I was feeling the need to hike a lot of miles. I also felt like in the two and half months of life on the mountain, I had been neglecting Bull Head. So I figured a loop hike down Rainbow Falls and up Bull Head was in order. Most of the upper elevations had been cloaked in clouds all day, but things got a bit sunnier as I descended. The catawba rhododendron were blooming nicely in the vicinity of the Rocky Spur. I breezed past Rainbow Falls because there was an infestation of people, plus the falls was more like a trickle on this day. The trail conditions between the falls and the parking lot were dispicable to say the least. Muddy, rocky, rooty, and there were eroded side paths everywhere. I didn't remember it being so bad down here. The worst places are along the switchbacks, where people have created their own short cuts, even hurting wildflowers in the process. It was neat to see the improvements made at Cherokee Orchard. The newly installed bathroom facility and paved road were a much needed facelift. With no time to waste, it was up Bull Head I went.
The first half of the trail was the best. The forest was full of life. Lush a nd green it was, while galax, violets, mountain laurel, and catawba rhododendron were out in force. I even managed to spot a few flame azalea and two pink lady's slippers along the way. The second half wasn't as exciting, but still pleasant nonetheless, offering great views into the valley.
I trucked it up the last leg of Bull Head, wishing to complete it in two hours time, plus I still needed to make it back in time to clean up before work. Where the trail skirts the crest of LeConte, I noticed how much different things looked than they did the last time I was out here, when the spring beauties and trout lilies blanketed the ridges. When I pulled into the lodge and rounded the corner of the food storage building, I was given quite the surprise. I saw two figures sitting on my porch and wondered who they might be. After a few choice words once I realized who they were, I was greeted by two good friends from home. Kyle and Brandon Yarger, on their way out to Arizona, decided to take a slight detour from Michigan to pay me a visit on the mountain. Our time together was brief since I had to start work, so I invited them back to the mountain as guests for a night later that week. It gave them a chance to relax and experience something new in the Smokies, and allowed me to show them some of the great things about my new home. The day they left, we were able to get in a hike together down to Brushy Mountain to soak in some views. All in all, they succeeded in surprising me and it was surely great to see them. I wish them both the very best in their journey ahead and welcome them back to the mountain anytime!