Diversity on Rainbow Falls Trail

Family at Bridal Veil Falls
Family at Rainbow Falls

I keep saying that parks aren’t crowded, certainly not the trails.

A couple of days ago, I walked up to Rainbow Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It was beautiful May day. The parking lot was crowded when I arrived about 9:45 am.

Black snake on tree
Black snake on tree

But where were the hikers?

What were all these people doing, if they weren’t on the trail? Yes, they could have chosen to walk to Grotto Falls, but still…

It took me 90 minutes to get to the falls, hardly a speed record, but I’m no speeder, just a plodder who talks to everyone. I  even stopped to look up to see a black snake on a tree. I think it was a black snake?

Rainbow Falls Trail is rocky and could be considered steep. Many folks were obviously not going to get to their destination. They were slow and stopped every ten steps.

With all the concerns about diversity in the national parks, I must mention that I saw a good cross-section of the US population. Hikers of every age and ethnic group were represented.

A group of Mennonite teenager girls with two middle-age female chaperones came down from the falls. They were wearing the traditional long, plain dresses, with good sneakers and high socks. I talked to them at length but didn’t take any photos. You can be sure that they reached the falls.

Two families with small children gave me great hope. Look at the picture of the family above. Their two-year old was carried by the dad in a sturdy, structured backpack. The mother carried the three-month old in a front pack and had a daypack with their equipment on her back. They were prepared.

Bridal Veil Falls
Rainbow Falls

But I saw a lot of diversity I could have done without. These hikers were going up as I came down the trail, so I don’t know if they made it to the top.

Lots of millenials with nothing – no water, pack, snacks, nothing but a phone in their hands.

I learned that a  group of young teens had been told by their leaders to leave their water bottles behind. “They were just going to forget them and litter”. What!@#$@

Several women wearing flip-flops on their manicured feet.

A couple with a large dog on a leash. When I pointed out that dogs aren’t allowed on the trail, they claimed that they didn’t see the sign and ignored me.

Rainbow Falls itself was thin and narrow. Not much rain this last couple of weeks, so a lot of the rock was dry.

But reaching the destination was great–and not crowded at all.

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