While the wildflower pictures I was seeing drove me to GSMNP for the weekend, the rivers, cascades, and waterfalls were among my favorite memories from my 40th birthday trip there two years ago, so there was no way I’d miss those on this trip.
Last weekend, I drove up to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the weekend. I follow the park on Facebook and Twitter, and I’d been seeing lots of pictures of beautiful wildflowers, so I got the itch and decided I had to spend the weekend in the park. On Friday, I left work and headed up to Maggie Valley, then took the Blue Ridge Parkway into the park.
I made the drive from Michigan down to Gatlinburg after leaving the girls at the Tree Climbing Championships on Saturday. After having such a phenomenal trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year, I was excited for my first return to the park, even though it would just be a quick drive. I hit the road just after 7 on a Sunday morning with permagrin as I made my way into the park.
The sheer beauty of this place overwhelms me, and I leave this place transformed. My senses remain dazzled by all I’ve seen and heard, touching emotions that cannot be processed in anything approaching real-time.
On my last day in Gatlinburg, the morning greeted me with a crystalline blue sky and cooler temperatures. I selected the Little River hike because it was in Elkmont, I part of the part I had not visited yet.
After missing out on the opportunity to get a view from the top of the park the day before, I headed back up to Clingman’s Dome after my morning hike at Porter’s Creek. This time, the sky was clear blue and the air was quite cool with a very strong wind adding to the chill. I decided to take the trail to Andrews Bald instead of hiking asphalt up to the observation area. In the Appalachians, a bald is a high flattish area without many trees, sort of an open field if you will. Since I didn’t have any pictures of spectacular vistas, this seemed like the place for me.
Feeling ambitious on my first day, I swung into the Cosby section of the park and hit the Gabes Mountain Trail to find my way to the awesomely-named Hen Wallow Falls. This had a completely different feel than the trail up to Mouse Creek Falls – no sound of rushing rapids and the trail was littered with roots and rocks.
On a cooler, overcast morning, I headed into the Greenbrier section of the park and made my way to Porter’s Creek Trailhead. The first two hikes I’d picked when making my plans were both Greenbrier hikes – Porter’s and Ramsey Cascades – but because of weather and other things, I did not visit until my fourth day in the park. Based on my (apparent lack of, lol) fitness level, I’d already decided to leave Ramsey for another trip, but I felt even more vindicated when I saw a traffic sign saying that the trail was closed.
I began my day with a hike up to Laurel Falls, an easy short hike. It was cool and threatening rain, with heavy winds howling in the trees overhead. Laurel Falls trail is paved the whole way to the falls, which is kind of odd.