What better feeling than to leave the clutches of winter in Michigan for the 60+ degree spring teasers of Tennessee. My first day of many to come here in the Smokies was greeted by sunny skies and friendly new acquaintances. Soon I will begin work at LeConte Lodge, so I arrived a few days early to get acclimated and psych myself up for being here. I hadn't hiked since the end of October, so it was time to shake off the dust and get the legs churning again over roots and rocks. (Oh...and to see if I remembered how to use my camera.) After arriving at the motel and a quick bite to eat, I was curious to see what work had begun in Cherokee Orchard. Large trucks were cycling up and down the roadway and tourists couldn't drive past the Ogle Place. I took some of the typical shots of the old buildings and decided to take a stroll on the Junglebrook loop trail. I thought I might see a wildflower peaking out of the forest floor, but none were to be seen this day. I ran into three tame deer searching for food and that was about it for the action. If you make it to the upper reaches of the trail that parallel the road, you'll see that all of the pavement has been torn up. It'll be nice to return here in April when the Dogwoods have opened up with their numerous white blooms.
With the threat of rain in the forecast, I wanted to get up to Newfound Gap to see the snow and ice I'd been hearing about for weeks, and maybe take in some views in case the ridges get clouded over. Along the upper reaches of the highway, several impressive columns of ice had formed. Places where the ice turns blue are particularly attractive. Makes me wonder what I'll run into at spots like Alum Cave Bluffs, renowned for its car sized ice chunks that rocket downward toward unsuspecting hikers, should cool temps keep the ice hanging around.
Good to be back in the mountains. Put more miles on in the wheels than the boots today, but ya gotta start somewhere. If you would like to see the rest of the day's photos from the Ogle Place and Newfound Gap Road, just click on the two links. Until next time!