My trip to the Appalachian Mountains late May 2012 was my best out of 6 trips to this region in the past 4 years. The timing was good for a few reasons. There was recent rain in the region prior to my visit so the trees, flowers and waterfalls were enlivened. During my 3 and half day venture the weather was very good. The 1st day’s temperature reached up to the middle 90’s but toward late day on elevations above 4000 feet it cooled down to the middle 60’s. The skies were mainly clear, but the ever present haze / smoke of the Smoky’s prevailed. This is a very unattractive feature of this area. No one gives a satisfactory answer to its cause. I ask “is it pollution?” They say no. I once heard that the trees produce the smoke. The other days did not get as hot yet had plenty of sunshine. When the rain did come at the end of day 3 and some of day 4 it was not unwelcome.
I start the journey at Tallulah State Park to slide down a waterfall into a river pool. The hike though not long is challenging due to the need for rock scrambling in several places. There are also very long and steep stair cases one must contend with. Once the bottom of the stairway is reached you need to cross a river in front of the powerful Hurricane Falls. Even with my water shoes I had to be very careful not to slip while I am carrying all my photographic equipment. I make it to the rock slide after stopping to admire another waterfall named Oceana. The day was already warm and after the hike I was ready to get in the pools and rushing streams found near the rock slide. It was very enjoyable and refreshing going from pool to pool and feeling the strong surge of the mini waterfalls. I was the first one to arrive so I had this place to my self for a good while.
I did get a little banged up in this area though. One example is when I launched from within a pool to swim across it and I got stabbed by the edge of a submerged rock that I did not see. When I finally go down the rock slide on my 1st attempt I scrapped and bruised by wrist against a rock shelf. When I return up the rock face next to the rock slide from the 2nd slide I slip and fall on my face on a wet area about 20 feet above the pool. I then quickly slide all the way back down to the pool. I got cut above my right eye and had a bruise for a few days. Needless to say I was very fortunate that I was not badly hurt as I was over a mile away from the trail head. The climb back up the stairs did wear on me though. Not a great start to the trip.
After a long drive (while icing my injuries) to the hotel in the tourist trap known as Pigeon Forge I wash up and rest a little trying to minimize the incident’s mental and physical impact on me. I arrive at a pleasant wooded area alongside a river to meander and just absorb fine nature. This was one of my main aims of the trip. I just wanted to find some peace among nature. Here I converse with an interesting tall slender man who was resting along his journey. He was backpacking a portion of the Appalachian Trail.
Later I travel up to Clingman’s Dome which is the highest elevation in Tennessee and it was actually chilly. I saw the smoky sunset from a very good overlook with 40 of my closest friends.
One of the other main purposes of my trip was to see bears. The hot spot known as Cades Cove yielded no views of this animal even though I did the driving loop 3 times from the onset of the morning. My consolation prize was a beautiful dawn draped with elegant layers of fog on the hilly valley with deer found all over. I later go to a semi hid falls I discovered the year before. This time I went with all my photo equipment. This was unnerving because I had to cross a swift river up to waist high over slippery rocks. I enjoyed getting totally immersed under and behind the strength of the waterfall. The waterfalls of this region have the added appeal of an ideal water temperature from late spring to early fall. I hung out with a group of Indians at this place. I mean Indians from India not the Cherokee Tribe. These guys I hung with (like most of the Indian Tourist) have an incredible zeal. They act like these places are one big playground (and they actually are). They are loud and giddy regardless of the situation. They love taking portraits of each in abundance. They pose in the most unlikely of places (like in front of a restroom etc.) Once you crack the code they are actually likable. I did get upset at them last summer when they held up traffic in Cades Cove due to their antics.
After this I found another neat spot in Smoky Mountain National Park where people jump off a 20 foot cliff into a deep part of a river. God willing I will do this one day. A guy climbed a tall tree next to the river that well over 50 feet high and jumped into the river.
Another novelty I stumbled upon in this place was a man (so tattooed it looked like he was wearing a shirt) with a make shift boat made out of branches going down the river. What a sight.
At the end of the day I go to an excellent stretch of the southern Blue Ridge Parkway. I had hours before sunset so I needed a good hide out so to speak in the mean time. I found a very neat trail to concentrate on. I had my Elmarit macro lens on my camera so I decided that I would look for subject matter that matched the lens. I found a fascinating world of insects, flowers and such off this trail. I ended up naming the trail the Elmarit after the lens.
The sunset was not smoky this night. It was very nice with various colors on the strewn out clouds. I passed the time in conversation with a lady named Kathy. She is an avid follower of moon phases.
The following morning on another part of the Blue Ridge I find myself traveling thru thick clouds that covered the mountain range. Sometimes the visibility distance was just a few feet. I set out on a lonesome hike to see Crabtree Falls. This was the most scenic waterfall of the trip. The hike did drain me so I forfeited my plan for another hike (Lineville Falls) that would require much more driving also.
I then go to Triple Falls in the southern part of North Carolina. I ran into Kathy on the trial whom I met the night before by coincidence. This place is phenomenal with its massive waterfalls in succession. I lingered just exploring the interesting features found here. A scene from the film Last of the Mohicans was shot here.
I am now driving to my next hotel in Dillard, Georgia when I took a spontaneous side trip to Glenn Falls. The hike goes along side a river visiting a few falls along the way. The main one I saw was an awesome 60 foot waterfall. I was able to approach the base of this waterfall.
I then make it to my hotel which I previously stayed in for a night on the winter of 2008. Like then there was almost nobody in the hotel. For over an hour I was the only one in the entire hotel building. This gave me the liberty to nap with the door open. I love this place because it has a balcony with views of the north Georgia mountains. After I was plenty refreshed, I go to Black Rock State Park (which is Georgia’s highest park). It is a very interesting place. I revisited the next morning under thick clouds which shrouded the mountain. I did not find a suitable place to see the sunset from here so I go back to an overlook near the hotel. Around this time the outer bands of Tropical Storm Beryl were affecting the area. On my way to the overlook I stop by a ranch. I saw a wonderful sight of dark clouds and green sun lit hill in foreground. As I was admiring the unfolding scene a couple of friendly equines approached me. I petted one as we exchanged a knowing stare. Storm cells were visible as the setting sun cast golden hues on dark clouds. The unfolding drama persisted for about 1 hour from this overlook. The rain came during the middle of the night.
Stone Mountain Relief
I had a few hours before my scheduled flight from Hartsfield Jackson International, so I go to Stone Mountain before any tourists arrived to casually stroll around. I have been here 2 previous times. My first trip here was in late 2008. My first look at this grand monument sparked more explorations of this kind. I now saw the monolith in a different way though. After over 20 exploration trips ($20k estimated spent) all over the western US, PR and CR, this place now has the same feeling of a Disney Land exhibition. I do not mean it in a derogatory way. It is just for the sake of perspective.
For someone from South Florida’s flat and relatively featureless terrain, the Southern Appalachians are an excellent place to visit for its wide open mountain vistas and plentiful accessible waterfalls.