Friday, January 26, 2007

Great Smoky Mountains Laurel and Rainbow Falls

I have to say, I’m a bit surprised. Back in the 70’s I spent quite a bit of time in the Smoky Mountains, but I really hadn’t discovered hiking at the time. I remember seeing some nice mountain views, but that is about it. On this trip, focused on hiking, I’m enjoying things from close up. There are still the mountain views, of course, but I’m enjoying the fresh air, the relaxed walks, the woods, the wildlife. Nothing too dramatic, just beautiful scenery, interesting details and curiosity about what is around the next corner. And there are an endless list of trails I’d like to see.

Anyway, the weather has been great. I hiked through some snow flurries yesterday morning, but by the afternoon the sun was peeking out again. Today, a beautiful, clear day. The temperatures might appear on the cool side (lows in the 20’s, highs in the 40’s) but by the time I’m on the trail for 30 minutes I’m unzipping my jacket and feeling great.

Yesterday, I visited the Laurel Falls, a short, easy walk. I hiked to the falls and took these pictures of the falls and then hiked another mile or so along the trail up into an old growth forest. As I mentioned, there were a few snow flurries, which you can see accumulating along the trail. Although I’m partial to the sun, the snow is much preferable to rain.

Today, it was off to Rainbow falls. This falls gets its name from the rainbow that supposedly forms above the falls in the afternoon sun, but I didn’t see it, despite the full sun. I’m not sure whether it was too early in the afternoon, or whether the sun is too low in the south at this time of year. The falls is 80’ high and was pretty interesting framed by ice. The trail to the falls is about 2.8 miles each way, with about 1500’ elevation change. Along the way there were quaint little foot bridges, roaring creeks, ice sculptures and smaller waterfalls, as well as giant trees.

In between, a few minutes in the hot tub and indoor pool, a hot shower and a warm bed. Ah, what a life!!

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