minutes I missed a bunch of strikes but managed to land a few specs. I rushed back down stream a bit below the camp and caught a nice (for me) 7" bow.
I had a nice fire going by 8 and was cozy in my tent by 11. I tried to book it out Sunday morning hoping to have time to chase a brown. I had a long hike and a longer drive and really wanted to see the kids before bedtime.
Stopped on the trail down 3 times to chat with friendly folks. There are always many baby-boomers out in the park that love to chat; truth be told so do I. I was frustrated yet again as a family group of 10 walked up together, each with a backpack of camping gear. There ought to be a way to allow this with the good-for-nothing reservation system; but at this time the parents were setting an, "It's OK to break the rules in a National Park" precedent for their youngsters.. Bit my tongue. A bit later, I did not hold my tongue when I passed a couple leading their ****ed dogs up the trail. I told them if I encountered a ranger I would be informing him/her and got cussed out and threatened. In the last 1/4 mile I stopped a cute-as-a button freckled redhead in what appeared to be brand spanking new waders and vest. I told her about the quill hatch at 2 the previous day and got a puzzled look. I grabbed my fly box and handed her a few. I got a smile and a Southern draw, "thank you" that really lifted my spirits.
I got to my car, once my pack was off my spirits soared. I noticed a fellow 2 parking spots down who I believed was in "the uniform" and then he threw a pair of wading boots properly out of the back of his truck. I struck up a conversation and offered the fellow the last Cuban I had on hand (have more at home) a Partagas Super. After a bit more conversation, I found out that I had just met Bigsur. A bit more conversation and we both decided it was time to part and try some fishing. I had thought about and Bigsur confirmed the best place to try completing the slam in short order was the Bottoms. Turning in, the place was mobbed. If I had been able to find a parking spot I would have to chat with curious folks after every cast I made. I like encouraging future anglers, but not mobs. I kept driving, there will be other slams - even with my poor skills.
In Townsend I stopped at Phillips 66/Parkway Grocery and picked up 2 of the Byron approved chili dogs, 2 snickers bars, a bag of dill pickle potato chips, 2 cans of tea/lemonade mix, and wide neck bottle of gatorade (with a cap). I didn't need to stop until Lexington. I was home in time to even watch an episode of Mythbusters with the kids before sending them to bed.
This morning I circled a new campsite on the trail map posted in my office. I then searched my calendar trying to find the next available date to return, with the kids this time. Sadly it won't be until May 17th, but it is circled too.
P.S. Ducky: Bigsur told me to say, "You know what a fish looks like."