Five days in the Smokies, probably the longest I stayed just to do Smokies miles. I’m getting there, folks, I’m getting there.
The first three days I was with Sharon McCarthy, shown here with her favorite warm hat. She’s a hiker from Charlotte, who’s doing all the Smokies in a year, her fiftieth-year. She’s also raising money for the Girl Scouts since getting girls out in the woods and hiking is so important. She wrote about our three days together so well, there’s no need to repeat our exploit. Check out her website and contribute to the Girl Scouts.
On the fourth day, Saturday, I walked Little Bottoms Trail and saw five dogs – with their owners. I approached a middle-age woman picking up a dog so small I first thought it was a piglet. “Hi,” I say, “You know, dogs are not allowed in the Smokies. I’m not a ranger but if he saw your dog, you would be fined.” She looked at me as if I had horns. “Well, it depends on the trail, doesn’t it”? Before I could say “actually no,” she picked up her doglet and went back to the river bank and the safety of other people. I took a photo of her and her dog. She was probably thinking, who made her sheriff? Dogs are not allowed on the trails in the Smokies. They’re not allowed on the trails in any National Park for good and proper environmental reasons.
The far western Smokies, west of Cades Cove, may be the forgotten part of the park, yet on this sunny autumn Saturday, the tiny Abrams Creek Campground was full. I followed the Abrams River upstream to Abrams Falls, a popular spot most tourists reach from Cades Cove. The falls were an emaciated version of what they were before the drought but the water still barreled down forcefully. Two men with three boy scouts in uniform threw rocks in the pool at the base of the falls. A couple snuggled close to eat their sandwiches. A young Chinese man struggled to lift his one-year old boy out of his backpack while his wife chased after their two older children heading for the water.
A sixty-plus gray pony tailed throwback to the 1960s crossed the bridge and looks around. He wore a denim shirt and jeans and carried a hiking pole that he might have carved himself. His external frame backpack was much too big for the few miles he walked but it probably was the only pack he owns. He looked around for someone to take his picture and I volunteered. With a big smile, he said “I want to show my girlfriend that I was here.” I love watching people come here maybe for their first time and being truly awed. “Well, I hope you come back. There are heaps of other great places in the Smokies.”