Crawdad Bling

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Thru Tang Clan arrived to Dismal Falls the day before I did and decided to stay for an extra day, or a zero, to let me catch up. The area is a fantastic camp with tons of space, a beautiful waterfall, and a store to buy beer within a mile’s walk. When I arrived at 2pm, drinking and debauchery, the standard operating procedure for a zero, had commenced. Even on their off days thru hikers stay surprisingly busy.

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Sambo constructed a chair out of duct tape after catching a few trout for supper. Tesla, assimilating to American culture with amazing fluidity, cut the sleeves off a shirt she got in Tennessee for eating a big burrito and swam with Jack Attack.  Rambo, Snugz, Caboose, and Patch were on another mission. Rambo was nice enough to teach (learn) some Yankees to catch craw daddies. With a string and some hot dog chunks you can get these Appalachian lobsters to pinch on and then you grab ‘em. The crew spent the afternoon, collecting dinner, aka decimating a local population, and filling an empty beer box.

Tesla, assimilating to American culture with amazing fluidity, cut the sleeves off a shirt she got in Tennessee for eating a big burrito and swam with Jack Attack.

We had a group sweep of the surrounding forest and created a monster pile of dead and down wood for the night’s fire. An hour’s worth of work for one man done in five minutes with a group, or clan. The fire simmered all day but came to life at night.

We boiled around 75 crawdads for dinner, twice as much as the day before. They were a nice supplement to the hot dogs from the store. Crawdads and hotdogs were the two main food groups at the falls. The night ran long and the next morning late. We had pancake mix from trail days (good job Vasque for the breakfast) that had to be made so we had a long joyous breakfast.

Breakfast turned to brunch and then decisions for the day.  I brought up the idea of doing another zero in a joking manner. Jack shot a look at me thinking or knowing I wasn’t joking. Even after the joke settled, time and rationalizing brought us to stay another night.  We committed around 1pm and repeated a lot of the same steps as the previous day. Some went to the store to buy burgers and beer, some napped, swam, and hunted for more crawdads.

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In the early evening some creative brainstorming brought a few of us to try to wear the crawdads. It starts with a finger, goes to the nose or ear and then lands on the nipples. These things really hurt when they pinch and will happily draw blood. It was good of us to give them a chance to get back at their destroyer.

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Late in the evening locals left after an afternoon of drinking like the rest of us. The only difference is that they smashed, tossed, and littered all if their bottles and cans. It was one of the least responsible things I’d seen in the woods yet. A group of hikers went over and promptly cleaned up the falls. I lead the charge and went up to the parking area to drop the two full grocery bags of broken glass and inconsideration. I ran up the hill to talk to them ranger style but they peeled out fast. I wish ranger danger would have stopped by.  Even the worst thru hikers don’t do that stuff because the trail is our home. We cleaned it up because it degraded the resource and would have been blamed on us.

I wish ranger danger would have stopped by.  Even the worst thru hikers don’t do that stuff because the trail is our home.

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That night was a bit tamer, the fire smaller, and spirits tired from another not so dismal day.  Even though we caught another 50, everyone was quite tired of crawdads. I waited until dinner was done and released the last of them. It’s pretty satisfying letting something free.

The next morning was slow and sulky. Staying in one place kills the spirits of hikers even when they need it and have fun. Some got up and out fast in fear of getting pulled in again while a few stayed to clean up and bring garbage to town. Rambo, Sambo, and I walked 50 pounds of trash that we picked up (as ultralighters, only 15 pounds were ours) and dropped it next to some trash cans that had a bad night with a hungry bear.  We all got out by noon after a weekend of something other than hiking. It was my first zero on trail (9th zero counting Trail Days and New Orleans) and a fine place to stop and smell the crawdads.

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