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.
A dreaded hike to say the least, but one that needed to be done...a 37 mile march in the 90+ degree heat of summer at the lowest elevations along Lakeshore. Fontana to "The Tunnel" with stops at every creek crossing and swimming hole in order to cool off.
One of many car's left to nature within the first few miles east of Fontana Dam, some beside the old road, others smashed into trees, some on their backs in the valley below.
The early morning light beginning to shine down on the mouth of Eagle Creek.
The emerald waters where Hazel Creek empties into Fontana Lake.
Shades of blue from sea to sky as seen from the Ollie Cove trailhead at water's edge.
The rest of the day was spent not taking pictures but rather surviving the brutal heat of the day and finding reprieve the few times the trail crossed creeks or skirted the shoreline.
By condensing two originally planned hikes into one, I completed a roundabout 25 mile trek in the shape of an "M" from the Tunnel to Nowhere, up and around Springhouse Branch, ascending Noland Creek, then strolling down the Divide to Deep Creek. A long haul but well worth it!
The day's hike began with the long walk down the dark, damp tunnel...
It is the season for many mushrooms, some crazier looking than others. This massive red one was about the size of a basketball, found along the crest of Forney Ridge.
Looking back at one of the first crossings of Noland Creek. The cool waters were refreshing to the feet!
One of the park's more unique flowers in my opinion, the Yellow Gerardia was coming out in force along the Noland Divide.
Looking down the knife edge spine of the Noland Divide from the Lonesome Pine Overlook. I was blown away when I got there, for this overlook may just be one of the most impressive in the entire park, but so little known.
A brief video I took in an attempt to give justice to the grandeur of Lonesome Pine.
My drive back across the park was enhanced by a bright rainbow that stretched form the base of Mount Ambler to the Thomas Divide. I was able to drive under it then circle back around it. By the time I took this picture from Newfound Gap, the colors were starting to fade.
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.
Journal discussing 20.5 mile lower elevation trek between Noland and Forney Creeks coming soon.
The dark and daunting Tunnel along the "Road to Nowhere."
Old chimney from CCC settlement, also located at Campsite #71.
Noland Creek crashes over rocks as it enters Lake Fontana.
Some lingering fall color as seen from Lakeview Drive overlook.