Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Roaring Fork

Saturday April 23nd 2011
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This morning, we checked the LP
gas which is 7/8th full,
the water which is nearly full
and the tanks nearly empty. 
Clearly we could boondock here for over 2 weeks
and are going to have to start using up some water
if we don’t want to tote it on into Tennessee
as we head west on Monday. 
The real problem is the batteries
which we have no way (YET) of topping up.

We spent the afternoon hiking the Grotto Falls trail
and driving the Roaring Fork Motor Trail
that leads to and from it.

It was a lovely though crowded hike.
This was the largest number of
people we’d seen on any trail
since we arrived.
But then it is Saturday.

The trail goes up Mt. LeConte
and continues on another 4 miles
past the falls to the Lodge at the top. 
One of the things on my bucket list is
to hike up to the lodge
and spend the night
with kerosene lantern light
and dinner packed in by llamas.  
But, unfortunately, not this trip

This trail has the things we love
big trees, wildflowers and water.

Tree hugger at work.

Cut-leafed Toothwort

Parts of the trail were sad because of all the dead hemlocks.
Eastern Hemlock is a key species in
the southern appalachian forests and plays
an important role in the ecology and hydrology
of mountain ecosystems.
They are some of the largest most common trees in the park
and are under attack by a non-native insect
called the hemlock wooly adelgid.
Hemlocks are called "the redwoods of the east"
and can grow to 150' tall with trunks 6' in diameter.
Some hemlocks in the park are more than 500 years old
and more than 800 acres of old growth hemlocks grow in the Smokies.
More than in any other national park.
It's sad.

It's a story similar to that of the chestnut
and we have seen entire hillsides of dead trees
along the Blue Ridge Parkway
and in the Shenandoah National Park.
There are things that can be done
but of course they require funding
which for all our parks is in short supply.
We covered the 2.6 mile hike in 3 hours.
Of course it clearly can be done in less time
#1 - you take fewer pictures
on the trail. 
As usual, these really don't do it justice.

The stream leading up to the falls

I love nature's trial designs

#2  It won't take so long also if you
don’t spend a lonnnggg time for  lunch at the falls

(Getting ready to walk behind the falls)

(from under the falls - what fun!)

(today's scenic lunch spot)

and #3 - It will also speed you up if you don't
stay so long watching “the bear”.

On the way down from the falls,
we spent quite some time watching this black bear
pretty high up on a limb in large tree. 

S/he seemed to be trying to take a nap,
leaning his forehead and then side of his face
against the tree.

Don’t know if all the people down on the ground
trying to get pictures
or like me, see him through binoculars,
were disturbing his sleep but
he certainly did create a trail bottleneck.

Although the tree was about 30’ off the trail
I had a great view through my binoculars.
My camera was not up to the task of pictures
but I hope you can see these that David took
Click to make them larger.

Further down the trail,
I found these "feet and toes".
Looked like Hobbit Land to me

On the drive back to Gatlinburg,
which you have to go through
to get to this section of the park,
we stopped to see the 2 cabins
& one home on the “tour”.

The Jim Bales Cabin
was on a beautiful site
with lovely dogwoods in full bloom in the yard.

The view from Jim's only window

Ephraim & Minerva Bales
raised NINE children in this
small two room dog-trot cabin.

Looking back from the barn and tiny pig stye.
The Roaring Fork community was even more isolated
due to its stony roads
and was smaller than Cades Cove.
Like Ephrim Bales, Alfred Reagan was a farmer.
But he was also a jack of all trades and his
more upscale home shows the fruits of his
labors as a carpenter, a miller and a blacksmith.

The Regan house sported all 3 colors of paint
offered by Sears Roebuck at the time.

The dwarf iris in the yard were in full bloom

Even the fireplace inside is up to date.

Only the house and the mill remain of the
structures and businesses built by Reagan.

The view of the mill race from inside the mill

 the old Mill Stream

The Roaring Fork itself is breathtakingly gorgeous
as it really does
ROAR down Mt. LeConte.
The views from your car are spectacular
as are the sounds of the river.
There are not, however, pull overs to get pictures
of this beauty so unless you are there
on a day when there are few others,
not a Saturday,
you won’t be able to stop.
Coming down from Roaring Fork into the city
was quite a culture shock.
Many of the families displaced from
Roaring Fork moved down the mountain
to Galinburg but I doubt they’d recognize this place today.

On our drive back to Elkmont,
we stopped by the Sugarlands Visitor’s Center
to use the cell phone and internet
just in case there was some news or business
we needed to take care of. 
The Visitor’s Center is much larger
than the one at Cades Cove. 
The rangers are very knowledgable. 
It has a wonderful museum,
short film
and gift shop
with everything you could need, want or imagine. 
We were out of jam
so we picked up a pint of local blueberry preserves for $6. 
Having made jam from scratch most of my life, 
I can say that is a great price for the effort involved.

We spent a quiet evening to end a wonderful day.
Our stay in the Smokies is nearly over.
Tomorrow we’ll just wrap things up and
get ready to move on Monday.
That’s going to be hard to do.
This is such a fabulous place!!
And there is so much more to see and do.


  1. It's like you looked at my research notes. This was the other drive/hike I wanted to do while we were there...Thanks for taking us along!! Oh, we especially enjoyed the 'backside' of the falls ;o))

  2. Another fantastic guided tour. Enjoyed virtually tagging along on this one, but will pass on the llama packing! :)

  3. Nancy & Bill - wish you'd been there "for real"!!

    Gail & Rick - not to worry, the llamas do all the packing, you just might pass them hiking up. Don't think they actually prepare the dinner though. :-)

  4. A great hike and pictures to boot!

    Where are you going to get Llamas? Maybe you could have enlisted that black bear to carry your stuff... ;c)


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