Monday, March 30th, 2015
An 80% chance of rain had us a bit worried about how our first day in the Smoky Mountains would be. The rain stopped by 8:30 a.m. and it was blue skies the rest of the day. We grabbed a bite to eat at the ‘continental breakfast’. All they had to choose from was a few muffins and doughnuts. Oh well. We got ready for the day by getting the backpack packed before we headed to the visitors center to get some maps and try to create a plan for the day. We decided to drive an hour and a half to get to Cade’s Cove. There as a scenic driving route which ended up leading to a few hiking trails. We’d heard good things about an awesome waterfall called Abram’s Falls. A little after 1 p.m. we set out to check it out.
The waterfall was awesome. Most people see the waterfall then turn around and make the 2.5 mile trip back. We wanted to make a loop and see a bit more than we already had, so we continued on. We noticed a trail on our map that would be an additional 5 miles but looped back around to the car park. It sounded like the perfect distance, so we took off. We didn’t get too far before coming across a river. In order to complete Rabbit Creek Trail (and get back to the car) we’d have to wade through the rapid river that was at least knee deep. The ranger suggested a different route which was a 9+ mile loop. Feeling very eager to explore, we decided we were up for the challenge. At 2:30 p.m. we said goodbye to him and continued on. We witnessed some unbelievable sites all day long. The Cooper Road and Hatcher Road Trail were pretty strenuous at times. Lots of ups and downs. We basically zig-zagged from mountain peak to mountain peak which, besides exhausting, was really neat. We had some in depth conversations about black bears because we were warned that they can be a common site in the Smoky Mountains. Just when we were commenting on how quiet it was and how little wildlife we’d been seeing, a couple of turkeys scared Lacey half to death. We continued on, up and down, up and down. We saw a family about 8 p.m., which was the first human interaction we’d come across since running into the ranger about 5 and a half hours prior. We really felt like we were a part of nature. It was starting to near dark and the signs on the trails became slightly misleading. We ended up finding the nearest road and walked along the road back to the car. After hiking well over 15 miles, sitting in the car without a heavy backpack on felt great. It was just about dark when we left the lot for our hour and a half drive back. Along the way, we pulled up next to a parked car with their window rolled down. I was worried they were having car issues, until she pointed out 3 black bears in the field in front of us. We watched them safely from our car for a few minutes before continuing the winding drive home. I don’t think either of us will have a problem falling asleep tonight.