Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring Break Part IV

While I wasn’t thrilled with Gatlinburg, the park itself was beautiful. The first day we didn't see very much because of the thick fog but we made a stop at a working mill (see Paul’s blog) and saw some elk. In 2001 and 2002, about 50 elk were reintroduced to the park so I was surprised to see them.P4111953 On the way back on Sunday, the weather was perfect – very clear and not too cool. It the park literature there is a lot of information about air pollution and how it has affected the views in the park but on our trip there was very little evidence of that.

One thing that was recommended as a must see was the Roaring Fork Nature Trail. While it is only 5 miles long with frequent stops and a narrow, slow road it takes about a hour to go around. There is a guidebook which explains the different areas through which the trail passes. Part of the trail is an old cart path which connected the community of Roaring Fork to Gatlinburg and some of the homes and outbuildings have been preserved.

P4121982P4121983P4122005The woods were filled with trilliums and deer but no bears despite all of the warnings. P4121993P4121999P4122006P4122007The rest of the drive was all about big views – there are lots of trails throughout the park but for the most part we just aren’t there yet and sometimes even the shortest walk can take a lot of convincing so we figured we would just go for the big one – Clingmans Dome.
P4122029 P4122031Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park and there is a 1/2 mile trail uphill to an observation tower. Did I mention uphill? Well, it is a 300 foot climb and it is crowded. There are lots of benches on the way up and, luckily, we have a 4 year old who is going through a shy spell. When she thought she was too tired we said she could rest at the next bench – inevitably the next bench was taken and she wasn’t about to share so we said to walk to the next one – this got us up the hill!
P4122053P4122045 Near the top, the trail to the tower joins the Appalachian Trail, so now we can say we have hiked a little bit of the AT – who knows, maybe it will lead to more. These hikers were resting below the observation tower – drying out socks, attending to blisters etc. I heard them say they had been on the trail about 3 weeks heading north.P4122046The walk down was much easier and Isabelle practically ran down – chasing our shadows most of the way. She even decided she was having fun.P4122060

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