Smoky Mountains Day 1 itinerary:
- 9:30pm (CT) – depart Chicago (Midlothian)
- Drove through the night
- 8:30am – arrive in the Smoky Mountains
- Stopped at Sugarlands visitor center
- Headed to Ramsey Falls (+ coffee)
- 10:20 – started hike
- 12:15 – arrived at the fall
- 1:15 – start descent
- 3:30 – return to trailhead
- 4:30 – check in at hotel
- Unpacked, napped
- 8:20 – sunset at Morton Overlook
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.
Janet had packed food beforehand, so we didn’t really stop other than for fuel until we made it to the Sugarlands Visitor Center (just inside the park from Gatlinburg) at about 8:30 in the morning. We got a quick rundown of which were suggested and which trails were open from the park ranger and picked up a few maps. Taking the ranger’s information (mainly that Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail was closed) into consideration with the list of hikes that Janet had compiled beforehand, we chose to head to Ramsey Falls.
After a critical en-route coffee stop, we got to the trailhead around 10:20 and headed up to the falls. The trail starts pretty easy and picks up (gets steeper) toward the later portions as most seem to. There were a few places in the second half where the trail all but disappeared. It took us around 2 hours to hike to the falls.
As typical, once there, we spent a good amount of time hanging around and take 3000 pictures. The hula-hooping hippie and her two friends, who we had passed on the way up, arrived shortly and provided some side entertainment. I guess if I’m willing to carry cameras up a mountain to a waterfall to take pictures, it’s only slightly more odd for someone to carry a hula hoop up a mountain to hula hoop in front of a waterfall. Apologies for the portrait video, Janet will be appropriately reprimanded.
We descended more slowly than we climbed up stopping to take pictures of anything that looked interesting. Returned to Gatlinburg to check into the hotel around 4:30, unpacked, napped and then headed up to Morton Overlook for sunset. Morton Overlook is reportedly the best location for sunset, which by sheer chance, we had discovered when we were there a few years ago. The sunset was pretty good, but, maybe due to the effect of being in the mountains and overlooking a valley, about 30 minutes later than listed for the area.
While we were there, I had some brief conversation with another photographer there who was retired and apparently spent his time chasing good photography opportunities in his RV. He was currently following ‘spring’ meaning traveling in a northern direction to various locations as the higher latitudes were warming up to the point where flowers would bloom, waterfalls were at their peak, etc.