Only a handful of the park's original balds remain, and only two are being maintained. Most have already disappeared back into the clutches and canopies of the forest. Today's hike up Newton Bald would demonstrate nature's ability to dramatically change the landscape. There were no views to be had this day, especially since the trees have filled in, and with little light penetrating the forest floor, the spring wildflowers have come and gone. Mountain laurel and flame azalea were common at first with blooms and buds, and the first of ground flowers didn't appear until the trail's latter half.
When I neared the upper reaches of the day's hike, there was a constant breeze rising up from the valley to the east. Quite refreshing during a hike that is all up. Speckled wood lily, pink lady's slippers, and wild geraniums grew in bunches. Once you pass the junction with the Mingus Creek Trail, the actual bald is situated to the right. You wouldn't know it because of all the beech trees and ferns that have grown in. At this point, red and yellow lousewort were everywhere, all the way to Campsite #52. I hit the trail's end at the Thomas Divide and turned back to the campsite for some lunch. The nice breeze kept the annoying flies away. The whole time I was there I heard an unusual sound, one that I would not expect...the chirping of a tree frog. Definitely a first for me in the Smokies. I never saw him, but his call followed me for about a half mile down from the campsite. I completed the hike in the early afternoon, before any storms might show their reary head. The drive from North Carolina over Newfound Gap was once again a pleasant one, especially since the mountains have filled in with green.