Most of the last day is taken with the drive home, but we did get up early and go catch sunrise from a new spot. This time, just after (heading to Tennessee) the Newfound Gap Overlook. Since we didn’t do much Sunday, I’ll use this post as a wrap up.
Wednesday night – drive to Gatlinburg
Thursday – hike Huskey Gap Trail, early night, no sunset
Friday – hike Rainbow Falls, Aquarium in the afternoon, dinner at Smoky Mountain Brewery
We started early on Saturday and went up to Clingman’s dome for a chilly (as expected) sunrise.
After that, we headed over to the Roaring Fork Motor Trail to the Grotto Falls trail head. It’s a moderate hike and climb at 2.6 miles round trip with 585 ft of elevation. We had been there once before on the first trip to the Smokies and were not able to visit on the second due to the Motor Trail being closed that time. Grotto falls is a neat one in that you can walk behind the falls. With a little bit of scrambling into the river below, you can also get a pretty well aligned shot of the falls.
The second stop was at Laurel Falls en route to Cades Cove. Laurel is an easy hike, 1.15 miles, all paved (somewhat poorly in places) to a more pour-over type falls. There’s also the option to scramble around a bit at the falls to get down to the second level and again out into the river a bit.
This trip up was special – we found a black bear cub just before the top of the trail. It was down over the steep edge of the trail, so it was hard to see and hard to get pictures of. Continue reading →
Despite avoiding the weather the evening before, day three was the real day of questionable weather. Having been to the park a few times before, and wanting to explore something new, we took a drive to the Eastern end of the park to hike up Mt. Cammerer. I think we were a bit guided by the theory that it was going to be the drier side of the park.
The East side of the park may have been drier, but it was not dry. The hike starts heading up through a campground and then along the river. For the first mile or so it was dry, but then it started to rain lightly and more or less kept on dripping until we were maybe a mile form the peak. At the top, we were reminded that the visibility from within a cloud is very limited, so whatever view we might have been hiking to was to remain a mystery. On the up side, there is a mostly whole fire watch station at the top, so we had a chance to sit down, dry out a bit and wait for the rain to pass. Continue reading →
Apparently I started to write this (day 1 was written then), but then took a six month hiatus, so though I can track what we did based on pictures, I don’t recall exactly what the rationale was for doing the various things on various days. So, for some reason which I now longer recall, we decided to do Rainbow Falls Friday morning. We had hiked this two trips and three years prior. I remembered it having some nice views along the river in the first portion and it’s one of the taller (maybe tallest) falls in the park. I was also fatter, so I remember it being more challenging.
The trail was markedly different his time on account of the fire that burned some 10,000 acres of the park and Gatlinburg six months earlier. Apparently, due to winds at the time, the fire spread pretty quickly, but also was not able to fully burn down much of the forest. As a result, the underbrush was mostly missing and the windward side of the larger trees were heavily scorched, but they were mostly still standing and still had canopy up top. The falls area itself appeared to be untouched by the fire. Continue reading →
First day of an extended weekend trip to the Smokies.
Janet and I had done a very similar trip to this before in 2015, so it was relatively predictable. Drove overnight Wednesday to get to Gatlinburg and then got a hotel on the outskirts of Smoky Mountain National Park to do some hiking and picture taking. The 2017 version started a bit later than typical – we left Chicago at about 1AM or maybe a bit later. Janet drove for a while and I think I took over somewhere just south of Louisville. We got to the park visitor center around 11AM.
Our day 1 hike was up Little River Trail, continuing onto the Husky Gap Trail which was reportedly good for wildflowers. There wasn’t a specific destination for this one, we decided to turn around where it meets up with Sugarland Mountain Trail, which made it about a 10 mile round trip.
It was rumored that Cades Cove was the best place to go for sunrise, so we figured we’d best to that at least one morning. Cades Cove is 45 minutes to an hour from the entrance to the park (disregarding the campground next to the cove). There had been a storm the night before, and we did find one tree down along the way. Fortunately it didn’t block enough of the road and shoulder to prevent the Subaru from getting through. We got to Cades Cove before the gate opened, so as early as we could. I think we were car #3 in line.
I expected to be in search of a new view for sunrise and wildlife, but I think that was a misconception, at least with regards to the sunrise. Maybe thanks to the storm the night before, the entire area was blanketed in fog. This yielded a different kind of photography opportunity. It did limit the likelihood of seeing much wildlife as on our first pass around the loop, we couldn’t see more than 100 yards or so from the road. Continue reading →
It was supposed to rain on Saturday, so we didn’t really hurry to get up and going. Turns out, that forecast was wrong and we probably could have gotten an earlier start.
We had noticed that there was an NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) building on the border of the park just in Gatlinburg. I was unaware that NOC had physical stores – I thought they were an online only entity – but since it was there it got added to our list of things to do. We stopped in mainly just to browse, and because I wanted a less warm hat than the one I was forced to use the day before.
Day 2’s itinerary really only had two items on the list: wake up and go watch the sunrise and then hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail starting at Clingman’s Dome. We were able to get up early enough to do the sunrise thing in spite of the previous nights minimal sleep. I haven’t done a lot of sunrise photography, but I’m happy with the pictures I got. Continue reading →
We headed south out of Chicago starting at around 9:30PM (central) and traded off driving through the night to the Smoky Mountains. Janet started out driving and I attempted, with limited success, to sleep. This is admittedly an obnoxious way of going on vacation, but it does help compress things into a long weekend.