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Well, it’s another trip to my beloved Smoky Mountains (more trips than usual this year while it’s still free). Unfortunately the demands of life are shortening my trips recently and this one is a single over night but of course well worth the effort of fighting the tourist traffic on a weekend.
Here I was standing on the AT after arriving at Newfound Gap about 6:30 PM after work last Friday.
I saw this lovely pink bloomed Rhododendron just after scaring a bear off the trail and down into the woods.
I left the AT for the Sweat Heifer trail (first time on that trail) and was greeted by this view immediately. I picked this trail up at 5800 feet and it dropped to 3500 in 3.7 miles.
It had just stormed; this section was pretty thick and wet.
This picture isn’t very good but that cascade was one of the neatest I’ve seen and one of the best features of that trail; it has quartz veins in it that looked magical from certain angles. I tried to get more pictures of the exposed vein further downstream but it was too dark by then.
The Mountain Laurel lit up with my camera flash that night.
Here I was spreading out the “no-cook” grub on a likely rock. I had reservations for the Kephart shelter that night and spent a nice evening in that valley.
The morning of Day 2 and I’m packed and ready to head up Grassy Branch.
Here you can see why Grassy Branch trail is thusly named. Hmm, well my non-GTX shoes “wetted” through pretty quickly in the soaked grass. This trail gained 2000 feet in 3 miles as I approached the Dry Sluice Gap trail but it was well graded and not a bad climb.
The mountain flower girl went ahead of me dropping the pedals. I’m not the bride so she may be confused.
As I continued on the Dry Sluice trail things got really wet, windy and cold. This was an unseasonably cold weekend but such is weather in the mountains.
As I turned North on the AT I was getting pretty disappointed that the weather was so foggy. I’ve hiked the section of AT across the Sawteeh about 8 times and only seen the views twice, so it wasn’t unexpected.
The new grass made a nice contrast with last years blades.
Woo-hoo! The fog was lifting!
I had made it the geologic survey marker rock past Laurel Top (about 1.6 miles from Pecks Corner by my reckoning) and decided to have first lunch and wait hopefully for the sun to come out. In the picture I hit the camera button and was trying sit back down for a relaxed looking photo but didn’t quite make it. : )
Ahh, my patience was rewarded; I took advantage of the warming rays to dry out my shoes and such.
It was time to start heading back across the mountain and it was an entirely different experience in the sunshine!
This was a view I missed earlier in the fog.
This was looking north into Tennessee.
I left the AT for an off-trail vantage I discovered last year.
While exploring a rocky high outcropping I came within a few feet of a nesting falcon. The bird starting squawking in an irritated fashion and made like it wanted to dive bomb me so I quickly put some distance between us. Yikes…I probably need to tell the park service so they can chain off the area (in case it’s the endangered peregrine).
Yep. Gotta be careful up in these spots; it’s a long way down.
I made my way reluctantly back down to the trail. I have a few more good shots but I think this is a good one to end on.
It was really, really hard to leave that day. But hey I’ll take what I can get and be grateful for it.
I hope you enjoyed the report, but like I always say you should go and experience it in person to really get the flavor! Go! Now!