Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Our vacation getaway was full of hiking. We hiked different trails In both the Smokeys and Blue Ridge Mountains except Monday (the day we were at the Biltmore, hiking around the house & grounds).

On Thursday morning, we started our day with a drive on a road trail in the Smokeys. We had already done this drive last year when we went to Gatlinburg. In fact, last year when we did the trail, we had stopped at the visitor center and spent a whole $2 on trail guide books that of course got left behind on this trip. We went ahead and did it again (without the $2 book, but with a shortened free version) to see the different fall colors. After the drive, we stopped at Grotto Fails to hike our first trail.

(Yay we made it!)

The hike to the falls wasn't a difficult one. In fact, the worse part was getting from our car to the actual trail head. We had to park our car quite a bit away from it (the parking lot was full and we had to snake down the road until we found an open spot on the side of the road). Walking up the road to the trail was pretty steep, but the trail itself wasn't steep at all. For each hike we went on, we were always overdressed with too many layers. However, the climate would often change within one hike (which required constant breaks to put hoodies back on/off as needed).

(Grotto Falls)

On Friday, we did our most intense hike (I think we still haven't fully recovered from it)-- Chimney Tops trail in the Smokeys. The hike was 4 miles round trip, and very steep (87 % of the trail involved steep incline). The trail has an elevation change of 1432 ft. There were several times along the trail we stopped to evaluate if it was worth it. Having completed the trail, it wasn't worth it-- ha! But it had to do with the day we did it. The night before we went on the hike, it poured down rain -- resulting in lots of fog in the Smokeys the next day. When we started the Chimney Tops trail, it was misting, cold, and foggy.

(Beginning of the trail, not aware of the trek we were about to embark)

(This was the "easy" part of the trail, which was at the beginning. From here on out, the trail got steeper & slicker)

After reaching the first mile mark, I had to constantly remind myself "I'm halfway there". However, the last half seemed to require much more strength and stamina (which was fading quickly by that point). The higher we climbed, the fog had lifted and the sun had popped out. We also reached some areas of snow.

(Snow on the trail)

(Yay sunshine!! However, this wasn't at the end of the trail. When we got to the end, it was foggy and misting again)

The last part of the trail involved slick rocks and monkeying around trees. Once we finally reached the chimney tops, we found a sign saying "Area beyond this sign is closed. You can scale the rocks at your own risk." There was another family ahead of us attempting to scale the rock. Steve didn't want to wait around or attempt it while they were there, and there was no way I was going to attempt it. So we called the trail done and headed back down. Going down went much faster and was easier. However, we still had to rest a couple times to flex our calves (my shins were killing me from pointing my toes down so much!).

(So happy we made it back!! I was rewarded with dinner at my favorite place in Pigeon Forge -- Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant. We went there last year on our trip. You get a 5 course homemade meal for 2 for $30. Yes, you read that correctly!).

Because Friday was such an intense hike, we took it easier on Saturday. We started the morning with a drive up to Clingman's Dome (we hiked it last year, and opted to just drive to the lookout this year). After visiting the highest mountain in the Smokeys, we said goodbye to Gatlinburg and headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville North Carolina.

We did a simple 1 mile hike (paved) up to the Devil's Courthouse. It's named that for it's "sinister look" and supposed connection with Indians; however, I didn't see the "sinister look".

(Devil's Courthouse)

(Steve reading one of the many plaques pointing out the mountains around us; however, we couldn't figure out which mountain was which according to the plaques).

(It did have quite the view!)

We had 2 hikes planned for Sunday. We were only able to do one of them because the other was blocked. Part of the Parkway was shut down due to "snow" (which as I stated in the previous post was a bunch of malarkey, as we saw no snow anywhere else in this area). Our last hike was Graveyard Fields trail (named for upturned trees resembling grave stones; however, a fire destroyed all the stumps and soil, leaving the area desert-like). This trail wasn't hard at all. In the beginning it kind of felt pointless. It felt like we were walking through a "waste-land", but eventually the terrain changed (got to cross some streams) and we made it to the upper falls.

(First part of the trail)

(The terrain changed and the last part of the trail involved climbing over rocks. Luckily, the uphill rock part wasn't too long!)

(We made it to the Upper Falls)

(Upper Falls)

After going back through our pictures and remembering the hikes we went on, I'd have to say that Chimney Tops was probably my favorite. It wasn't because of the view (which we didn't see), but because of the encouragement that flowed from Steve during that hike. Hiking (well any physical activity) is not "my thing". I have learned to enjoy hiking because of how much Steve enjoys it, but this trail was really more advanced than I cared to climb. However, I promised Steve I'd do it for him (he wanted to do the trail last year, but it was towards the end of the trip when I was getting sick). Steve was very encouraging along the hike and we truly just got to be there for each other. This experience is by far one of my top 10 favorite moments with Steve. But that list is for another day ;-).

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