3/23/2008

We checked out the the hotel after breakfast and headed to the Ober Gatlinburg cable car to ride up the mountain. We got to the top around 11:00 a.m. We check out a gift shop and the ice skating rink, and then headed outside. We rode the chair lift in the amusement park section half-way up the hill and got off to do the alpine slide. In this ride, you sit on a platform with wheels that follows a concrete and fiberglass gutter down 1,800 feet of hillside. There is a handbrake to control speed. It was fun, but we had to push hard forward on the brake lever to get up any speed.

After that ride, we rode the tram back to downtown Gatlinburg and headed toward home. We stopped in Pigeon Forge to ride Go-Karts and eat lunch at a Taco Bell. Teagan started driving at the Knoxville and finished the drive home. We arrived around 5:00 p.m. CDT.

3/22/2008

We ate breakfast at the hotel and headed out for the Ramsey Cascades Trail.  Getting there involves going east out of Gatlinburg to the Greenbrier entrance to GSMNP.  Along the way, we stopped at a market for lunch supplies.

We arrived at the trailhead and began the hike around 11:30.   The trail begins by crossing the Little Pigeon Creek and uses an old jeep trail for the first 1.5 miles.  It follows the Little Pigeon along the way.

After the jeep trail, it becomes a very rocky trail with lots of roots.  After crossing the creek again on a foot bridge, the trail goes through a large section of old growth forest.  At one point, the trail shoots between two very large yellow poplars.  Then there is an even larger one just past those two.  It is supposed to be one of the six largest trees in the park.

The trail crosses the Ramsey Prong on another foot bridge.  Past that it is very rocky.  It involves a little scrampling in places.

After 4 miles of trail and about 2100 feet of climbing, the trail arrives at Ramsey Cascades.  Because of the recent rain and snow, the cascades have an unusually large output.  They are probably at their peak for the year.  The cascades fall about 95 feet, flow along a short spillway, and fall again through shorter cascades.

We ate a late lunch on a huge rock at the end of the trail by the cascades.  There were about 15 people there when we arrived.   The crowd thinned soon, and we were able to take photos of the cascades.

As we left, we noticed a way to get to some rocks below the cascades.  So we went out to those rocks from the trail and took some more pictures.

We returned to the van around 5:30.  On the way back to the hotel, we took the Roaring Fork auto tour in GSMNP.  We just drove around the loop and stopped only a few times for views.  Then we returned to the hotel.

From there, we walked along the main drag in Gatlinburg.  We ate supper at Crawdaddy’s.  Then we walked around some more stopping in an occasional shop.

3/21/2008

We ate at the hotel and loaded up to head for Cades Cove again. This time we did the Cades Cove tour where we stopped at the various designated places and read the guide. We stopped along the way and had a picnic lunch in one of the meadows.

When we got to the Abrams Falls Road, we took it to the parking lot so we could do the hike. The trail was 2.5 miles to the falls, but there wasn’t much elevation change. We stopped at few places along the way to look at Abrams Creek and take pictures.

There were lots of people on the trail. It is one of the most popular in the park. Along the way to the falls, Teagan dropped her camera and it rolled down the hill toward the creek. It was stopped by a log before it rolled in. Teagan crept down the steep embankment using a crab walk to retrieve the camera. She made a difficult descent and climb out look easy.

We heard the roar from the falls before we got to the end. The falls had much more water flowing than the other falls we have seen in the park. We took some pictures there and headed back. The round trip took just 3 hours.

After the falls, we stopped at the Cable Mill stop on the circuit and spend some time there looking at all the old houses and buildings.

We continued the tour, stopping at the buildings along the way. We saw lots of deer along the way. In one case, a group of three were only a few feet from the van.

We took a few sunset pictures and headed back to the hotel. We walked down the street and ate at the Park Grill.

3/20/2008

We ate breakfast at the motel. After we loaded up the van, we headed to the Sugarland Visitor’s Center for some advice about hikes. We decided to hike the Gregory Ridge Trail from Cades Cove up to the Gregory Bald Trail. Then we would take that trail to Gregory Bald.

We got to the parking lot for the trail about 11:30. The temp was about 40 degrees.  We packed up and headed out.

After crossing the first of three bridges over Forge Creek, we noticed that a stream the was supposed to drain across the trail was draining along the trail instead.  The problem was that a drainage trench on the downhill side of the trail was clogged with debris from the storm yesterday.  We spent about 15 minutes clearing the clog so the stream would drain correctly.

After crossing the other two bridges, the trail passed a campground and headed into switchbacks that led to Gregory Ridge.

We stopped for a quick lunch and rest on the switchbacks. Further up the trail, we noticed something falling out of the trees. It took us a while to realize it was ice from yesterday’s storm and last nights freeze at the higher elevations. As we got higher, there was more ice. The trees glistened with a whitish glow in the sun.

We passed in and out of these ice forests, depending on which side of the mountain we were on. We stopped often for pictures.

After 4.9 miles, we came to the junction with Gregory Bald Trail. We took it 0.6 miles to Gregory Bald. We got there around 4:30. The temperature was around 40 degrees. The elevation was 4,949 feet, putting us a little over 3,000 feet from the parking lot.

The wind was making us uncomfortable, so we stayed only about 20 minutes. There were good views on both sides of the bald. Cades Cove was to the northeast about 7 miles away.

We retraced our route to get back down. The car was a welcome sight after 11 miles of hiking. We got there around 7:00.

We drove back from Cades Cove to the hotel. Then we walked across the street for a meal at Cherokee Grill.

3/19/2008

Rain was predicted for the day, but the weather wasn’t bad when we got up.  So we prepared for a short hike or drive in the park.  We picked up some lunch supplies at a market on the way to the park, but it started raining when we left.  We decided to shop in Gatlinburg instead of going to the park.

We walked from our hotel along the main drag stopping a several shops.  Teagan bought a couple of figurines.  We ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant.  We did more shopping, including two fudge shops.  We returned to the hotel around 3:00 when we were all shopped out.

We decided to go to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.  We got there about 5:15 and stayed until they closed at 9:00.  The displays were very interesting.  There was a long glass tunnel that snaked under a tank containg sharks, sawfish, angelfish, tangs, grunts, barracudas, rays, morays, and tons of other creatures.  Separate tanks had lobster, octopi, lionfish, frogs.  There were also freshwater displays containing ciclids, silver dollars, and other similar fish.

There was also a good exhibit on incubation of various animals.  Another area described how the aquarium filters the water for the tanks and gave some of the technical details about the aquarium.  There was an observation window that shows some of the huge filters and water processing tanks.

We ate supper at the aquarium around 7:15.  Teagan’s fish sandwich was good, but Richard’s grilled chicken sandwich was really dry.  It makes sense that the fish sandwich would be better at an aquarium, we suppose.

We returned to the hotel around 9:30.

3/18/2008

We checked out of the park inn and went to Fall Creek Falls Overlook to take more pictures. The wind was so strong we couldn’t even use a tripod for fear it would blow over. We took several pictures and got out of there before we froze. Teagan drove until we stopped for lunch at a Krystal west of Knoxville. Then Richard drove to the Sugarland Visitor Center in the Smoky Mountain National Park. We arrived around 3:00 p.m. After getting some advice for a good afternoon hike, we drove to Fighting Creek Gap where we started a hike on the Laurel Falls Trail.

We came to the falls after 1.3 miles. The lighting was harsh and there was a large crowd, so we kept going after a brief stop. We continued for a total of 3.1 miles when the trail intersected Little Greenbrier Trail. Along the way, we passed through a forest of yellow poplars and hemlocks. Slightly higher we came to a forest of mostly oaks and maples. After a total climb of about 1600 feet, we returned to the falls.

We took lots of pictures at the falls. The lighting was better for pictures than when we came up. Teagan climbed up from the trail on some rocks near the falls. She also descended below the falls to see the fall from below and to take pictures.

After we finished at the falls, we returned to the van at dusk and drove to Gatlinburg where we checked in to the hotel. We ate supper at Calhoun’s across the street.

3/17/2008

We left the inn and drove to A&H market to get food so that we could have a picnic for lunch. Along the way we saw a group of 10 wild turkeys. Right before the Nature Center we stopped at a pullout where we saw Cane Creek and an impressive rock wall. We took some pictures and went on a suspension bridge, which was part of a trail, but we didn’t go on it.

At the market, we got some sandwiches, some drinks and a few snacks. Then we drove to the nature center to do some hiking. We stared on the woodland trail and crossed cane creek on a suspension bridge. Then we took the gorge overlook trail. From one of the overlooks we had a good view of Cane Creek Falls. We saw one small waterfall and one big one. The small one was where Rockhouse Creek empies out. The big one was Cane Creek Falls. Further along the trail we came to Rocky Point which had a huge rock formation. There were other overlooks but they didn’t have very good views. We rejoined the woodland trail and continued to Fall Creek Falls.

We came to a big stream, which was Fall Creek, and took pictures. We crossed another stream, Cooks Creek, and came to Fall Creek Falls. We hiked to the base of the falls. When we got to the end of the trail it was very rewarding, as we got a great view of Fall Creek Falls from below. It was very misty down there so we would keep having to wipe the camera lenses. We hiked back up the trail and then took the woodland trail all the way back to the nature center. We thought we should check out the nature center but it was closed.

We got our lunch out of the car and ate at a picnic table. After lunch we took the Paw Paw Trail from the Nature Center to the Cable Trail. The Cable Trail was a steep decent to the base of Cane Creek Falls. There was a steel cable that ran from a tree at the top to a boulder at the bottom. The cable came in handy at the top when it was real steep but after that it was easier to not use the cable. We got a good few of Cane Creek Falls and hiked back up and took the Paw Paw Trail back to the nature center parking lot.

We came back to the inn for a few minutes. Then we drove on the Scenic Loop drive. There were several pullouts where you could stop and look at the scenery. Some of them were good and some of them weren’t. After that we drove to Piney Creek Falls. It looked like a good waterfall but we could only get a partial view of it. We took the Lower Loop Trail until we got to the suspension bridge, which went over Piney Creek. Then we hiked back to the parking lot. Then we took the Piney Falls Trail, which connects Piney Creek Falls to Fall Creek Falls. We took the trail until we got to a side trail. We took the side trail which leads to Millikan’s Overlook. We had been to Millikan’s Overlook earlier on the Scenic Loop Drive. We did a small trail off the Millikan’s Point and came to Buzzard Point. After that we hiked on the road back to our car at Piney Creek Falls. We drove back to the Nature Center to see if it was open and it wasn’t. On our way back to the inn we stopped to look at the village area. We were pretty much hiked out for the day, so we stayed at the inn and ate supper there.

3/16/2008

We left Franklin around 1:30.  Teagan drove to McMinville where we stopped at a Wendy’s for lunch.  Richard drove after lunch.  The drive was very pretty around Spencer with lots of elevation changes.  We arrived at Fall Creek Falls around 5:00 pm.
After checking in at the Inn, we hiked the lake trail to the Fall Creek Falls overlook. On the way we saw 3 white tailed dear.  After seeing the falls, we headed back.  It was about 4 miles round trip.  We ate supper at the restaurant in the inn.