7/27/2011 - Beat the heat in the Blue Ridge Mountains
by Fred Bonner - Apex Herald
Come enjoy the mountains of Western North Carolina! Although the summer's been a scorcher, the further West and the further up you go, the cooler your evenings will be!
With our temperatures approaching a hundred degrees in the shade and the humidity high, it did indeed seem like a good time to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains of our state and take advantage of the higher altitudes and slightly cooler weather.
Whenever I think of camping out in our mountains I can't think of any better spot to take a few youngsters camping than the Standing Indian Campground the U.S. Forest Service operates in the Nantahala National Forest near Franklin, N.C. It's one of the most beautiful sections of Western North Carolina and offers some of the finest trout fishing that can be found in our mountains.
I began camping and fishing there some 50 years ago when the Standing Indian Campground was accessible by a rough gravel road. Ed Waldroop was the campground manager and lived with his wife on the property and issued the daily fishing permits for the Forest Service. He also kept records of what fishermen kept how many trout and what species the fish were. Ed passed away years ago and some basic improvements have been made to the Standing Indian Campground.
The headwaters of the Nantahala River run through the Standing Indian Campground and offer an idyllic setting for one of the most picturesque sections of this National Forest. The famed Appalachian Trail passes through the forest at this point and the nearby campground offers through hikers a brief respite from the rudimentary camping facilities that one finds along the Appalachian Trail.
While many of today's modern campers may find the facilities at the Standing Indian Campground (SIC) a little rustic to their liking I've found that other campers prefer to camp where there aren't crowds of people doing things that are more acceptable to city dwellers. The SIC had bathroom facilities and clean drinking water available but no volley ball courts, boating marinas, gift shops or dance halls.
Acting on a whim I took some youngsters out for a visit at one of the more modern, "uptown" campsites just outside the National Forest to let them take a look at what was offered there. When offered a choice between this rather crowded modern campground and the old familiar Standing Indian Campground we were more familiar with, they said "let's go back to the less modern camp where it's less crowded and quiet."
Although the Appalachian Trail runs just above the campground there are numerous less taxing and shorter hiking trails around the campground. Some of these easier trails run alongside the Nantahala River and offer trout anglers easy access to some of the finest mountain trout fishing in North Carolina. These same trails also show grouse hunters some good hunting during the season.
For our youngsters the easy access to the river offered easy access to one of their favorite outdoor sports, grabbling under rocks to try and catch crayfish. This wasn't only for sport either. The youngsters had been watching the popular TV series "Survivor Man" and were catching food for their supper. You'd have thought that these kids were in Louisiana instead of North Carolina as they slurped down crawdad tails over the campfire that night. As a matter of a fact, they sucked juices from the head sections of these shellfish and delighted in their version of survivor man's dietary suggestions.
Even though I felt the temperature was quite comfortable, when the boys returned from their crayfish hunting expedition they felt it necessary to warm their feet over the campfire. When questioned about this practice when the weather wasn't really that cold, they replied that the campfire not only warmed their cold toes it kept their feet free of "foot fungus." Survivor Man had also said that the smoke form the fire helped to prevent (and cure) foot fungus. I saw no signs of the boys having any "foot fungus" so it must work.
With Franklin, N.C. as a jumping off spot, leave Franklin, at the intersection of US Rts. 23/441/64 and take US Rt. 64 west for 12 miles to Wallace Gap/Standing Indian campground sign (Old Murphy Rd.). Turn left onto Old Murphy Rd. and go 1.9 miles to Standing Indian campground sign (Forest Rt. 67). Turn right onto Rt. 67 and go 1.8 miles to "Y" intersection. Bear right into campground.
The campground is open from April 1 to December 1 each year. It sits at some 3,160 feet in elevation. The campground is loaded with Rhododendrons and is bisected by the Nantahala River and Kimsey Creek. There are five loops. Sites 1 through 54 are located on open flats with paved aprons and wide interior road. Sites 55 through 84 are along a hillside, nestled among Rhododendrons and hemlocks, with a steep gravel access road. Motorhomes and large travel trailers are not permitted in this part of the campground. The campground is situated in what is considered one of the best hiking destinations in the southwest mountains. It is one of the few places where one can actually take a loop hike, a part of which is the Appalachian Trail.
There is a public phone booth available in the area where cell phone access is "iffy" at best. There are flush toilets, hot showers and potable water for drinking. Most of the campsites have picnic tables and campfire rings.
There are 81 campsites at Standing Indian that rent for $14 per night. There is a 30 day maximum stay-time on the campsites. The National Forest usually offers substantial discounts to people who have senior citizen passports. You can reach their reservations center at 877-444-6777 or you can reach the center at their website at http://www.recreation.gov/.
This area is on the headwaters of the Nantahala River which is considered to be one of the coldest trout streams in North Carolina. Fishing licenses are required there and can be obtained through the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Be sure to check the special trout fishing regulations that are in effect there. These headwaters and the feeder streams that enter the main Nantahala River there are a fly fisherman's dream. There are rainbow, brown and eastern brook trout found in nearly all these streams.
One word to the wise on wading in the Nantahala River. This is a pretty typical freestone mountain stream and the rocky bottom is unusually slippery. If you wade, felt soled wading boots are a definite advantage.