Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Smoky Mountain Rainforest

This Blog entry is for Sunday, May 17, Day 3 of our trip to the Smokies.

It was so rainy and foggy this morning that we could not even see the mountains from our cabin view. So we decided to stay high and dry indoors for the first half of the day.

After lunch we drove into Gatlinburg and met a fiend of Tom's for a personal tour of the machine room of the Ober Gatlinburg Sky Tram. This was very interesting (I think more so for me than Tom), and was the perfect in-door activity since it started to poor down rain again. We turned down a free ride because it was so foggy, and decided to take our chances in the car at the park.

We headed for Cades Cove and saw several small waterfalls and swollen creeks because of all the rain. We even saw some crazy white-water kayakers.

Maybe it was the rain, or the day of the week (Sunday), or the time of the day (about 5pm), but the traffic and crowds were much lighter compared to yesterday. This and the heavy water flow got me excited about going on another hike to a waterfall.

So I picked the Abrams Falls Trail from by book and convinced Tom I could do it. It was only 300 feet total elevation change out-and-back, and there were only 4 cars in the parking lot. The only kicker is that it was 6 pm when we set out. Sunset was 8:30, and the book said the trip should take 2.5 hours, and another book said 3.5 hours. Tom offered to carry all of the gear, and I promised not to stop along the way and take pictures or look for birds.

We made it in there in 50 minutes, back in 60 minutes, and rested for 10 minutes at the falls. My back was sore, but the waterfall was well worth it. Because of all the rain from the last couple of days the falls ROARED. One of the most amazing falls I have ever seen. And the rocks were situated right next to the pool so you could walk right up to it, as far as you wanted to get wet from the spray. We got some great photos and videos with no other people in it. I found some wild Bleeding Heart flowers growing on the cliffs near the falls.

The trail was heavily eroded and wide (not paved), but the wildflowers on the trail banks were in great shape. I would point one out and Tom would stop and take a picture of it and then catch up to me. On the way back we saw wild turkey and a Ruffed Grouse, birds we would have never have seen if the trail was crowded.

It was risky heading out on a hike so late in the evening, but it payed off. And we made it back in time to see the sun set over Cades Cove. We were starving by the time we got back to our lodge at 9pm.

UPDATE: Visit my web album soon for pictures.

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