Good morning everyone!
Mark, Kayla and I went to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg over the Thanksgiving weekend and as always had a great time. It has become a family tradition for us to spend at least one day in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and this year was no exception.
The first year we did this, we drove around Cades Cove, stopping at all of the houses along the way, the second year we walked to Laurel Falls and back and took Tyra and Mandy for a walk at one of the only two trails open to dogs, and then last year we went around one of the park’s motor nature trails.
Evergreens of Some Kind
This year, we decided that we wanted to go for an easy hike, and then drive over the mountains from Tennessee into North Carolina.
Mark and Kayla together on a mountain overlook
We stopped at the Sugarlands Visitor Center to get some advice. We asked the ranger behind the counter to recommend an easy walk that wasn’t too very crowded. (Laurel Falls is classified as an easy walk, but the two times we’ve been it has been packed with people.) She recommended we try the Alum Cave Bluffs trail, so we drove over toward the trailhead, about 15 minutes away, to find the road around the trail head lined bumper to bumper with parked cars empty of people who were at that moment trekking up the Alum Cave Bluffs trail.
Kayla and I at an Overlook
We decided thanks, but no thanks, so we continued on our drive up the mountain and stopped at a couple of overlooks to take some pictures. I love the Smoky Mountains; winter, spring, summer or fall, they are always beautiful!
Kayla on the walkway in front of the parking lot
As we wound our way up the mountain, we came across the Newfound Gap Overlook, so we stopped there to see what we could see. Kayla found a little walking path along the front ridge of the parking lot, so she walked along that for a little while as we followed her up top.
The View from Newfound Gap
Then we climbed to the overlook itself (just a few steps) for a stunning view.
Mark and Kayla at the Newfound Gap Overlook
As we came down from the overlook, we noticed a trail heading off beside it with the following sign.
We decide to go on a hike.
So we decided to walk that way for a while. I’ll leave it to you to decide which trail we were shooting for.
A sprawling root system on the side of the trail
It didn’t take too very long on the trial before I realized that everything on this trail was up. No down. None at all. And I detest Stairmasters! Still, I am willing to put up with a lot in order to get outdoors for a while and find somewhere where you can get away from the sounds of modern civilization, so we persevered.
Kayla appointed herself tour guide, and selected two twigs as weapons to protect us from bears and snakes. She was a little crestfallen when she learned she had to leave the twigs at the trail and couldn’t take them home with her, but I explained that there was a huge fine for taking anything from the park and that if everyone who came there took away a twig, there wouldn’t be any twigs left, so she understood that a little bit better.
Our Fearless Protector and Tour Guide
We were about halfway up by this time, and I was winded. I told Kayla that her best bet if a bear came after us was for her and Mark to leave me for the bear and run on ahead. She instead showed me her best karate moves with the twig.
The View from the trail
We stopped a couple of times on the way up just to admire the views and listen to the sound of the wind around us, and the leaves rattling on the trees.
Trail View - the Side of the Mountain
And next on our tour –
And next on our tour -
Waiting on parents again…
When we finally reached the part of the trail where it looked like it was going to start heading down again, we decided to stop and go back. Neither Mark nor I wanted to walk up more than once if we could help it.
Really, I"m having fun - how much longer?
Kayla studied the best way to get down the rocks.
Kayla studies a way to get over the rocks on the trail.
Carefully, she climbed down.
Carefully Climbing Down
Once we finished with the trail, Mark stopped and took our picture at the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. Kayla and I held hands across the sign, so one of us was in one state and one was in the other state. Not very original, perhaps, but fun!
One Family - Two States
We reached Cherokee, North Carolina in a little while and started looking for somewhere to have lunch. We had a moment where all three of us wondered if we had suddenly become dyslexic as we rounded a corner and saw a sign in front of what was obviously a school building that none of us could read – until we figured out that the sign was written in Cherokee. (We catch on eventually!). We found a breakfast/lunch place within 10 minutes of closing, and ate there, then headed back over the mountain, still enjoying the scenery.
A close-up of me on the trail
Our final view of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park that day was a modern contradiction – two hikers were trudging down the mountain with heavy backpacks on their shoulders, obviously having finished a wilderness trek of some length. One of them was talking on his cell phone.
Have a great day everyone!