Monday, June 24, 2013

Reach Out and Touch-A-Bear

Last Wednesday was supposed to be a beautiful day, cool and low humidity.  Sounded like a HIKE day to us.  We had never made it to Laurel Falls which was on our list of things to do in the Smokies, so that was the chosen spot.  It's a 3.6 mile hike round trip to a pretty waterfall.  Since it is so popular, the paths are even paved.  Easy.

We did not get an early as I wanted to start, and the entrance was about 20-25 minutes from our campground, so the small parking lot was full,  we drove about 100 yards further to a pull-off and parked the Jeep.  I had packed a lot of snacks and water thinking we'd find a place around the falls to eat, and Gary grabbed his hiking pole.  He needed to get another medallion for Laurel Falls, so it needed to go with us to qualify!

It was a pretty walk up hill for the first mile with a steep ravine drop to the left of the trail.  Tiny waterfalls (or leaks) through the rocks were siphoned off under the walkway.  The tree roots had made a mess of the path in some areas, so it was still necessary to watch where you were going, that and the other hikers, kids, strollers and running teenagers.  It wasn't too quiet, unless you found yourself alone at some point.

I was looking at the ravine, and something large and black caught my eye.  It moved and two small black spots moved behind it.  A mom black bear and her two cubs.  It was on the other side of the ravine, and I started pointing them out to other hikers.  They ambled along down at the bottom, so we carried on up to the falls. 
Soon we could hear the roar of water, and looking down, saw the rapids at the bottom.  Another 200 feet up, and we heard the roar of the waterfall and lots of talking.  People were taking pictures of each other standing in front of the falls on a convenient rock sticking up in the pool.  So we asked a young lady to take ours, too.
It was a pretty waterfall, and very active with all the rain recently.  There was absolutely no place to sit, and too many people milling around, so we decided to stop on the way home at a quiet place.
On the way back, a crowd of people were on the pathway, a certain 'there's something there' signal.  Sure enough, the mama and her two cubs had worked their way up this side of the ravine and were really close to the pathway.  Now that mama didn't need to bring her cubs that close to the path.  She couldn't have crossed over and gone further up the mountain, as it was sheer rock.  Two rangers were watching carefully, but most people were taking pictures.  Mama had sent her kids up a tree and they were very young, but knew how to go up and down.  They were just as curious about us as we were about them.  So, what was Mama's purpose?  Did she want her cubs to get used to people?  Was she (rightfully so) showing them off to us?  Were the cubs curious and begged to 'go see people?' 
Whatever the reason, she was about 5 feet away from the pathway on the other side of the rangers.  That was close enough for me, and we moved on after taking a few shots of the cubs playing on the tree.  Always a nice surprise to see wildlife, especially babies.
We hiked down the trail, jumped in the Jeep, escaped the crowds and parked at the entrance to the park at a pull off.  We took a few steps down to some huge rocks, opened our eggs and fruit and had us a quiet little stop at the river's edge.
Not being in shape from any hiking anytime recently, we thought we might be a little sore, but cleaning out the bays made us more so. 
Friday we had another nice day washing Bella (the coach).  Then it promptly stormed.  Checking the radar, the storm was just over us.  Hmmm. 
Saturday I had planned to go to a card making class with my friend Brenda.  Gary had gotten bit by a gnat washing the coach, and like last year and the year before, his face swelled up closing his left eye.  So he stayed home until he could begin to see again.  Brenda and I had a great time catching up and making a beautiful birthday card.
I was also in luck because the teacher, Janet, was teaching a class on Sunday called Christmas in June.  So we signed up for that.  I had to take a photo of the cards we made, because they are so beautiful.  It took three hours to make two cards using watercolor paper and paper napkins.  Labor of love.
Meanwhile, Gary was feeling a lot better, so he hung out with Larry, Brenda's husband, while we had fun creating.  They we all had dinner at their house (steaks on the barbee) having had for lunch pulled pork sandwiches a la Brenda.  Delicious!
We needed to leave early and get to bed early because today Gary was scheduled at 6:30 am to be at the hospital to get his PowerPort removed.  The surgeon agreed to remove it because it wasn't needed anymore for chemo, and we continually needed to find someone to flush it once a month.  Not an easy task for an RVer.  Even though it takes, literally, 30 seconds, there are the forms, talking to the Doctor, waiting, waiting, and finally the 30 seconds of flushing, and we can leave.  Since he hasn't needed any treatments of any kind for more than 16 months, we consider ourselves cured, and will be footloose and fancy free for the future. 
The surgery was done under local anesthesia in 20 minutes, and after another 20 minutes to make sure he was OK, we walked out into beautiful sunshine.
Life is Gooooood!



  1. Just love the smokies...nice hike. Don't you wish you could find a time without all the people;o( I guess that is why it is the most visited park!! The pictures of the bears were great:o))

  2. Still have not seen a bear in the wild, although there are a lot of wild blackberry bushes getting ready to push fruit. Maybe we'll get some bear action here on the property. Hmm..maybe not so much :)

  3. Thanks for sharing the great health news!! Glad you are on the road enjoying yourselves.