October 22, 2013
We spent the next couple days exploring several different areas of the National Park. We drove back along Newfound Gap Road (it was still crowded after the weekend) and over to Clingmans Dome. The colors along Newfound Gap Road are beginning to look past peak, but we still enjoyed them. We found ourselves in a bear jam, and quickly pulled off the road. We walked a long ways to the first parked vehicles and heard there had been a mama bear and two cubs visible for some time in the woods along the road. Someone showed us the last glimpse of the mama and one cub way back in the woods. I wish we had gotten there sooner!
As we approached Clingmans Dome, the traffic backed up waiting for parking places in the parking lot by the visitor center and the trail to the top. We were lucky to finally snag a handicapped spot, using Holly’s sticker. There were great views of colorful mountains and ridges in the distance and it was a clear day. Holly went into the visitor center for a park stamp and trail info. Then, we started trekking up to the top. We didn’t get too far before Holly’s painful feet gave out and we had to turn around. The views were wonderful and the Mountain Ash trees had lost all their leaves but were left with clusters of bright, red berries.
After leaving Clingman’s Dome, we drove to the Spruce-Fir Nature Trail. This trail wasn’t as easy as expected, as it was riddled with tree roots and less steep elevation changes. The woods were filled with downed frasier fir trees, covered with moss. The Red Spruce trees were taking over this part of the woods. Narrow boardwalks helped get through the wetter areas of the trail.
The next day, we headed to the northeastern and less populated areas of the park: Cosby Nature Trail and Big Creek. The nature trail was perfect for me today; not too many big elevation changes, not as many tree roots, and a really nice walking path and woods. There must have been 8 or 9 stream crossings on narrow foot bridges. These were made harder by which way the wood railing was leaning; some leaned away from the footbridge board, and some leaned way into the board, causing me to cross sideways. All stream crossings were made without mishap.
We saw lots of fungi, fern, and deep, plush beds of moss.
We drove to the Cosby day use area and picnic grounds and had lunch:
We drove Highway 32 between Cosby and Big Creek. This is the most twisty mountain road I know. A beautiful, little traveled road that turns to gravel before Big Creek Road.
We continued on the gravel road to Big Creek and didn’t encounter too many other cars.
We took Hwy 32 back towards Gatlinburg and our campsite.