May 12th – We had planned to move to the southern side of Great Smoky Mountains NP and stay at the Tellico Plains KOA… While checking their website, I discovered this campground no longer exists. It was hit just 2 years ago in March 2012, by an EF4 tornado and flattened. Sadly, the owners could not afford to rebuild… So, we are just staying put on the northern side of the park and continuing to explore trails. We spent some time buying groceries, cleaning and getting some laundry done.
We packed a picnic and drove Big Red to the Big Creek Picnic Area. The drive is filled with twisty mountain roads along Hwy 32. When the pavement ran out, we were on a gravel forest road. We arrived at the picnic area and had it almost to ourselves… We found a nice table right on Baxter Creek. This area is covered in yellow trillium in April, but the blooms were spent by now. The area is just lush and very green. After lunch, we had a good walk on Baxter Creek Trail and headed back to camp with darkening skies and rain.
May 13th – we packed a picnic lunch and headed out to Cades Cove, hoping to see some wildlife and wildflowers. John spotted a turkey on the side of the road (I missed it!) Storm clouds were hovering so we had our picnic right away before the rain started. We checked out the Cades Cove Loop road to see if cars were backed up and moving slowly. Wonder of wonders, the Loop Road was pretty empty of cars… I have never seen it like this before and I love it!! We moved slowly along, enjoying the views, and the birds singing. We saw some deer in the meadow just as we were exiting the loop. The deer were mostly obscured by the very tall grass in the meadow… We never did spot a bear. I got a Passport Stamp at the Visitor Center and we walked around the mill area and explored the buildings. We left as rain drops began again, and we headed back to camp.
May 14th – John and I packed lunch and headed out to Ramsey Cascades Trail. This is in the Greenbrier section of the park and we have often hiked Porter Creek Trail, off the same road, but not this trail. I was surprised to see how different the two walks were. We crossed the footbridge over Ramsey Prong and I was amazed at the size of the gigantic boulders strewn about in the stream. Along the trail, we saw large masses of Crested Dwarf Iris lining the trail in several places. These bloomed last month and I will have to come back in April next year to see them bloom carpets of flowers. I saw more Dwarf Crested Iris along this trail than I have ever seen before… Ramsey Cascades Trail started as a wide gravel road, going slowly uphill. It became rockier, more narrow, and it was steeper going. I made use of the benches spaced along the way to get off my feet. (I can’t wait for my next cortisone shot next week!) I was having a drink of water when John spotted a snake… a long Black Snake (not poisonous) slithering down a hillside. There was no way I was going to be able to perch on the steep hillside to take a photo, so John helped me out by taking the camera. He was able to see the snake’s head a few times, but he wasn’t able to snap a photo of the head. Thanks for the assist and photos, Bud!
May 15th – It rained all night and is still raining this morning. We decided to get Sausage Egg McMufins and coffee at the nearby McDs and we headed back to Ramsey Cascades to see how much water was in the streams. With a half inch to one inch of overnight rain, we could see a big difference in the cascades, just since yesterday afternoon. I would love to see Ramsey Prong and the Little Pigeon River after a heavy rain (nearby Asheville got two inches of rain last night…)
We are planning on leaving the Smokies in the morning, and heading home for a short while. We have family coming to town this weekend for a 2 day visit… I can’t wait to see our daughter Susie! Then, we will take care of a few appointments and get ready to drive west…