With only one hike remaining in the eastern half of the park, I had a day with decent weather to complete a loop hike between Mount Sterling and Cataloochee in the shape of a baseball diamond full of ups and downs.
Picture
The White Wood Asters were in abundance along the Mount Sterling Ridge.
Picture
Aaahhh...the lovely mudpits of the Mount Sterling Ridge Trail...
Picture
A bridge crossing through a coneflower thicket near the lower end of Pretty Hollow Gap Trail.
Picture
Passing below the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church.
Picture
Don't those pictures look familiar? Why...YES! I took them a few weeks ago on that delightful hike up Gunter Fork.  It seems the NPS put the photos and map I sent them about the slides to good use, posting them at various trailheads on the park's east side.
 
With the number of remaining hikes left to do dwindling, the time was right to make the jaunt up and over the AT from Cades Cove to Fontana for the second time.  It would be a much shorter trek this time around, and more refreshing, as I would head down Eagle Creek and enjoy its numerous unbridged crossings.
Picture
Blackberry patches are opening up all across Spence Field.
Picture
A rather clear morning standing at the base of Thunderhead.
Picture
There are a great deal of artificats along Eagle Creek.  This is a bent piece of train rail lying in the creek.
Picture
One of twenty stream crossings, this one third from the end where the sun glimmers in the water. Sometimes I would find the deeper places to stroll through because it felt so nice on the legs and feet.
Picture
Looking out from the Foothills Parkway, that brown scar you see is the path of the EF-4 Tornado that struck the park back in the spring, devastating several of the western trails.  Beard Cane, Hatcher Mountain, and Rabbit Creek trails remain closed at the moment because of it.
 
One hike I had been delaying for quite some time was the Hyatt Ridge and Beech Gap loop including an out and back along Enloe Creek.  It visits some of the park's beautiful and remote high country but not before taking the steep climb out of Straight Fork.
Picture
On many occasions there were great stands of tall bellflower in full bloom, some bigger than their neighboring saplings.
Picture
The steel monster that crosses the gorge of the Raven Fork.  Back in 1992, a freak storm dumped 4" of water in an hour creating a 12 foot wall of water that touched this bridge and roared down the valley. Crazy!
Picture
An unfortunate circumstance I came upon along Enloe Creek.  I was able to rock a little ways upstream, but not before I came face to face with a massive spider in the rhododendron I hung on to.  In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies..."The breedge is ooouuuuuuuuuuttt!!!!!!"
Picture
A very pleasant setting for Campsite #44 at McGee Spring.  Coneflower and Bee Balm covered the floor and a gentle breeze passed through the gap.