Fall in the Smokies Part 5

 Fall in the Smokies Part 5 is the second part of my last full day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

MPT102017001Early afternoon I headed to Tremont Road to try to make the 8.3 mile round trip hike to Indian Flat Falls. To get to the Falls, you hike the Middle Prong Trail which some considering the best hike in the Smokies.  It passes three major waterfalls (Lower Lynn Camp Falls, Lynn Camp Falls and Indian Flat Falls).

From the parking lot, you cross a metal footbridge over Lynn Camp Prong to the what appears to be an old gravel road but was a railroad bed.  The hike itself would not be bad if not for the fact that two days earlier I had already done 21k and equivalent of 112 floors plus the Grotto Falls hike that morning so my body was still a little sore. Not to mention carrying 2 cameras, 3 lenses and a tripod.

Just before the sharp bend in the trail I came to a bench that looked over Lower Lynn Camp Falls which is a 35 foot multi tiered waterfall.  Unfortunately as this was mid day, the sunlight was quite harsh on the top half of the falls.  I took several photos and then continued on my way.  

OC102017001The next waterfall I came too was the Lynn Camp Falls which is another multi tiered waterfalls.  

As I was hiking along the path, a nice gentlemen let me know that I was only about 100 yards from where an old Cadillac was left.  I found the small path and took several photos at different angles.  

By this time I was fighting both exhaustion/soreness and sunset.  I did not want to be on this path after the sun went down as it has a lot of rocks along it and I have enough trouble when I can see them.  I made it about 3.1 of the 4.3 miles before I decided to turn around. I took some photos of the cascades river before heading back.  I was so tired when I got to Lower Lynn Camp Falls that I didn’t even bother to take my camera out of my bag.  

It was too late to head to Newfound gap for sunset when I got back to my car so I headed back to the hotel.  I picked up Zaxby’s and took back to my hotel. 

I was originally planning on stopping at Mouse Creek Falls on my way home on Friday but as I had 27,208 steps, 13.5 miles and 34 floors, I decided to just head straight home.  The only problem with that was that home is due East so part of the drive, I was heading directly toward the sun.

My three day totals were 57,816 steps, 25.2 miles and 165 flights.  I got quite the workout.


Fall in the Smokies Part 4

 Fall in the Smokies Part 4 is my last full day in the Park.

Grotto102017004I was still riding high from all the bear photos that I had taken the day before.  I decided to head to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and do the Grotto Falls hike.  Cool thing about this Falls is it is the only Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that you can go behind. It is a very popular hike so like Alum Cave Bluff, if you want to find a parking space, it is best to get there early.  Unfortunately Tim didn’t join me on this trip so I had to drive the Motor Trail.  Part of the road wreaks havoc with my intense fear of heights. The parking lot was almost full when I arrived just before sunrise.

I remembered to bring water on this hike but yet again I forgot to grab my sunglasses.  Thankfully this hike is not as steep or as long as the Alum Cave Bluffs hike. Grotto Falls is 2.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of only 585 feet.  You can continue up the path to Mount Le Conte but I just did the Grotto Falls Hike. I lucked out as I arrived at the Falls, three people were getting ready to leave and there wasn’t any one else around.  I went over to the opposite side of the Falls and took quite a few photos and a time lapse with my cellphone.  

I took a few photos almost underneath the Falls.  As I was taking some photos back on the trail side, a couple of people arrived.  Amazingly enough, I was alone for all of my close up photos of the Falls.  It was awesome. I am so not a people person and its more work to take people out of the photos.  This was so much better.  

Grotto102017003I took a few photos on the hike back to the car.  Unfortunately the rivers were much lower than they were during my April visit.  Heading back to the park through downtown Gatlinburg is always fun during the height of peak season. I made a quick stop at Sugarlands Visitor center to pick up a few souvenirs including a tee shirt so now I have a shirt from each of my trips. 

Next stop was Cades Cove for lunch before heading to Tremont Road to try to hike to Indian Flat Falls.  Traffic into Cades Cove was worse than Gatlinburg. I stopped off at the campground store where I had a hot dog and chips for lunch.  I picked up a few more souvenirs and then was on my way to what turned out to be the last hike of my trip.  

Like the other two days, I will continue the adventure in the next blog post.  

Bears Bears and More Bears


Bears Bears and More Bears 

IMG_0881My second full day in Great Smoky Mountain National Park was the highlight of my visit because it was the day I finally saw bears.  And boy did I see them, I saw 8 different bears before the day was over. As my friend Tim can attest to, one of my goals when visiting the Smokies is to get a photo of a bear.  Tough to do when you don’t see any which was the case of my first two visits.  This trip more than made up for it.  

The first bear I saw was on my way into Cades Cove early Wednesday morning.  The male bear was on the side of the road foraging for food.  Unfortunately since it was before sunrise and still dark out, the photos that I took did not turn out too well.

The next bear I saw moved too fast so I wasn’t able to get any photos. 

I was on the Cades Cove Loop when I finally was able to get some bear photos that actually turned out which is the first photo on the slideshow.  I hung around him for about an hour taking photos.  He was too busy looking for berries and acorns to care about the 10-20 of us taking his photo.  I’m guessing the Smoky Mountain Bears are used to people shooting (with cameras) them.  

After shooting him, I started to head out of the park for an appointment when I heard about a mama and her two cubs. I parked the car and headed into the woods.  Since nothing is more dangerous than a mother protecting her cubs, I stayed further away from them then I did of the other bears I saw. Though in all fairness, I was still closer than the NPS recommended 50 yards.    The second photo in slideshow is mama up a tree and the fourth is one of her cubs.  

The next bear I saw was in about the same spot as the first bear but since I had an appointment, I didn’t stop to take photos.

After my side trip to Pigeon Forge, I headed back to Cades Cove where the last bear I saw was causing a traffic jam on the road to the Cove.  I must have spent an hour taking photos and of the about 800 photos I took that day, 400 of them are of him.  Third and and sixth photo is of that bear.  He was not far off the road and didn’t care that he was causing quite a stir among the park visitors.  He stayed in the area for at least an hour eating acorns.  He was still there when I left.  

As you can see in the photo, my souvenirs from this trip (and that is not even all of them) have a definite theme.  This trip was definitely Bears Bears and More Bears.  


Fall in the Smokies Part 3

 Fall in the Smokies Part 3 continues on Wednesday.  It follows Fall in the Smokies Part 1 and Fall in the Smokies Part 2

OMHD102017002The best part of this day will be the next blog post, this post is just an overview of the day.  The original plan was to meet up with my Facebook friend April Bryant in Cades Cove but a miscommunication prevented that.  Since we were scheduled to meet until 10am, I headed into the park early to get some photos of the John Cable Grist Mill hoping that it would be surrounded by fall colors. It was not, Cades Cove was still very green but I still took some photos.  

I then got delayed heading out of Cades Cove to head to the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge to meet April.  It turns out when she suggested meeting at the Old Mill, she meant the Cable Mill in Cades Cove and not the actual Old Mill.  I did take some photos of the Mill before heading back into the park.

My second time through Cades Cove was so I could turn up Rich Mountain Road to photograph the Cove from side of the mountain. You can see one of the Cove’s white churches from the pull off. I had hoped to get the Cove with rich fall colors but alas Mother Nature had to be her sadistic self and most of the valley was quite green.  The road is one way and drops you back out in Townsend.  Since traffic getting into Cades Cove had been so bad and the road was much longer than I expected, it was too late for me to head to Newfound Gap to take some sunset photos. 

I stopped at Fuddruckers for dinner and then headed back to the hotel to do a little bit of editing before heading to bed.  

Fall in the Smokies Part 2

 Fall in the Smokies Part 2 continues my first full day where Fall in the Smokies Part 1 left off.

SFF102017001I headed back into the park and after a brief stop at Sugarlands Visitor Center, I headed up Tremont road to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont to hike to Spruce Flat Falls. The somewhat little-known trail is only a 2.0 mile roundtrip but it is of moderate difficulty and includes some steep, rocky sections. You park at the Institute and then head up the trail.  The trail is very narrow, nonexistent in some places and not well maintained. Between this hike and the hike to Alum Cave Bluffs, my fear of heights was getting quite the workout.  The last part of the trail to the fall is a steep decent to the falls.  Two boys were sitting on the trail blocking the path. I finally made it to the falls, found a good spot but not before slipping on the rocks trying to get down to the spot. I set up my camera and then had to wait patiently for people to get out of the way.  You could hike up to the middle of the falls and cross over but after the hike that morning and knowing I still had to hike back, I decided against it. 

One particular young man decided to stand on a rock right in the middle of of the falls blocking my view. I was not happy because he stood there talking to what I assume is his girlfriend for at least 5 minutes with no consideration for the other people at the falls.  Finally the group of students from the Institute left and the guy and his girlfriend finally got out of the way so I was able to take my photos.  

I headed back to the car. I apparently did not turn where I was supposed to so instead of going on the narrowest part of the trail, I ended up hiking down some of the buildings at the Institute and walked up the road to where my car was.  I was originally going to head over to Newfound Gap for sunset photos but I was just too tired and sore.

I headed back to the hotel where I had to check in again. Monday night was a different reservation that I had made months after the initial Tuesday-Friday reservation and even though I booked the king size bed room for both reservations, I had a different room number.  While my photos were uploading in my computer, I walked over to the Diner next door for dinner. Since I had forgotten my reading glasses, I got an order of potato skins to go and headed back to the hotel.  I edited a few of the photos, wrote the first blog post and then got ready for bed.  

According to my pedometer, at the end of the day I had 22,443 steps, 8.6 miles and the equivalent of 112 flights of steps. All from two hikes.  Gotta love elevation hikes. No wonder I was so tired.  

Fall in the Smokies, Part 1

Fall in the Smokies, Part 1

GSM102017003I had planned to leave for my vacation straight from work but because the apartment office was closed at lunch when I went to pick it up the lens I rented from BorrowLenses.com, I had to wait until after work to pick it up.  I Finally headed to the Smokies for my vacation.  Yes, I came back from the third time in a year.  Traffic in Conway was fun like always.  I was hoping I would arrive when fall colors were at peak but unfortunately, lowest elevations are still quite green.

For my first full day in the Smokies I had originally decided to head to Newfound Gap overlook for sunrise then Alum Cave Bluffs but I was lazy this morning and decided just to head to the Bluffs.  Alum Cave Bluffs is a very popular hike off Newfound Gap so best to get their early to find a parking space. It was a balmy 33 degrees so I was wearing a fleece jacket over sweatshirt and long sleeve tee shirt. The Alum Cave Bluffs trail is 4.6 miles with an elevation difference of 1,145 feet. The good news is its uphill to the Bluff so downhill coming back.  On the trip up, I came across quite a few photo opportunities of raging water but as I started this hike before sunrise, I decided to wait until my trip back.  I am not as in good shape as I would like to be and had to take a few breaks.  Other than that, the hike was going well until I got to the Arch which is a series of steep, narrow steps going through mountain arch.  I was fine going up but was very nervous about the return trip. I do not handle heights well. The photo on the left is a bridge leading to the Arch.  I also stupidly didn’t bring two things I needed, water and my sunglasses.  A nice guy I met on the trail gave me a water and I had to deal with not having my sunglasses until I got back to my car. 

On the way back down the trail, I stopped at multiple spots to take photographs of little waterfalls in the river.  I started the hike around 7:30 and finished around 11:30.  My next stop was Sugarlands Visitor Center.  I think everyone decided at this time to stop there, the place was packed. 

I then headed into Pigeon Forge for lunch.  My first thought was the Old Mill (I want to get photos of it) but it was also packed (recurring theme in October in and near Great Smoky Mountains National Park). As I was driving, I saw Lil Black Bear Cafe.  Small little hole in the wall place but cheeseburger was very good.  As I was waiting for my burger, I edited a few of the photos from the hike to Alum and posted one to Facebook.

This blog post was longer than I expected so I will continue the day in the next blog.  


Cathie and Tim’s SC Excellent Adventure Part 2

Cathie and Tim’s SC Excellent Adventure Part 2

DHHD082017003Cathie and Tim’s Excellent SC Adventure Part 2 starts with us getting breakfast at Eggs Up Grill in Myrtle Beach before heading to Charleston for the day.  On the way to Charleston, we stopped by the old haunted mansion to take some photos since Tim hadn’t been there before.  (it is directly across highway 17 from the road you turn on to go to Hampton Plantation).  Someone else was there and told us that the land had been sold. Hopefully they won’t tear down the old house, many photographers shoot that house.  

Our next two stops were stops so I could get stamps in my National Parks Passport, Charles Pinckney National Historic Site and Fort Moultrie (which is part of Fort Sumter National Monument).  At Fort Moultrie a park ranger told me that Charles Pinckney wasn’t a true national park which I pointed out that it had its own place in the passport unlike Fort Moultrie.  His response "I never said this was a true site and I normally work at Fort Sumter."

MILH082017001Our first photography stop was Drayton Hall. Before our tour of the house, we walked the grounds and took photos of the house.  Tim continued his fascination with oak trees and took some photos of the beautiful oak trees on the grounds. I normally just incorporate them into my shots like the photo above where the house is framed with the branch from the tree.

After stopping for lunch, we headed to Edisto Beach State Park so I could get a stamp in my SC State Parks book (6 down, 39 to go). I am not keeping track of the National Parks because there are 417, I doubt I will be able to get them all but I will certainly try. 

We then headed to Folly Beach to take photos of the Morris Island Light House.  The waves were huge and it was very windy, found out once we left it was because there was a storm in the Atlantic making its way to our coast.  

We stopped at Smoky Oak Taproom for dinner and then headed back home. Unfortunately it was on this trip that I somehow managed to shatter the LCD screen on the D300s which is going to cost $250 to fix. 


Return to the Smokies Day Four

Return to the Smokies Day Four.

RFLE042017001The day did not start out well.  Tim woke up feeling even worse and Mother Nature decided to be her sadistic self.  It was overcast when I woke up but it wasn’t long before the skies opened up and it started to pour.  I spent the morning editing a few photos and writing the blog posts for the previous three days.  I don’t have a working laptop so I’m using mobile LR and Photoshop on my IPad Pro for editing and also writing the blog posts.  Unfortunately the box for the blog posts is only so big and once you get past that you can’t see your words so all my blogs will have to be finished once I get home and have access to my iMac.  As the day progressed I could feel a cold coming on.  Not surprising considering how much time Tim and I spent together.

RFMBW042017001We decided to grab lunch at A&W and then head to the park since it looked like there might be a break in the weather.  See comment about sadistic Mother Nature.  Best laid plans.  It started to pour as soon as we arrived at the restaurant.  I haven’t been to an A&W since I was a kid and I’ve always loved their root beer.  I even bought an official A&W mug, I ordered the small one (shot size) but she rang up the largest one. Since she needed a manager to void the order, I told her not to worry about it and just took the large one. 

After lunch there were still thick clouds over the mountains that we couldn’t see them so we headed back to the hotel where I did more editing.

The storms finally cleared around 4pm so we headed to Roaring Fork Nature Trail for our final photo outing together.  Part of the road is rough for someone who is deathly afraid of heights.  I was getting very nervous on the narrow one way road which has a steep drop off just past the asphalt and since we took my car and Tim doesn’t know how to drive a manual transmission, I had to drive. Since neither Tim nor I were feeling up to it we opted out of both the Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls hikes.  They are definitely on the list for the next trip but Tim will be driving next to time so I can feel safe on the inside part of the road.  We stopped and took more photos of the flowing river because neither of us just don’t have enough long exposure river shots from this trip. We also stopped at the old mill.

We stopped at a wood fired pizza place on the way back to the hotel.

Return to the Smokies Day Three

 Return to the Smokies Day Three

SPHD042017001Finally our first full day of sun.  We decided to head back to Cade’s Cove to shoot Sparks Lane and then head into Townsend to get breakfast. Sparks Lane was open to traffic which made get photos of the road fun because we kept having to move to the side to let the cars pass. Its a very popular road.  We met Joseph Rossbach who was doing a seminar with a nice couple from Germany.

One of the vehicles that we moved out of the way for stopped down the road so they could take photos but the ruined our shots. While we were waiting, I wandered into the mist covered field and took photos of and dew covered spiderwebs.  I wandered down the road because I had seen some deer crossing but they were on the other side of the stream covered lane and I wasn’t going to get my running shoes soaked.  I asked the driver how long he would be because we wanted to take photos and his response was "don’t you guys have photoshop?"  I love inconsiderate people. He eventually did leave.  

GSMLE042017003Instead of heading to Townsend for breakfast, Tim wanted to stop by Sugarlands Visitor Center to pick up a collectible Great Smoky Mountains National Park poster he had seen on our other stops into the center. On the way out of the park, we pulled off to take photos of the river.  I think we’ve been there at least 4 or 5 times.  Since we were closer to Gatlinburg than Townsend, we decided to head to Pigeon Forge for breakfast which was quickly turning into brunch. 

We planned to go to Flapjacks Pancake house which we bothered remembered was on the right side of the road.  We still didn’t see it when we got to Sevierville so we turned around and headed to the IHOP we saw.  Flapjacks in Pigeon Forge was on the opposite side of the road, the one we were both thinking was in Sevierville and we just hadn’t gone far enough.  Oops. 

We then headed back to the park. We headed toward Elkmont campground to hike Jake Creek trail hoping it would have some thick foliage to filter the harsh sunlight. Only problem was the trail was closed at Cucumber Gap Trail so we took a few photos of the small stream near the parking lot and then headed back to the hotel because Tim wasn’t feeling well.

MO04217001Our last photo excursion of the day was heading up to Morton Overlook in Newfound Gap to get the sunset.  Tim was thrilled to see Tony Sweet who’s workshop he attended in the Badlands.  I had a little trouble with my exposure but as you can see, I think the photos out ok.

Another great day in the Smokies.  

Return to the Smokies Day Two

Return to the Smokies Day Two was supposed to be the first full day of sunshine but we are talking about Mother Nature and add the Great Smoky Mountains in and it does not always happen that way. It didn’t rain though and clouds can make for some dramatic photos.

LFLE042017001It was my turn to drive.  Our first stop was Laurel Falls.  We parked in the parking lot, grabbed our gear and started the 2.6 mile round trip hike up the mountain. The good news is it is almost totally up hill to the falls so its downhill back to the parking lot.  The path is paved but not always in the greatest shape in a few spots.  The trail comes to a bridge that cuts the waterfall in half.  We set up our tripods on the rocks and took photos keeping in mind that edge was not very far.  Both Tim and I took photos for tourists and had one of them return the favor and take one photo of us.  The first photo that we are both in facing the camera.  Neither of us like getting our photos taken.

LFLE042017002After we finished taking photos, we decided to hike down the rocky trail to the bottom of the falls.  It was slippery and not easy to navigate but we made it down but not before scraping my calf which I would repeat climbing back up.  We took many photos of the lower falls.  Laurel Falls is popular so there will be quite a bit of editing to do on these photographs since many hikers decided to wear bright neon colors and stand in the way when I’m taking the photo. The nerve of some people.

We planned to head to Roaring Fork Nature Trail for our next destination but instead of heading toward Gatlinburg where the entrance is, we turned onto Newfound Gap.   We could have done the hike to Alum Cave Bluffs but the parking lot was overflowing and neither of us are a big fan of crowds. Chimney Tops was closed so we decided to go to Clingman’s Dome.  We were both a little sore and tired from the hike to Laurel Falls but how hard can a half a mile hike be. Famous last words. 

CDHD042017002We passed a few scenic overlooks that we planned on stopping at on the way back down the mountain.  After I parked my car, we took some photos from the edge of the parking lot and then headed to make the hike to the observation tower.  The hike is relatively short but because of the steep incline, the NPS rates the hike as strenuous and believe me it is but the view from the top is well worth the hike.

The driving trip down the mountain was fun for me as the road has a lot of twists and turns but I don’t think Tim felt the same way.  It probably wasn’t a lot of fun for a passenger.

Greenbrier042017002Our last trek for the day was down Greenbrier Road which runs along the Little Pigeon River.  Another great area to capture photos.  Ramsey Cascades Falls is off this road unfortunately it was closed due to a bridge being out.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Burger Barn for dinner.  All in all this was an amazing and tiring day.