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Thread: Wild & Wooly Smokies TU Weekend May 5-7, 2017

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Great Smoky Mountains

    Default Wild & Wooly Smokies TU Weekend May 5-7, 2017

    If you ever need to plan a TU weekend campout and a guaranteed rain come with us (hey!'s a rainforest) and also have it coincide with the all time guaranteed rainmaker, the Kentucky Derby! We intentionally moved it back from mid-April this year to the first of May, as last year in Cataloochee we had night time temps of 18-20 degrees and snow. Evidently the Cat is getting so popular that for the last five years when we normally reserve a site in January we have had no issues. This January the first week of May at the Cat was already gone so we rebooted to Elkmont for this spring campout and reserved the Cat for our October fall TU campout.

    If you followed the Park weather this weekend you saw the storms and it's affect on the Park, at one point there were no roads in from Gatlinburg to Cherokee and from Townsend to Sugarlands or Sugarlands to Elkmont, or Roaring Fork Rd, even Cades Cove was closed. We have a motto developed over the years when people ask if we are camping; "No guts, No glories, and No stories to tell if you stay at home!", now common sense comes into play of course. As always common sense is up to personal interpretation so there lies the bump in the road; personal and group safety is the real driver!

    So with that in mind I headed up early Friday afternoon followed by the ever up for an adventure Noel in his truck as we constantly scanned Smokies Twitter updates by the minute. I personally have to say the Park service did a great job clearing trees, trying to get road access going, and updating traffic as best as anyone could in a scenario that had heavy rains, 80+ mile an hour winds, snow at Newfound Gap and all that goes with it. I had talked to the Park service and they felt the quickest road opening on Little River Rd was going to be from Sugarlands to Elkmont which was our destination to begin with. Say what you will but maybe one upshot of the wildfires was a much quicker response and communications in the Park to what was basically a natural transportation disaster this weekend.

    When we arrived at the Sugarlands visitor center it looked like a way station for confused travelers, which is exactly what it was. Tour buses lined up trying to get to and from Cherokee, same as with cars and SUV's loaded with everyone planning to be anywhere but the parking lot at Sugarlands! We took up the second position right at the exit from the lot up the hill headed towards Elkmont as to be ready to roll like a California land grab and waited. All you could hear up the Little River road and 441/Newfound Gap road were chainsaws and wood chippers whirring and whining. I grabbed a quality cigar and camp chair as we waited by the gate as Park vehicles and tree crews rolled in and out for hours. Finally about 5:30 after we were told it would probably be Saturday morning before the road would be open we headed down the hill, grabbed a cheap room and annoyed the crew at Orvis to to kill time till dinner.

    Saturday morning we grabbed breakfast drive thru food and made an early morning run to find the road clear and free to Elkmont and we were able to grab our site. We knew we had till about 10 AM based on the radar to be in the dry before the next round of rain, which was almost exactly on time as predicted. We first set up the canopies (don't leave home without em!) over the tables and near the fire ring to have large spaces to gather for cooking and warmth. Our outdoor thermometer hardly got passed 46 degrees all day and averaged around 41 degrees as the afternoon wore on. As self professed tarp professionals based on five camp out years of using them, we stayed in the dry all day and with the fire had a great time, with the main uniform of the day as waders and rain jackets. A few fished and Kris grabbed the podium as the best fish of the day with a beautifully colored trout (see below). The rain miraculously stopped right as we started to cook dogs and burgers and of course the evening repose of warm adult beverages and a hardy cigar as we sat by the evening fire clinched the deal. We were a small and hardy TU crew and it was a perfect ending to a challenging day!

    Sunday, Noel and I worked the Elkmont area under Carolina blue skies with no crowd in the park and a profusion and variety of bugs I have not seen in years, you name it and it was hatching. Fishing was harder maybe due to all the temp highs and lows and pounding rain the previous day but I was happy with an 8-9 inch thick and healthy bow that ate a size 14 rubber leg pheasant tail. As we made our way down Little River Rd we found out from Metcalf to the Wye was closed again as people piled up at Metcalf waiting as rangers said the crews hoped to have it clear in an hour or so. As we were already in "go with the flow" mode after the wild weekend, we broke out the charcoal, and grilled some more dogs and burgers as we waited by the river at Metcalf under blue skies and fading light. It was perfect!

    ​"The Beast loaded to max and with the welcome sign out"

    "Tent City"




    "ADD HOT FOOD..."

    "ADD WARM FIRE...."

    Last edited by bigsur; 05-08-2017 at 01:02 PM.
    "It starts with a raindrop, don't let it end with a teardrop!"

    "Nothing straightens out my mind like a twisting mountain stream!"

    Follow the Great Smoky Mountain Trout Unlimited website:


    "A true conservationist is someone who knows that the world is not given by their fathers, but borrowed from their children."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013


    Big Sur, I had a great time(always do at these functions)!
    "Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the mountain. I will fear no trout: for thou art with me; thy fly rod and thy wading staff they comfort me."
    Email Kris

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