Home > s24o, ultralight bicycle touring > S24O: Smoky Mountain Stealth Camp

S24O: Smoky Mountain Stealth Camp

A Special Note of Thanks:  I’d like to thank Grant Petersen for inventing the S24O.  Before that we had to stay out 25, sometimes 26 hours.   

Saturday night, oddly enough and through no fault of my own, my house became infested with belly dancers. This sort of thing can be either a blessing or a curse.  Not willing to take a chance, I abandoned the house and retreated to the woods for a quick impromptu bike camping trip.  So with no real destination in mind, I just headed out.  I knew I wanted to be near water and some place in the shady cover of trees.  I also knew I wanted the solitude and primitive setting that only a stealth camp can provide.  The Smokies are blessed with plenty of just such places.  If you’re not afraid to do a little bush-whacking with a bike across your shoulder, sweet tranquil solitude is just a stones throw away off the side of the road.  I’ll keep the exact location a secret; one: to keep from incriminating myself, and two: I want to return.  But rest assured there is no shortage of stealth camping opportunities in the Smokies.

(Note: Don’t stealth camp in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  You may be fined and/or diminish this beautifully preserved wilderness.  There are plenty of places outside the park in the surrounding forest to make a wild camp).

I took the advice from comments on my last trip report and left the cooking gear behind and suppered on an American classic, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  No fuss, no muss, just unwrapped it and gobbled it down. Not cooking is a good idea when stealth camping.  There is usually a lot of leaf-litter on the ground and nothing gives a stealth camp away like an out of control forest fire.

Another thing that gives away a stealth camp is a big blue hammock hanging in the trees, so I spend a few hours fishing before making camp.  The Tenkara fly rod performs great and even though a dry fly may have been better suited for this mountain lake, my Killer Kabari snagged a few trout, or perhaps I was catching the same one over and over again.  Either way, I was having fun and if I was catching the same fish over and over, it must have been having fun too.

I rigged the hammock between two trees in the last few minutes of usable light and crawled in.  Despite being only a few dozen yards from a paved road, the location had the feel of a true back country camp.  Soon the night-time forest sounds that evoke peace and calm in some, and fear and anxiety in others, slowly began to grow in volume.  A chorus of frogs, crickets and the pitter patter of some four-legged creature very close to my hammock kept me entertained till sleep overtook me.

The lower portion of the Hennessy Hammock has a slit in the middle for getting in and out.  It’s held closed with a combination of Velcro and good Karma.  At about 10:00pm I pushed my heel through the Velcro and stood myself up.  Just then I heard a soft thump, a muffled bouncing sound and a ker-plunk as my Thermo-Lite 2 bivy, still stuffed in its sack splashed into the lake.  I shined my head lamp on it and it was spinning, paddle wheeling its way to freedom.  Luckily I was able to hook it on my third cast of the fly rod.

I crawled out of the hammock at first light and did a little early morning fishing.  Early dawn is a beautiful time to fish.  Mountain lakes and streams are the source of much of the foggy mist which gives the Smokies their name and patches of puffy clouds clung to the surface of the water.  The lake was a mirror, perfectly still except for the occasional trout breaking the surface to feed.  As the sun rose the mist burned away and left heavy humid air behind.  Cravings for caffeine pulled me away from my secret mountain camp.  A short ride and I was back at home in time for fresh brewed coffee and breakfast.

Packing List:
Small Nashbar Pannier
Topeak Handlebar Bag
Tenkara fly rod and a few Killer Kabari flies
Hennessey Hammock
Summer sleeping bag
Thermo-Lite Bivy (by the way, it floats)
A few hygiene things, A few bike tools

  1. arlen
    August 21, 2011 at 7:55 am

    nice…..little adventures are needed for the soul…
    years ago i bought a fly rod made by “Eagle Claw”…
    breaks down much smaller than the rod you are using….
    nice an sensitive to action

    • The Velo Hobo
      August 21, 2011 at 6:37 pm

      I remember as a kid watching Ron Popeil hawking the “pocket fisherman”. I should look around on Ebay for one of those. I have a Cabelas 5 piece fly rod. I’m thinking of getting it back out and blowing the dust off.

      Thanks for the comment, Jack

  2. August 21, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Sounds like a great evening out! I was out too – as in, out cold, dead asleep. My 15 hour day for the Blue Ridge Breakaway yesterday “just plumb tuckered me out.” If I’d read your post first, I could have dreamed about it! 🙂

    – Zeke

    • The Velo Hobo
      August 21, 2011 at 6:40 pm

      I’ll have to try that one out next year. I used to do the Tour de Tuck every year and really enjoied it. I’m in no shape for a full century ride in the mountains, I’d have to do the meteric. I be looking for your post ride post on your blog! Jack

  3. August 21, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Thanks for these few words about moments of peaceful bliss.

    • The Velo Hobo
      August 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      Thanks for the comment Mark. I’m really enjoying the vintage bikes on your blog! Jack

  4. August 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Fantastic s24o, and very glad the drama of the swimming Thermo-Lite 2 bivy turned out OK. Tragedy averted.

    • The Velo Hobo
      August 21, 2011 at 6:47 pm

      Thanks, I would hate to lose it. It’s a great insulator for the hammock. I’m hoping to do a few more before fall. I’d also like to squeeze in a short tour on the BRP. Maybe Cherokee to Asheville. Jack

  5. August 21, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Well executed, and well documented. A perfect example for my situation. Thanks.

  6. The Velo Hobo
    August 21, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks, I believe there may be more rattle snakes in your part of the world. I might be too freaked out to do a lot of bush wacking after dark. Jack

  7. August 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Very cool report! Glad you caught your bivy!!
    Peace 🙂

  8. The Velo Hobo
    August 23, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Thanks Chandra, I’m looking forward to seeing how that orange bike turns out. Jack

  9. August 24, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Thanks to Velo Hobo for recommending the Hennessey Hammock. I bought one last night. I will be using it on a trip this weekend.

  10. The Velo Hobo
    August 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out for you. The only issues I’ve had with it is that I didn’t follow the instructions and tied it to a tree with a knot…bad idea. Also, it is chilly (here in the mountains) without some form of insulation.

    Thanks for the comment, Jack

  11. August 27, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Just got the Hennessey Hammock yesterday. I set it up today and intend to give it a “test sleep” tonight in preparation for use on the Grand Illinois Trail later this week!

    • The Velo Hobo
      August 29, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      “Test Sleep”. I like that.

  12. August 28, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Nice one Jack! How was the fishing, caught one of those rising trouts?

    • The Velo Hobo
      August 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      I’ve been catching some really small Brookies (the native trout in our area). I’m still looking for a monster to put the Tenkara to a proper test. Thanks so much for the link to the post. Jack

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