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Part Fourty-seven

American Women on the Loose

By Susan Cox

To the military to be AWOL is a less than desirable situation. To a group of women in the upper northwest corner of South Carolina it is a weekend of learning to fly fish, camp, and enjoy the outdoors. The annual AWOL (American Women on the Loose) weekend was organized after a group of friends, some with experience in the outdoors, some not, gathered on the banks of the Chattooga River for a weekend of "roughing it".

Roughing it for some was not too bad, for others, pure torture. This was a test to seperate the women from the girls. The girls didn't have blow dryers, make up, running water, or flushing toilets. The girls brought in loads on wagons, down the quarter mile walk into the campground. The women had everything in a backpack. Each person was respoonsible for setting up their own tent, without help, whether you knew what you were doing or not. The hilarity was unbelieveable. Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! That was what the guys had told Jenny to do to set up her tent. Just open it up, crawl inside and pop the sides out. This was not your typical tent, it was a canopy used by the telephone company. There was no floor in it. So the question was asked "Whatcha gonna do if it rains?" It took two hours to set up camp. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was ready for a dip in the river.

After cooling off the fly casting instruction got underway. Easy enough, everyone got into that with no problem. Several of the women had met the week before at the local fly shop for casting lessons. (Another story in itself). So off to the river, which had been stocked the day before. I explained riffles, runs, and pocket water. I talked with great enthusiasm about dry flies, nymphs, and hatches. Everyone stared at me like I was from another planet, speaking in unknown tongues. What they wanted was a couple beers and a decent meal. After one checked out the understructure of the river, that was an excuse for everyone to go back to camp.

The rest of the evening was spent around a campfire sharing stories of our lives, telling jokes that would make a man blush, and just relaxing.

Bright and early the next morning after a breakfast that would feed an army we hiked to King Creek Falls. The die hard fly fishers took their rods. The falls were magnificant, as always, as was the fishing. The hike back to camp was quiet and reflective.

And then the forest rangers arrived, two of them. Checking out the campsite with all those women. This could be heaven or this could be hell. They hesitated before entering, shook their heads and backed away. Guess compliance to the regs of the campground weren't a priority at point in time.

Four hours later, and losing count of the trips to pack all the "stuff" out, everyone left exhausted, dirty, and sore. By later accounts, relaxed and content. So ended the first annual AWOL weekend. There have been several AWOL weekends since, but not so memorable as the first.

The annual AWOL weekend has grown from seven women. Plans are in the works to extend the two day event to a four day event. The next weekend will include white water rafting, fly fishing, and hiking for the year 2000. For more info contact me at: ~ Susan Cox

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