We woke up early to what promised a change in the weather. Warm sunny temps were coming! Braving the eye sore that Gatlinburg is we drove in to do the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail just after dawn. The road work that had closed the road had just been finished with it opening that weekend before. The sun was just rising as we stopped by this homestead and met a lady hiker who had just completed the loop trail – and had a not so pleasant encounter with a mama bear who followed her down the trail. Seeing as she saw the bear less than a 1/4 mile away we opted to enjoy the home and outbuildings and not test lady luck.
While on the driving tour we stopped at the trailhead for Grotto Falls.There were only a couple cars that early in the parking lot. At 2.6 miles round trip it sounded like a good one for the baby. The trail contoured the ridge, slowly gaining elevation as we hiked along, often crossing tiny streams on rocks.
The fungus was all over the trees, including healthier looking ones:
Fungus on a dead tree, slowly decaying it:
First view of the waterfalls:
A view through the Laurel bushes to the lower falls, in the background we could see the upper falls as well:
The trail cuts a narrow path between the cliff wall and the stream:
When we got to the upper falls the light was very dim so not a great photo. The rocks in front block a full view, it is 25 feet long so not a huge waterfall but still very pretty. You can walk behind it, the trail continues onto the summit of Mt. Le Conte.
On the way out we encountered a steady stream of families coming up, many with children. Here we met the only other baby we saw the whole week. She was a tiny 3 month old fast asleep. The narrow road was clogged with cars for nearly a mile beyond the trail head!
The drive was a nice one and is well worth doing. It passes a lot and you have to wonder how hard it was to carve out a little slice of heaven back there though.
After the hike to Grotto Falls we found a picnic area and took a long lunch doing recipe testing. We got talking and decided that with the weather it would be a shame to miss seeing the views from Clingmans Dome. It is about the most touristy thing in the park to do but also quite a pay off for little effort.
After suffering a .5 mile walk that gained over 300 feet on a paved road, er I mean trail, we came to the top of the ridge. The fat kid in flip flops was far behind us, apparently having gotten so exhausted by walking 1/10 of a mile uphill that he sat down in the middle of the trail…..note to boy: put down the X-Box controller and the Cheetos. Go outside more often.
Kirk ribbed me on if I wanted to use the tiny travel stroller I had brought on the trip (for the airport) since there were parents pushing 4 and 5 year older’s up the hill in strollers. I think my eyes were twitching at this point.
And then you see the Monorail, oh I mean the “trail”, up to the observation tower.
Kirk looking down at us:
Walker and I on Clingmans Dome:
The views were 360° that sunny day:
One more view:
Walker in his lil’ Jail Bird outfit (it has the cutest stripes):
One last photo of the two of us as we headed downhill with Dad:
On the way down we encountered the lady from early that morning (the bear one) and another couple we had met at Grotto. A nice way to end the afternoon!
Notes on things I learned on this trip:
– The concept of latte huts lining the roads do not exist down there. Or even up in Virgina. There is a Starbucks in Pigeon Forge that while it has very nice employees is the slowest place ever. I’d be the only person in the store and it took 10 minutes for it be made. It was highly disorganized is the only way to describe it.
– Do not order unsweetened ice tea when eating out. You will be mocked by your server and your husband.
– “Vegetables” can be such items as cornbread stuffing or macaroni and cheese.
– The Super Wal-Mart is the least tackiest place of business in the whole Highway 441 corridor. A sad day when I can say that truthfully. It also carried HEET for alchy stoves, we carried a White Box with us.
– No matter what the TSA has on their website about traveling with infants you will encounter one aggressive worker who will claim up and down that they know the rules and that if you don’t agree to it, you face “further screening”. This was due to my carrying Similac Ready To Go bottles of formula. I had followed all rules – had the formula in bags, separate and declared it ahead of time. We got pulled off and were treated overly nasty, when we said no that they could NOT open the bottles (factory sealed) the lady called her supervisor over who backed up the worker. When we pointed out the TSA’s rules and how Seattle’s airport tested the bottles (the airports have a device that can tell if the seal has been tampered or not) the supervisor got even nastier telling us that Seattle wasn’t doing it to the rules. Ok-e-dokey. A 3rd employee came and gee, guess what? Oh the damn machine for testing was DIRECTLY BEHIND THEM! 30 seconds later we are done and out of there. You have got to be kidding me Dulles Airport! You need to rein in your power hungry employees! There was NO excuse how those two treated our baby! Once the seal is broken we would have had to throw his formula away. It was 6 am and he was sleeping and not likely to eat for 2 or more hours. The TSA at Seattle though was very professional and courteous to us, helping us as a family. A thanks to them.
– Flying with an infant is great for one thing! You get to load first, even before First Class. Wooo!
– But most of all we had a great time and learned it wasn’t terribly hard to travel with a baby 🙂