Monday, June 11, 2012

Anniversary Trip: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Despite what you may have thought from my last post, the main attraction of our vacation was to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Matt had never been and I had visited once with my family several years ago, so it was pretty much new to both of us. I'm so glad we went because it was absolutely gorgeous! We filled our time with a good mix of sight-seeing via hiking and driving as well as visiting various historical sites such as Cade's Cove

The smokies are older than the Rockies, which is why they are shorter and not snow-covered year round. However, the way they were formed leads to great diversity in the plant and wildlife. The rangers told us that going from Gatlinburg all the way up to the tallest point, Clingman's Dome, would be like traveling from Alabama to Canada in terms of not only elevation, but also in the plants and wildlife we see. Neither Matt or I are huge into trees or other plants, but even we could tell a difference from the lower to the high elevations! As you will see in our pictures, it is definitely foggy at times, and then perfectly clear at others.

One of the first amazing views we came across
Oh the fun of mountain driving...
We liked the rock walls we would come across
The drive to Clingman's Dome was quite foggy...
You can't see it (neither could we), but at the top of this mountain is an observation deck
The beginning of the .5 mi hike all the way up to the top of Cilngman's Dome
Along the way the Appalachian Trail intersects with it. Matt wanted to take the trail, but I refused. It is over 2K miles one way...
The highest point in the Smokies... and here was our view!
Along with this... oh the fog...
At the top we saw this guy and his dog, who we later found out were hiking the Appalachian Trail, all of it!
The descent into the foggy abyss...
On another part of the drive that day, another amazing view
One of the first mills we came to
The water source to power the mill 
And look, corn meal!
An hour or so later, we hiked to Juney Whank Falls
Look! A hiking trail!
The next day, this was an old cabin we came to
In the same area was a 1 mi hiking trail Matt and I decided to take. Thus begins the search for the salamander. Random fact for you, the number of salamanders as well as their collective weight is far greater than that of the black bear population in the national park. Unfortunately, no matter how many little mountain streams we looked in, we never found one :(
More epic hiking
More little mountain streams
On the 3 mi hike to Laurel Falls
Along the hike it is good to stop and admire the amazing view
At the falls, looking downwards... quite a falls indeed!
So pretty!
An old school house
An old Methodist church
And I figure that's enough pictures of the park to put on here. We took more of course, but I don't want to bore you too much! We had an amazing time exploring the park and there was still a lot we didn't get to see, tons of hikes we didn't take, and zero salamanders & zero black bears spotted (much to Matt's disappointment). I highly recommend it if you ever get a chance to go-- it is free and it is the nation's most popular national park for a reason. We can't wait to go back and make some more amazing memories!

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow-- these recaps are great! It looks beautiful there. Glad you guys had a great anniversary!