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.
Blackberry patches are opening up all across Spence Field.
A rather clear morning standing at the base of Thunderhead.
There are a great deal of artificats along Eagle Creek. This is a bent piece of train rail lying in the creek.
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.
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.
We were in the mood for a return trip to Mount Cammerer to see how it looked with so much more spring greenery than in April.
The Catawba Rhododendron were beginning to bloom along the crest of Mount Cammerer.
Shortly after our arrival, the clouds enveloped the tower, but not before we could snag some great views of the park's east side.
Call me crazy...a 31 mile body buster from Cades Cove to Bone Valley to Fontana.
A few serviceberry trees were still in bloom despite the morning frost.
Views to the southwest toward Shuckstack and Fontana were pristine.
A break in trees affords a view up at Blockhouse Mountain.
At one point the trail passed through a tiny forest of painted trillium...most impressive.
A grassy and blackberry adorned Haw Gap.
Peering across the porch of the Calhoun Place near the old Proctor settlement.
Glasslike waters of Eagle Creek before it empties its waters into Lake Fontana.
Took a day to traverse Shuckstack from Twentymile to Lakeshore and back. A heck of a haul with numerous hairy stream crossings along Lost Cove.
One of a great number of red Huger's Trillium that lined the trail early on.
A video showing the beautifully flowing Twentymile Cascade.
The wild geraniums were out in full force much of the way, a great spring for the purple flower.
I managed to stumble upon an open Fraser Magnolia bloom at ground level, catching a whiff of its creamy goodness.
A different perspective from Shuckstack, so much green, compared to my trip last fall.
One of seven unbridged stream crossings...notice the massive tree truck ideally stretched across the water. It sure came in handy!
After an entire month of not accumulating any new miles in the park, the weather and my procrastination finally reached an accord enabling me to knock out the Goshen Prong Trail in a great hike from Clingmans Dome to Elkmont.
Temps at the Dome were in the 50's and the views were grand.
Despite the week's cool temps and heavy rains, even the Trout Lilies near the Dome were in fine shape.
Not long after leaving the AT, the trail conditions got a little rough and rocky.
A vast cave in which one can crawl a ways into is situated just over halfway down from the AT to the campsite.
Where I was able to cross this unmentioned and unbridged stream crossing is somewhere at the top of the picture.
Taking a look at the mighty Goshen Gate Bridge over the Little River.
The clusters of Showy Orchis along the Little River Trail were the most impressive I've ever seen in the park anywhere.
With hopes of a sunnier afternoon, we took the weather forecast for its word and headed up to Mount Cammerer to behold its spring beauty.
Breaks in the clouds above offered rare glimpses of blue skies while everything else remained socked in.
Shortly after we left, the clouds broke and we could see peaks and valleys all around, so we immediatley returned to the tower to soak it all up.
With the sun's reintroduction, the Trout Lilies began to open their droopy heads.
Even the Spring Beauties burst open with the sun's help to cover the mountain in white for miles and miles.
Low Gap was adorned with a blanket of White Fringed Phacelia.
At trail's end we were treated to one of a few large Vasey's Trillium.
Continuing the streak of fabulous firetower hikes, this time up and over Shuckstack toward Doe Knob and accompanied by Bonnie; thus, completing the 72.6 miles of Appalachian Trail in the Smokies.
Ketchup and Mustard were seen all the way up from Fontana.
Even inside the firetower, the chilling winds found their way in...Exhibit A: Bonnie.
Upon leaving the tower for the first time, a few deer pass underneath.
Ta da!!! Reaching the AT junction at Doe Knob having hiked all of the AT within the Smokies! Thanks Bonnie for taking the pic!
Imagine hearing the crunching of leaves underfoot, then the rattles of a 3 foot long Timber Rattlesnake. Luckily, a few yards off the trail and not interested in us, but we wisely chose not to linger and warned hikers heading that direction.
Our second visit to the firetower proved gratifying, as views over Lake Fontana were much clearer and the waters sparkling.
Journal describing my 50 mile hike fest up, down, and all around Mt. LeConte in one day coming soon!
Ever wonder what The Jumpoff looks like at night? Here ya go!
Arriving at Myrtle Point around 7:30 to catch the sunrise.
The grassy Helipad located near the Lodge.
Catching some early morning light from Cliff Tops, though famous for its sunsets.
One of three trips to the Horse Gate along Alum Cave Trail, the midway point of each lap between there and the Alum - Rainbow junction.
Stack of boards near location of former Horse Barn just up from Trillium Gap Trail.
View from Brushy Mountain towards Pigeon Forge at trail's terminus.
Arrival in Greenbrier at 11:30, excited about how little time it took getting down.
Looking down on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, just reopened that morning, from the Trillium Gap Trail.
A late afternoon pass by a decently flowing Rainbow Falls.
View of Mount LeConte from the Rocky Spur after sunset.
Crossing the finish line in 16 hours and 48 minutes...what a day!
Journal discussing 23.2 mile ridge walk from Clingmans Dome to High Rocks and back coming soon!
Early fall morning with views from the Clingmans Dome parking lot.
Some of the first reds of the season sported by the witch hobble.
Heart leaved asters and erect goldenrod frequently lining the trail along Welch Ridge.
Well crafted stair case leading up to the summit of High Rocks.
Brief view down into Fontana Lake from bluffs of High Rocks.
The park service cabin for the former High Rocks firetower withering away.