DAY 8 SATURDAY
Another early day for me. I’d so much rather get up early and beat the crowds if possible. I set my alarm for 6:00 am, made a quick thermos of coffee, got dressed and ate my donut in the car while driving to the trailhead for Grotto Falls.
Starting early paid off and there were only 2 other cars in the parking lot when I pulled in. I grabbed my backpack and hiking stick and took off. It was a beautiful clear, cool morning but I quickly worked up a sweat on the uphill trail. Everything was so green and the sun streaming through the trees was just beautiful. Grotto Falls is 25 ft high and about 3 miles round trip to hike. It wasn't a difficult hike at all.
I had the trail to myself the entire way up and 40 minutes later I rounded a bend and saw the falls in the distance!
The really cool thing about Grotto Falls is that you can actually walk behind the falls. What a thrill!!
This was another hike that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. After several pictures and a few gulps of water I headed back down. I passed dozens of hikers who were now on their way up but the ones that impressed me the most were bringing up a woman in a wheelchair. They had constructed a travois of sorts and attached it to her wheelchair. Her husband, who looked to be maybe 75-80 years old, lead the way with a harness strapped to his waist and shoulders. Pushing from behind was their daughter and her husband. They were all smiles and laughs and the elderly woman in the wheelchair was having the time of her life. I can only assume they made it to the top and I prayed they did because they certainly were putting forth a lot of effort and love. Way to go!! The parking lot was completely full when I got back down. Going early pays off!!
I took my time heading back towards Gatlinburg by taking Roaring Forks Road, stopping several times along the way to get out and explore old abandoned homesteads and enjoying the stunning scenery.
When I got back to Gatlinburg I decided to head back towards Rainbow Falls so I could stop at the Noah "Bud" Ogle Homestead and do the nature walk there, which also happened to be a geocache called "Bud's Tub." Bonus! The hike through the woods there was really pretty and I was glad I took the time to drive back and check it out.
All this and it wasn’t even 11:00 yet. I headed over to the Sugarland Visitor Center and found a parking space and got out to walk the Nature Trail and the Cascade Falls trail. I was so glad I did. It was just such a nice day, but Saturday was proving to be extremely crowded with people everywhere.
Ugh, just too many people for me so I decided to call it quits after hiking the 2 trails, and headed back to the Campgrounds. I stopped at the Hungry Bear and ordered a brisket sandwich with sides of potato salad and coleslaw.
I ate about ¾ of it all and took the rest back to the campgrounds with me to have for dinner later. I spent the next few hours cleaning and organizing my car and tent in anticipation of leaving in the morning. I was sad that my little trip was already coming to an end. Vacations always seem to go by so quickly, don’t they? But I’m really missing my dogs and I know they’ll be happy to see me.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip! I had a fantastic time in spite of the rain. I enjoyed camping in both my tent and the car. I got to scratch several items off my bucket list - Go to the top of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, experience the splendor of the Great Smoky Mountains, climb to the top of Clingmans Dome and hike to Grotto Falls. I also picked up 6 new patches for my jacket, bought 3 books to enjoy and collected tons of brochures and maps. It was an amazing adventure. I know I'll be back again some day to explore more of everything the Smoky Mountains have to offer.