Great Smokies, 3/25/14

Cold morning, hot breakfast – eggs, sausage, make-your-own waffles, cereal, bagels, bread, juices, biscuits, gravy. Apples = the only fruit.

Layered and bundled up for a day of hiking. Started at the Sugarland Visitor Center – and they’d gotten a few inches of snow overnight in the higher elevations. The main road across the park, the one we took yesterday to Newfound Gap, is closed due to weather conditions! But we were seeing peekaboo sunshine. Anyway, we took the next main road to Laurel Falls. Just a 1.3 mile hike up to the falls, on a mostly paved path. Gains a good amount of elevation.

Crowded parking area, and just a little ways above the parking, a dusting of snow on trees and trails. Busy trail, since it’s one of the few still accessible. Lots of families with kids of all ages, one even in a stroller. So many folks in thin pants and hoodies – shivering. Then, snow, large flakes, falling through sunshine. Like powdered sugar on the shiny green rhododendron leaves, but not sticking to the paved trail. Sun-flurries fell intermittently throughout the hike.

A few nice view overlooks along the trail, climbing, a few mini-falls/runoff spots, climbing, then you reach Laurel Falls – a  two-part waterfall, with a footbridge over the flat that separates the 2 cascades. About 80-foot drop total. Lovely. About 40-minutes from the parking lot. Headed up a little higher and there it was, waiting patiently – Ralph’s hiking stick. I had my stick we found yesterday.

Headed back down – I took a spill, scraped knee, bruised elbow. Damn gravity. Continued on towards Cades Cove – here, a cove is an open valley. This one has the preserved old historic homes, barns, churches from the 1800s, that the residents gave up to create the National Park. Long, long, long drive in all the traffic for the park – halfway there we decided it was too far to see old abandoned buildings.

Saw more waterfalls, and The Sinks – giant whirlpool where the river drops dangerously – a sign at the parking area shows park crew engaged in the dangerous retrieval of another “I can swim this” drowning victim. Don’t jump in. Nature trail to Cataract Falls back near the Visitor Center.

Back to town for a little first aid on my bruises. Then dinner with live music at Crystelle Creek restaurant. Trout picatta and key lime pie. Carved bears, and twinkly lights.




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