We woke the next morning to discover that the meteorologists were on their game. Rain had indeed moved in and would hang around much of the day. We decided to go ahead and wash all of our hiking clothes, clean up the gear and organize things for the trip back home, all the while praying for a break in the rain so we could cram in one last adventure.
The break came mid-afternoon and we were off. Destination: Cades Cove. Maybe we would finally see some bears on this trip. Rather than go in through the Gatlinburg/441 entrance, we took 321 and came in at the Townsend “Y”. Far less traffic and closer to the Cove.
Once on the loop, we quickly came to a couple of cars pulled over, so we do the same. A LARGE bear is back in the trees. Unfortunately, he would never come out into the open so we could snap off some pics. Didn’t help that a family was standing right at the tree line, WAY too close to be safe, snapping away themselves. Fortunately for them and the bear, things didn’t take a nasty turn. The family walked away with their “Instagram” moments and the bear would be left alone. You simply can’t fix stupid.
We moved on, coming upon another soon after. This one is much smaller but out in the open so we stop once more. Loonie starts to shoot but the auto-focus on her lens dies. It’s an old, cheap Sigma telephoto and, while disappointing, I’m not surprised. She did her best to manually focus and took a lot of shots but nothing came out sharp. Still nice to get a good look at him. Loonie deserves some decent glass!
By this point, the light is no longer in our favor and it’s beginning to look like the rain is coming again. We drive on and sure enough, the drops begin to fall. We head back to the resort to find the tent we had spread out on the deck to dry was now drenched. Oh well. The soaked tent went into a trash compactor bag the next morning. Airing it out would have to wait until we got back home. We checked out, stopped by the NOC in Gatlinburg, had lunch next door and hit the road for home.
One last stop was on the agenda though. A young couple we had met on the Albright Grove hike two weeks prior recommended a quick stop at Ozone Falls on our way home. We did as suggested and it was amazing! Just ten minutes off of I-40 to the trailhead and a short hike down to the waterfall. Well worth the detour!
That’s a wrap. It was another amazing trip. The weather couldn’t have been much better for hiking. Hardly any rain to speak of. Just a drizzle a time or two. Otherwise, beautiful skies. For the most part, it was a lot of easy walking. Sweet! A person could seemingly spend a lifetime in this park and not see everything. I have a “Hit List” of specific places and trails I still want to get to. One day maybe. For me, coming to the Smokies always feels like coming back home. It’s a very special place. You just have to be willing to get out of your car, put on your hiking shoes and hit the trail. It won’t be long before you’ve left the madness behind.
Unfortunately, a return in the near future is unlikely. There is so much to see closer to home and the Buffalo River Trail is at the top of the list. Maybe this coming October or November. Deep Woods and I are heading back to Virginia in two weeks to pick up where we left off last year, Pearisburg. We’ll shoot for Daleville but if the weather isn’t cooperating once we approach McAfee Knob, we’ll cut it short. We want to see it and Tinker Cliffs in nice weather and are willing to hold off if need be. Stay tuned!
More to come…