LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The quest for a serene place to camp took an unexpected turn this weekend. This was not an actual camping trip, but recon to find a place so remote the bears have to use a map. I wanted to be able to roll out of the tent wearing nothing but bug spray if I so choose.
Cassidy wanted to ride shotgun. She was so excited about an adventure that she did not stop talking from London to Whitley City. People tell me we look alike, which is a humbling compliment since she is gorgeous. We do differ in several areas. She has used more words in 10 years than I have used in my life.
Our destination was Great Meadows Campground, which was listed in Best in Tent Camping: Kentucky. To say it is off the beaten path does not do it justice. There is practically no path at all.
I have made several forays into the Big South Fork, and thought I had a basic understanding. Our first distraction came in the form of ice cream.
Cassidy said she was not hungry, but I am always hungry. Another way we are different.
We passed the Dairy Dip in Stearns once, but could not twice. It’s a good sign when a parking lot is full. We parked ourselves in the only empty booth. As we admired the Elvis memorabilia a parade of deserts and sundaes were divvied out to a neighboring table. I thought Cassidy wanted the hot fudge cake. So I ordered it. I wanted a burger, fries, and coal slaw. The hot fudge cake arrived in a chilled metal bowl and it was immaculate. Then I found out Cassidy really wanted the caramel sundae. So we ordered it too. The food was so good we took pictures.
I bragged that I knew it would be a good place to eat because there were so many cars in the parking lot. “Where else are they going to eat,” she replied.
When we took care of the tab, I asked if they could point me to Great Meadow Camp Ground. The waitress practically used a bullhorn to ask if anyone knew how to direct a potential carjacking victim to a desolate campground. One lady said, “Boy, that’s way out there.” Then she smiled and gave an evil chuckle. Well, it sounded evil to me.
She told me to go to where Yamacraw Bridge crosses the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. Turn left after you cross the bridge. Then you will see signs, but it’s 17 more miles to the camping area. Then she chuckled again. I wasn’t sure I believed her, but if the truck was moving she couldn’t catch us.
When I crossed the bridge, there was a sign that said Great Meadow Campground 17 miles. That was a promising sign until the road turned to dirt. Well I did seek solitude.
At one point I saw easy access to Rock Creek, which is touted as some of the best trout fishing in Kentucky. Cassidy said she wanted to wait in the truck as I made a few casts. The truck was behind me about 10 feet. I made one cast and heard the door open and slam shut. Had that woman followed us?
Nope, Cassidy decided she didn’t want to wait in the car. I am praying that she didn’t lock the keys in the truck. When we heard five gunshots nearby, it didn’t matter if the truck was locked. Cassidy would have pulled the door off the hinges.
We pointed the truck back down the road to Great Meadow. The road paralleled the creek with no sign of humans. Cassidy said this looked like a place people go in horror movies.
When we got there it all changed. Every camping spot was filled. It looked like a hippy convention at a used car lot. Children ran wild like savages, underwear hung from clothes lines, and there were so many people swimming in the river there was a flood warning in Pine Knot. We didn’t even get out of the truck.
It wasn’t a wasted trip. We did have ice cream and we were not car jacked. On the way home we took a side trip to a natural arch. Cassidy showed her artistic side by sketching the rock formation. As the sun set somewhere between Somerset and London she ran out of things to say.