NANFA-- NC Fish and Fungi - Day 3, 4
Mon, 25 Aug 2003 18:01:41 EDT

Day 3

It is always nice to rest by water but the next morning i was disappointed
to see it churning chocolate as it had been the year before. Studying the map
i realized i should have continued further south that previous evening and
stayed in Franklin near the first location Dave suggested. There never seems to
be a straight route anywhere in the NC mountains and was tired the evening
before and had been eager to rest. Long meandering drives are required to get
just about anywhere in these parts. After a morning drive south to just above
Franklin i was disappointed that the Little Tennessee was also with very limited
visibility. I found a sideroad bridge over a small creek feeding the river and
looked into the relativily clear water to see if any fish were visible. None
but a large, sickled, bright red tailed RedHorse tail. Dave had mentioned them
and their intense red but the creek was so small and with no other fish
calling me in i choose to skip the site. To get to the river's head waters would
have required a further drive south yet the mushroom foray and another Dave
suggested site lay northeast so back on the road i went. I had visited the Little
Tennessee's headwaters the year before and could again at some other time.

I arrived in Sylva on the Tuckasegee which i now realize is the same river
that flowed through Bryson City. Here it was chocolate churning as well. I
headed upstream past the university and found a park that offered good access
but the water was only barely acceptable. I drove further upstream and found
what i thought to be a perfect location. Shallow, clear river water with lush
green plants and a beautiful clear mountain stream flowing into it. I was
excited. A small FireStation a half mile up the road and alongside the mountain
stream offered parking and a quiet place to get my gear on. I decided to float down
the mountain stream and let it wash me into the river proper at the highway
bridge a half mile away. I stepped into the water and it was way cold even with
my 2 layered full body wetsuit. The shallowness had mislead me and once
immersed i could only see about 3 to 4 feet max and the water was pushing me
downstream. I could not see any fish except for a sculpin or two and several small
Rainbow Trout. I held to the sides and boulders hoping to see more but
eventually just let go and let the current take me for a wild and full alert ride.
Racing faster and faster downstream i extended my arms forward to catch and
propel myself over the rocks, rubble and boulders. Rainbows would spin out of my
oncoming path as i speeded downstream with limited visibility. It was not fun.
Cold, limited visibility and no interesting fish made this ride without
pleasure, only concerned alert. I tumbled into the River and was immediately swept
into warm satisfying water and much, much clearer. Red Horses rushed away and
more Rainbows as well seemed to enjoy the waters merging. I felt relieved and
swam upriver out of the rushing, shimmering cold and into the calm, warm river
water. A lush carpet of delicate green moss covered nearly everything. I felt
bliss. I swam under the bridge and began to search the deep pools, eddies and
shadows. A few Rock Bass watched me and a school of Stone Rollers attracted my
attention by first fleeing at my approach and then quickly returning. They
were some of these prettiest Stonies ive seen, their bodies heavily spangled with
golden flecks. A school of Mirror Shiners also appeared near a tangled mass
of submerged limbs. No large males with extended dorsal fins but they exhibited
the fusilage bodies and triangular caudal spot i have grown observant to. A
single War Paint raced through them. I eased myself upstream hoping to see
darters but only found a couple of very small and unidentifable juveniles. I
became confused as to why the water seemed so beautiful and with the lush plant
life yet no diversity was offered, not even any crawfish. I continued to look and
glean under cover and rocks and stream edges. I finally came across 2 more
darters but had no idea as to what specie they were though they were fairly
unique to my eye. I searched for higher males but could find none and lost the
first two. I decided to flow back downstream into the cold merging waters and
perhaps more diversity. No darters, no crayfish and even fewer shiners. How odd.
I collected a few plants and hiked back to the van and rechecked the map. A
dam was several miles upstream and i wanted to see it. The map was disorienting
and i found myself along the reservoir well past the dam.The lake was too
green and with very limited visibility and offered no motivation. I drove back
downstream to where the road had presented a local camping spot along the river
some distance below the dam. Even less life here. I then drove further down
past my first snorkeling to a bridge crossing where i had seen lush waves of val
oscilating in the current. Surely here would be diversification. No again and
rain began to ripple the surface. I did finally find a crayfish and a few more
large Red Horses but little else. Back in the van and returned further
downstream to the park i had first found to be minimally acceptable. The rain had
cleared the park and i found myself alone. I waded into the river along the
shadowed edges. It was too murky this far downstream however another creek fed
into it just upriver and i decided to hike up to the bridge crossing and check it
out there. As i crossed the creek beneath the bridge i waved to a fellow who
had set up shop under the bridge on the other side. He was busy roller
painting something and did not see my approach until i called out from the middle of
the creek. Just at that point i stumbled, then staggered and slipped and fell
backwards embarassingly into the creek among the slippery rocks. I lay there
gathering myself and rested. When i arose he was still painting with his back
to me and holding a beer. I humorously asked him why he did'nt try to rescue
me? His response... "You should have known better than to be in there." well i
thought maybe so looking at all his junk piled up along the streamside and
immeditely lost interest in any conversation with him. I proceeded on upstream to
a riffle pool. Finally a few more species made their appearance but nothing
like i had hoped for or anticipated on this long day. I finally let the waters
sweep my body downstream and found a welcome sight of 2 White Tail Shiners
sparring. A common occurance for me on most snorkeling days and a welcome one on
this long and disappointing one.

I rinsed off myself and gear, dried, studied the map and decided to head
north towards Waynesville. Rain again began to fall and dark clouds filled with
lightning covered the sky. I was due to camp with the mushroom people tonight
but chose to grab a cheap motel room and eat leftover chinese moo shu pork
from the cooler. I probably would have slept better under the storms as opposed
to the slamming doors and the puking guests next door.

Day 4

Dodging splattered pavement i loaded up in the early morning and began
working my way to, up and over the mountain into the beautiful Cataloochee Valley
and the group campground below. I arrived just as they were gathering for
their first morning foray. Ken jumped in my van and we followed the small caravan
through the valley to a hike along a stream. The ground was covered in all
manner of mushrooms. By the camp's end we had collected approximately 150
species. The group had been working with the Smoky Mountain authorities on a survey
of all known fungi species. The park has been documenting all known species of
plant, animal and slime life. Salamanders, creepy crawlers, birds, turtles
and snakes. Any and everything living. Bushes and trees, grubs and worms. The
mushroom club membership had participated and assembled several very nice photo
logbooks documenting the found diversity of fungi including several new

After returning from a second afternoon foray we were hot, chiggered,
stinky stinging nettled, and thoughly sweated. Four of us decided to jump in the
creek for a bath and i grabbed my mask. The Cataloochee drains and flows from a
large unpopulated and mostly unroaded valley. I was eager to see what resided
in this stream. The water was high and moving rapidly from the recent rains
but welcomingly clear. Everything was downhill in this valley and only the
smallest of deep flowing pools were available for immersing my whole body in. I
got into the creek bareskin and grabbed my breath but reasonable held my warmth
as i peered into the shallow flows. The other fellas arrived and whooped and
hollered as they tried to acclimate to the cold water. Staggering, sputtering
and wailing as they lost their footing on the slippery rocks and fell into the
cold flowing water. I had fun watching them trying to catch their breath as i
floated fully immersed catching the largest crawfish i have ever seen and
theatening to drop them down the back of their shorts. No fish tho a few Longnose
Dace, the males large and leathery. Where the heck are all the fish on this
trip? Im getting skunked in what i figure to be excellent water. I didnt even
see any Rainbows here but plenty of fly fisherman had been seen on our forays. I
am confused.

The trio of shivering redskinned fungus men got out and headed back to
camp as i float crawled downstream in hopes of seeing something else. Plenty of
crawfish and some of the very large ones. Handsomely marked in tones of buff,
tan and brown and a reddish elastic joint below each pincher. I am suprised to
see such large crawdads in such a small cold mountain stream.

I headed back to camp as the mushrooms were being trimmed and cleaned and
the cooking gear began to clink and clank. Coleman stoves were fired up and
sauteed onions and melted butter began to fill the air. A barefooted rocky
mountain fella and his pretty sweetheart boiled up a big pot of fresh homegrown
corn on the cob. Special dishes of pasta, salads and breads were pulled from
coolers and back seats and laid on the wooden picnic tables. Three big ice chests
offered locally brewed Ashville beer and little plastic bottles of fruit
juices. Wine and jars of gourmet fixins set on the table alongside crackers and
cheese. Into sizzling pans were dropped Black Trumpets, Tawny Milkcaps and their
close cousin Lacterius Corrugus. Yellow and orange Chantrells. Bright red
Lobster mushrooms were chopped up and piled high. Fresh snowy white Oysters which
had been precariously plucked by Ken from a log that stretched across the
stream. Hedgehogs... a uncommon capped, spiny pored mushroom were diced and
chopped. With all of us in a hurry, the not quite well gleened Chantrells offered a
bit of gritty crunch to each fork full. Figs were tossed into the next batch
of the fruity Chantrells and the tiny fig seeds detracted from the sandy
grit... whoa boy! Deceptive play at work! I'm a bit more picky when cleaning
mushrooms but were they good and we were all hungry! Green Russulas, a new one for me
provided a new specie of edibility along with the ellusive Hedgehogs. What a
time we had and everyone was satisfied. Only crumbs, empty plates and bottles
and a half eaten fruity bund cake were left.

We rested up and enjoyed a lecture in the fading evening light by Andy, a
fungi professor from Indiana who specailizes in Lacterius mushrooms. What a
day... the best of both worlds for me. A warm coaled fire kept the stories going
to midnight and a mason jar of moonshine filled with plums was passed
around. Fun stories, adventures and dreams filled the air and stars were crisp in
the clear sky above. I laid in the tent that night with the door to the cool,
cooing mountain stream only a few steps from my ears and dreams of Tangerines
and bright red Lobsters.

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