Monday, August 1, 2011

Hike to Cataract Falls

Another warm day, but Gary wanted to wash the roof before we took a hike.  I prepared lunch as he was finishing up, made some plans as he showered, and by noon we were ready to go.  As soon as we passed the Smokey Mountain National Park sign, the trees instantly lowered the temperature.  It felt like an airconditioner with the windows open!  Ah, and that fresh air smell, mmmmm.  Can't get that from your vehicle's air conditioner. 

We took the cutoff around Gatlinburg and arrived at the Sugarland Visitors Center in about 20 minutes.  We parked the Jeep, grabbed our gear and headed out onto the trail.  A kind passerby took our photo at the trail head. 
 Two trails were available, the Fighting Creek trail that meandered through previously settled farmland from the early 1900s.  As you walk along the trail, you can tell that this used to be a cornfield because the diameter of the trees is small and the type of trees can only get started in open, sunny places, like tulip trees and pines.

We came across this bridge where a large gnarled sycamore tree has stood for many, many years.  Gary stopped and looked for brook and rainbow trout, but saw only tiny fish (babies?) 

Over this bridge the trail splits left and right.  To the left is the nature trail where remnants of fences, homesteads and sled roads can be found, but we turned right toward Cataract Falls.  The built up trail meandered through the woods along the creek, under a road bridge and at the end was Cataract Falls.  Visitors had to wait 'in line' to get into the falls to have their pictures taken.  I offered to take a picture of the people in front of us with their camera, and they returned the favor.  Say cheese!

These were very small falls, but the rainfall has been less than spectacular around here lately, so everything is rather dry.  We crossed the creek on stepping stones and continued up the trail toward Laurel Falls (an 11 mile hike).  Nobody decided to take this trail, most turning back toward the parking lot, so we were looking for a quiet place to picnic.  We climbed about 1/4 mile, and Gary stopped, looked around and said 'right here'.  We were in the middle of the deserted trail, and so that's were we sat!  It was fun watching everyone walk or drive below us as we had a cherry pit spitting contest - Gary won.  It was very peaceful with an occassional burst of children laughing, a sweet sound, but it was getting really hot as there was no breeze, so we headed down the trail, crossed the creek again and walked to the split in the trail.   

Gary couldn't go on any further, so we stood on the bridge and looked for more fish.

After pausing in the coolness, we slowly walked back to the visitor's center and into the A/C to cool off before getting into the heat of the Jeep.  In a minute we were cruising through the forest of the mountains with the windows opened and breathing that fresh air.

Our friends, Brenda and Larry were meeting us at the Smith Family Show at 5:45, so we got cleaned up and met them in the lobby.  Brenda pointed out that her father's 1950 Plymouth was parked in the front of the theater, and that she learned to drive in that car.  Brenda lost her dad earlier this year, but Charlie Bob drove it up to his funeral as a gesture of respect.  So I had to get a picture of her next to her favorite old car.

We were brought to our seats and introduced to the pre-dinner cast who proceded to entertain us with songs.  Then we filed out row by row and walked through the buffet line which included fried and baked chicken, meatloaf and macaroni with southern sides like pintos and collards.  Our drinks were provided by our waiter, Kevin, and he was very attentive.  The show started as soon as everyone got their food, and these are the stars: Jim and Charlie Bob.

Jim Smith is the guitarist on the far right, top photo and Charlie Bob is in the white jacket.  All in all, it was an enjoyable evening.  We thought briefly about continuing our evening together at the CG, but Gary and Larry were pretty tired, so we called it a night with promises to see eachother again later in the week.

Finally we got to play today, and it was worth waiting for.

Tomorrow we work again.

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