A friend of mine had given me this book, Vagabonding, to read earlier in the summer. It's all about the art of long term travel. One of the neat elements in the book is the idea that sometimes it's better not to plan. This traditionally goes against all my natural inclinations. Fortunately, I've become a bit more adventurous and spontaneous the older I've gotten.
We decided to put this idea into practice during out last rafting trip. Now, we had reservations for the rivers, but we made no reservations for camping. We looked up a couple sites on the web and headed out. We actually ended up a ton closer to both of our rivers then we would have had we chosen the places we found on the internet. The first one was right on the Ocoee with amazing trails literally right behind our campsite. And it was only $12 a night :)
On our way to the Chattooga (our 2nd river) we made a slight side trip to hike Rainbow Falls and slide down Turtleback Falls.
Travel tip: If you've been to this trail in the past, be
aware that you now have to park in the new state park and walk about 2 miles to get to Rainbow Falls. The hike starts from the bottom of the Falls instead of the top. To avoid this you can park down the street at the Baptist church and walk from the top. Just pay no attention to the "Danger!" and "Path Closed" signs. The old path has not changed, they just don't want you using it. :)
When we got back to our car at the Baptist church parking lot, one member of our group started up a conversation with a group getting ready to start the hike. Turned out one of the guys was a raft guide on the Chattooga (he worked for another company and gave us a hard time about not choosing his). He did give us a few names of campsites near the river. The one we chose was Woodall Shoals. It was free. We plugged the street name into Garmie and headed south.
Right before we made the turn onto the street for the campsite we spotted what looked to be a promising place to eat dinner, "Two Redneck Chics Cafe." It didn't take much convincing around the group to agree on it. First we needed to find this free campsite. The road to the park was gravel and the driver of the car I was in grew up in the mountains. This turned out to be a fun combination for her, and I bit unsettling combination for myself. "Gliding" around blind turns is not exactly my idea of fun, but she kept reassuring me she had complete control of the situation. I will admit this did not easily settle my anxiety over the activity.
When we arrived at Woodall Shoals it was just a parking lot. "Great, where do we camp?" Naturally, I went to the information board at the front to try and figure this place out. The rest of my group decided to look down the paths and see if there were campsites anywhere near. After a very short walk down the trail we found a great campsite. And from it we could hear the rapids of the Chattooga.
After getting our campsite all set up (we were pretty much pros at this point so it didn't take long), we piled into one car and headed to the Two Redneck Chics Cafe. The food was amazing. It's in Long Creek, SC (14387 Long Creek Hwy) if you ever want to try it. One member of our group was almost thrown out by the owner because she was wearing Auburn shorts. Turns out the two rednecks are from southern Alabama and are huge Roll Tide fans. We actually ended up back at the restaurant for breakfast before rafting the next morning.
Now, for those of you not familiar with the Chattooga, it's the river Deliverance was filmed on. This is important to note when trying to understand our reactions to the events that conspired during the night. At about 3am we were awaken by a gunshot. It sounded fairly close to the campsite, but no one in the tent said a word. Two minutes later a second shot was fired. "What the crap was that SARAH?!?" "A gun shot." And then the tent went quiet again. During this time, all but one person in the tent were devising plans in their heads on what to do if a crazy hillbilly with a shotgun showed up at our tent door. My friend from Tennessee just thought, "hmmm, must be a gunshot," and went back to sleep. The guy from Louisiana tried to see, from his bed, if there was a spotlight. Apparently, that is an indication of coon hunting. My friend who is a Marine, was convince that the boys would kick her out of the tent and make her go fight anyone who came up to our campsite.
Over the next few minutes we heard two more shots fire out, and each one seemed a bit closer to us than the next. Why we all stayed in the tent is beyond me, but we all ended up back asleep and joking about the event in the morning.