The colors in the Smoky Mountains is amazing and is right now at peak for this autumn in both Tennessee and North Carolina and all I have been doing the past week has been chasing the best colors and hiking all around the Great Smoky Mountains national park.
The weather here in the Smoky Mountains has been amazing - even the day of light snow we received in the upper elevations was cold enough for some light accumulation but certainly not uncomfortable and the next day it warmed right up, slowly enough to let the snow linger and fast enough to hike dressed lightly.
I have spent only 3 days in the North Carolina side and the other time herein Tennessee where the fall colors are a bit behind.
So far nothing I have examined other than some spots along Newfound Gap Road on the North Carolina side, the tops of Le Conte and the highest points of the Appalachian Trail are in the final days of fall colors. Due to heavy evergreen growth on the tops of Le Conte and the AT they are wonderful year round - maybe even prettier with some light snow.
Most of the snow is now gone except in the shaded areas in higher elevations in the highest parts of the park. On Friday 2 of the walls along Clingmans Dome Road were shrouded in ice for the sunrise and even though the sun was just spreading its warm glow against the rock walls chunks were already breaking off and crashing to the ground below.
In regard to wildlife sightings in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, it has been anything other than average for me. Plenty of bear in Roaring Fork but outside of Roaring Fork I only saw 3 in a week. I normally see that many a day this time of year.
Speaking of bear I am amazed that in the Sinks parking area which clearly has active bear warnings posted in 2 places that the garbage was overflowing so that the lids in all three containers would not shut.
I found a large stick and mashed down what I could to get the bear proof lids closed. When I returned from hiking the Meigs Creek Trail it was overflowing again. I tracked down a park employee and had them radio it in.
Shame on the irresponsible persons who did this rather than packing out their garbage as they endangered other visitors as well as the bear. The park service has to watch these trash receptacles more carefully while there are such bear problems in the park - even with the lack of funds they have as this is the 4th garbage incident I have seen and reported in the past week.
Beside the most unbelievable hiking and driving in the Smoky Mountains, I had 2 other outstanding experiences, hiking with Smokies Scout and taking the guided hay ride in Cades Cove on the Sunset run.
Hiking with the Smokies Scout was wonderful and for the fist time in my Smoky Mountains hiking career I actually did a shuttle hike. We rode up Newfound Gap Road during sunrise and stopped to take pictures on an overlook on the North Carolina side and the ice along the side of the road in Clingmans Dome Road.
Our hike took us from Clingmans Dome Road where we were bundled up, hat gloves and the like with snow on the ground and ended up eventually in the Lakeshore area - where I was down to a T shirt.
Our hike which was mostly downhill also took us up and back down the Springhouse Branch Trail. They day and the fall colors were amazing. We went from full blown out peak to dark green and light green areas just waiting to change. Sometime hiking up we went back in season - go figure.
The Cades Cove hay ride I took was far better than I would have ever expected and will go into more detail in another post. The hay ride was on the last day it ran this year, and it was the last time the present concessioner who had run this service for the last 40 plus years took visitor around the Cove as a new concessioner takes over in the spring.
Well I am off to chase more color and I think it will be my routine for the next 2 weeks!