Category Archives: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Two days in Cades Cove

Each year Friends of the Smokies (FOTS) Classic Hikes plans a two-day trip to an area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is too far to hike in a day from Western North Carolina. This is a highlight of my involvement with FOTS.

I love to take baby boomers and older into the woods – I share a little history, a little flower identification, a look at the actual trail and sometimes, some encouragement.

This year we went to Cades Cove. The group stayed in a motel in Townsend, Tennessee – no camping or roughing it for this bunch.

Abrams Falls
Yesterday, we hiked to Abrams Falls, off the Cades Cove loop.

Abrams Falls

I left Asheville at 6:45am to make sure that I was ready to hike by 11am. We broke up the hikers into two groups and I led the first one. As soon as we got on the trail, it started raining. Hard, persistent rain for about halfway to the falls. No one was deterred.

Abrams Falls is a popular hike. Only 2.5 miles one-way, it attracts a lot of visitors. Recently the park regraded the parking lot, so that people no longer park helter-skelter. They also put in vault toilets – very important since the trail is so popular.

At Abrams Falls, people were photographing the falls and each other. Some were rock hopping in flip-flops and bedroom slippers. Others had come without a pack – just a plastic bottle in their hand for three people.

Our group of seven had lunch at the falls. The falls are 20-foot high but height is only one parameter of beauty. The water rushes down into a large pool. I don’t think it’s ever dry or just a trickle. We tore ourselves away from the mesmerizing falls and started back up the trail.

Driving the rest of the way around the Cove was slow. Whenever a car in front of us saw a bear or a deer, or thought they saw something, they stopped. Of course, on this one-way road, everyone else stopped as well.

Dwight McCarter and Jim Hart

Evening Program
Dinner and an evening program was at Miss Lily’s Catering. Jim Hart, President of Friends of the Smokies, introduced the evening speaker, Dwight McCarter, a retired backcountry ranger.

In his career, Dwight found 26 people who had been lost in the Smokies.  He attributes his skills to his grandmother who was part Cherokee and taught him tracking skills.

Dwight’s fame started (or was heightened) by the disappearance of Dennis Martin, a six-year old boy who vanished in the Smokies in 1969 and was never found. Many articles have been written about Dwight and he himself wrote a book, Lost.

Rich Mountain Loop

FOTS at John Oliver Cabin

Today, hikers had a choice of two hikes: Gregory Bald, led by Steve Pierce, and Rich Mountain loop, which I led.

Rich Mountain Loop starts on the Cades Cove loop before you commit yourself to drive the whole loop.  It’scomprised of several trails deep in the woods through land that was logged hard. But the flowers are a surprise.

See the picture of flame azaleas above. We also identified spiderworts, galax in bloom, and the group’s favorite, pipsissewa. The latter has two stalks with small white flowers and snakeroot-type basal leaves. Hikers just love to say the word.

We stopped at the John Oliver Cabin on the Cades Cove Loop but then continued on the trail for about a mile back to our hot cars.

Cades Cove Overnight

Have you signed up for the Friends of the Smokies overnight? No camping involved!

Join Friends of the Smokies for the Cades Cove Overnight Experience, a special opportunity and fundraiser to explore America’s most-visited national park on June 11-12, 2018.

Abrams Falls

Enjoy your choice of Classic Hikes of the Smokies, experience spectacular Cades Cove, and meet fellow supporters of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Click here for more!

Check out Abrams Falls, a classic five-mile hike off the Cades Cove loop – just one of the hikes that will be offered.

Cades Cove is a special place and too far from most urban areas for a day hike.

So Friends of the Smokies had put together two days of hiking, fellowship and a great evening speaker, Dwight McCarter, a retired backcountry ranger.

Dwight by himself is worth the price of admission.

Ramsey Cascades – in the dry

Ramsey Cascades – in the dry

Yesterday I went up to Ramsey Cascades again with sixteen other Friends of the Smokies hikers. The day was sunny and dry, almost until the end.

What a difference from the last time, when I scouted it with Marielle and Barbara! Mike Knies, the leader, did a fine job of pointing out various huge old-growth trees.

The trail didn’t get any flatter – it is a steep, rocky trail. However we could cross the many creeks and water courses without getting our feet too wet.

When I got to the top, there seemed to be so little water compared to two weeks ago, in the rain. It was still very impressive, one of the jewels of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Ramsey Cascades – by Marielle

On the right  is the picture of Ramsey Cascades two weeks ago. It was a torrent.

But yesterday, the cascades were flowing steadily and quietly, not frantically. We could have a peaceful lunch as a group. But we got cold and one by one, we peeled off  and started down at our own pace.

I really felt the difference between the two hikes going downhill. The rocks were dry and there was little mud. We could have a real conversation on the trail.

Once I got about a mile from the trailhead, the skies opened up. I stopped to cover my pack but I wasn’t quick enough. My pack (and I) got as wet as I did two weeks ago.

I am particularly impressed by the trailwork that has been done on this popular trail. Steps and two bridges were put in, probably in the 1990s.

Bridge on Ramsey Cascades

Before that, hikers waded the river. More on that when I find a historic picture.