S: The Great Smoky Mountains Adventure
FC: The Great Smoky Mountains Adventure | July 2011
1: Our adventure began on July 3, 2011. We drove down to Sevierville, Tennessee and stayed with Mike's sweet Aunt Peggy, just 20 minutes outside the park. We spent the Fourth of July relaxing at Aunt Peggy's house, carefully studying our park map and planning out our trails for the next two days. Then on July 5, we got up early and headed off into the woods!
2: Our first trail was to Ramsey Cascades - the tallest waterfall in the park! It's 4 miles (8 round trip) and is rated strenuous, but we were up for the challenge! | The hike started out easy enough. It was uphill, but the ground was nice and even. There were beautiful flowering plants everywhere, and the path was covered with flower petals in places. | RAMSEY CASCADES
3: There were many places where we had to cross the river. Some had little bridges... | ...and some didn't!
4: Along the way, we could hear - and occasionally see - the river we were following up the mountain to its source.
6: The forest was nothing short of magical! I have never seen a place so lush and intensely green in my entire life.
7: Around every bend, the trail seemed to get even more beautiful! It felt more like being in a tropical forest than a forest in Tennessee.
8: The higher we climbed, the steeper and rockier the trail became.
9: Near the top, we had to climb over large boulders!
10: We climbed up the last (HUGE) boulders and there it was - we had made it to the top!
11: We cooled off in the icy water, then relaxed and enjoyed our hard earned view! | The entire hike took us nearly 6 hours to complete. By the time we made it back to the car, we were spent!
12: Roaring Fork Motor Trail | After our exhausting hike, we were ready to give our tired feet a rest and take a relaxing tour from our car.
13: So we drove around the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail - a little one-way road that takes you around a collection of historic buildings from early Smoky Mountain settlers. It was interesting, and a nice change of pace!
14: Clingmans Dome | Our first stop on day 2 was Clingmans Dome - the highest peak in the park!
15: We climbed up a long, steep hill and then to the top of the observation tower for one amazing view!
16: ANDREW'S BALD | Next we took the trail to Andrew's Bald, which our guidebook described as a "mysterious mountain top meadow." We had to check it out! | The hike was a bit challenging, but not nearly as bad as Ramsey Cascades. The trail began in a sunny, dry evergreen forest. But as went on, the forest became dense with trees. It felt dark and mysterious!
17: The bald itself was a bit underwhelming. But as we sat there, a thick fog rolled in. They don't call it the Smoky Mountains for nothing!
18: By this point, we were feeling pretty tired and sore, but we weren't ready to quite just yet. So for our final hike, we chose the (relatively) short and easy trail to Grotto Falls.
19: This was our prettiest trail yet! We hiked through a beautiful, lush, dark green forest along side a river that began as just a tiny stream, but grew larger the higher we climbed. It started to rain lightly, but under the thick cover of trees, we hardly felt it.
20: We finally reached the top and there it was - Grotto Falls! It was SO beautiful! We were even able to walk around behind the waterfall.
22: I was standing on a rock, taking pictures of the waterfall, when I heard a voice behind me say, "Don't step back!" I turned around, and who did I see? | This guy!
23: ! | That's right, llamas! We think they were carrying stuff down from the lodge. They walked down those steep rocks like it was nothing! | It was quite the sight to see. Look at those llamas go!
24: Our trip ended on a very wet note. Just as we started our descent, that little rain shower turned into a thunderstorm and it began to pour! The trail quickly became a river of mud, and we were drenched within minutes. Despite being wet and muddy, we still had fun. It kind of felt like we were in a rain forest. It was quite the end to our Smoky Mountains adventure!