After our buckwheat pancakes, bananas and eggs for breakfast, we took off for Laurel Falls, a 2.5 mile roundtrip hike to an 80' waterfall. The early morning temperature here was pretty chilly...hovering a little over freezing. The rhododendrons were loaded with buds, but February is far too early for rhodie flowers We will have to make this trip in late April or May.
|Paved trail with moderate incline through rhododendrons.|
|Coming up on Laurel Falls.|
|Taking our own photo. No one else around.|
|The lovely Laurel Falls and Mr. Bob.|
|Our turn-around point to head down the trail.|
From Laurel Falls, we drove over the Great Smoky Mountains on Newfound Gap Road to the Cherokee Indian Reservation.
|View of Great Smoky Mtns. from Newfound Gap Road.|
|It IS February! Cold overnight and early morning temps.|
|Mr. Shirtsleeves in about 45 degree temp. with the wind blowing. Brrrr.|
|Yeah, how about a hike to Katahdin, Maine???|
|Ice chunks from mountain run-off. Too cold to melt.|
|These ice sheets were about 4' high--off the road.|
|Mingo Falls Trail looking down from top.|
|Close-up of Mingo Falls mini-cascades.|
|Rock layers at Mingo Falls.|
When we were in the car, I kept telling Bob we needed to take the directions with us because they were confusing and maybe they'd make more sense on the trail. But I argued myself out of taking the directions because I thought I understood and didn't want to carry the brochure. First mistake.
After we hiked the 0.3 mi. to Juney Whank Falls, I thought we were supposed to do a loop hike to get to the other two falls. So we looked for the Deep Creek Loop Trail. Second mistake.
|Trail to Juney Whank Falls. So far, so good.|
|Bob at Juney Whank Falls.|
|A nice bench to sit and enjoy the falls.|
We ended up on the Deep Creek Horse Trail going over the top of a hill and down the other side. I kept saying it didn't seem right because it shouldn't be so far to the next falls.
Third mistake: When we got to a junction in the trail, there were no signs pointing to any other waterfalls. To the right was a bridge crossing a river; to the left a nice dirt road trail going along the river. We decided to go left and follow the big river because maybe that was where the falls were. We hiked and hiked, got passed by an older man on a bicycle. Kept hiking. Finally we got to another bridge and saw the guy on the bicycle coming back. We stopped him and asked if he knew where the other two waterfalls were. He said they were back the way we'd come. We needed to turn around and go back to the last bridge and go right instead of left.
|Gorgeous day to get lost, though.|
We went back and turned the other way on the trail and found the other two waterfalls very easily...along with all the other hikers who knew what they were doing.
Long story short, we could have seen all three waterfalls in a 1-1/2 mile hike. We turned it into a five-mile hike.
|Where we should have turned right instead of left.|
|Now we're in the right place!|
|Indian Creek Falls.|
|Susan at Indian Creek Falls.|
|Indian Creek Falls.|
|Tom Branch Falls.|
We called it a day and headed back to our timeshare. On the return trip, we saw two elk on the edge of a meadow near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
Back at the unit, Bob watched Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I spent the whole evening catching up on blogging. We haven't had internet access since we got here last Friday. I'm glad we have it now!
Weather forecast is for one more day of nice weather, then a storm hits Thursday and Friday with 100% chance of rain. We've been very fortunate with weather so far. It has allowed us to do all our hiking.
Time to go to sleep. Tomorrow we're going to brave the tourist trap of Gatlinburg. LOL. Should be interesting.