Smoky Mountains Day 4 itinerary:
- 6:30 – got to Cades Cove (sunrise)
- Drove two loops around Cades Cove
- Started hiking Middle-Prong trail
- Turned back due to rain
- Stopped at “The Sinks”
- Returned to hotel – nap
- 4:30 – Chimney’s Trail
- 7:00 – return to trailhead
- Bear sighting
- Drove through Gatlinburg
- Geocaching and dinner in G-burg
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.
We did two loops. The first was kind of a fog run and the second the wildlife run. The first was more successful, and we were sadly skunked on our search for a bear. We had been to the Smokies a few years back and had toured most of the side stops, so we didn’t stop at each and every one this time around. We did stop for a good bit toward the back of Cades Cove in the Cable Mill area. After that, we decided that it wasn’t worth burning the entire day driving in circles hoping to sight a bear, so we headed back toward Gatlinburg.
We stopped to hike the middle-prong trail, which was supposed to go to a waterfall. The description we had of the trail and what to expect was a little vague, so we’re not 100% sure we were on the right trail and even less sure how far up the waterfall of interest was. We did find a small falls, but I’m not sure if that was the main event. It started to rain some, and given the uncertainty, that was enough to prompt turning back.
On the way back, we did noticed a millipede, so we were able to add that to the critter-count for the day. On the drive out from the trailhead we also caught sight of a heron which we chased up and down the banks of the river for a little while trying, with some success, for pictures.
We stopped at “The Sinks” which is apparently a popular waterfall, but I’m guessing its popularity is due to the fact that it’s adjacent to a parking lot. It was non-remarkable. Google images shows people diving and swimming there, so maybe in warmer weather that’s a thing. I didn’t see any route down to the pool.
After a nap at the hotel, we decided that in spite of the rain / fog we aught do something so we headed to The Chimneys. The fog kind of absorbed the 360 view from the top, but it did make the hiking trail cool.
It was our final night in Gatlinburg, so we did a quick drive through and then parked to walk around for a bit and do some geocaching (no geocaches in the National Park due to the leave no trace rule). Janet had a sheep travel bug (I think it showed up in the day 3 pictures) that we planted in one of the Gatlinburg parks. We then went to the Smoky Mountain Brewery for dinner.