Monday, September 8, 2008

The Difference Between "Woods" and "Forest"

Elkmont Trip – 8/27/08 - Day Three – Ramsey Cascades Trail Out & Back – 8 miles

Get ready – this is a short hike but a long post with lots of photos.

The original plan for today was to hike down Fork Ridge Trail and back up Deep Creek Trail, but there is an unbridged crossing on that route that is knee deep on a good day, and considering the rain situation we decided not to chance it. (We learned later how dangerous the high water was on many of the creeks and rivers – an experienced kayaker lost his life.)

Plan B became a hike to Ramsey Cascades because (a) it was about the same distance as Plan A, (b) it is accessed by a road that will be closed later in the winter, and (c) waterfalls are pretty great any time but especially after it rains. Ramsey Cascades is the highest waterfall accessible by trail in the Park. Makes you wonder what’s out there that is not accessible…Anyhoo, I’ve read that if you only have one day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then go on this trail.

Only four miles, yet it is a challenging and beautiful hike. The path is full of big rocks and roots and moss, surreal like a fairy tale. After the rains the light had a green, luminous quality. There seems to be a difference between “woods” and “forest,” you know? “Woods” means trees, leaves, deer, birds, and “forest” means hobbits, elves, talking frogs…

The trail passes between two immense tulip poplars (awesome) and immediately after them is the daddy poplar. We unscientifically measured that it takes four people holding hands for its circumference. Judy was especially attached to this tree.

We also saw an excellent example of a tree that had sprouted on a decaying nurse stump, and after the stump deteriorated it looks like the tree roots are growing above the ground. Magical, huh?

We loved the rock stairs built in several places along the trail. Thank you to the trail workers and maintainers!

But where the heck are the falls? We keep hearing it and approaching it but….well, there’s a sign here (click on photo to read). Ah, nice…

 And the falls were spectacular! No one else here but us this morning, so we enjoyed a snack and rested for a while before giving it up for others to enjoy.

The hike back went quickly except for one quick stop for Judy to hug her favorite tree again. Once back at the parking area, we said thanks and goodbye to Carol as she headed back home to Charlotte. Judy and I were to spend another night camping and do one more hike tomorrow. But it was only 2:30 PM and the prospect of going to sit at a wet campsite was not appealing. so Judy and I headed to The Happy Hiker, a local outfitter, and got directions for a restaurant that offered vegetarian dishes. We had a whopping great meal at Best Italian. It’s hard to find but worth the effort! Too much food and we had to leave some behind, and later I wished I had it.

Still too early to hang out at camp, so we drove to Cades Cove, a place that Judy had visited maybe a dozen years ago. It was late afternoon and very few people were driving around the loop road. We saw several deer, both male and female, and turkeys galore. We checked out Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church, established in 1827, and the cemetery behind it. Among the most touching headstones are twin girls – look closely and see their birth and death dates.
Another intriguing headstone marked a Revolutionary War soldier’s final resting place.

Also buried here is Russell Gregory of Gregory Bald that I visited in June.

Finally it’s time to head back to camp…and it’s still raining. So nothing left to do but get into the tents early and snooze in preparation for a big hike tomorrow.

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