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

Henry David Thoreau

Thanks for Sticking With Me - Mouse Creek Falls and Midnight Hole

Monday August 13, 2018                                                Most Recent Posts
Great Smoky Mountains National Park                           Hiking a Trail Under Construction-Rainbow Falls
Tennessee                                                                      Off Road, Off Trail and Bears in the Trees

Many thanks to those of you sticking with me through all the waterfalls including Sue who commented that the trails all look alike.  Of course they don’t look that way to me but I can see how others might find constant posts about waterfalls tedious.  I intended to hike to as many as I could in my two months here and I’m sticking to it.  I love being out here and am sorry I am heading for the home stretch at this point.  It won’t take me two months to do all the ones that have known trails to them.   They are each so unique and beautiful.  I want to remember every one.

IMG_1216I seem to have left the longest drives for my last two weeks here.  Today I take another one, this time to the Big Creek Trailhead which is not terribly far from I-40 and the Tennessee/North Carolina Line that runs through the park.  

It takes me nearly 2 hours, longer than planned, as I had trouble following the detailed directions over curvy mountain roads in order to avoid going out of my way and spend more time on the interstate.   I don’t like interstates and have been putting this hike off because of that. 

But after I got lost twice on my way to the interstate,  I take a short piece of I-40 and find myself in the middle of no where at what looks like a very lightly used entrance to the park though that’s probably an illusion since it is so close to I-40 and thus to many conjested places near by. 

Though the trailhead has a Chataloochee address and I’d hoped to be able to visit the Chataloochee Valley, I find the valley is actually quite a distance  way since there is no way from here to there through the park.  Same problem I had getting here today.


I left at 7am but don’t arrive here until 8:45,  so I’m clearly not the first one on the trail   I’m here to hike the Big Creek Trail up to Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls.  Where do they get these names?  Mouse Creek, Hen Wallow.  

Big Creek looking bigger than a creek to me , is beautiful and running fast. This trail like many others in the park follows an old railroad grade.   The Crestmont Lumber Company built the rail in the early 1900s.  It was turned into a trail in the 1930’s by the CCC.  Because of the heavy logging both before and at the beginning of the creation of the park, the woods are second growth of perhaps 80 years now.


The trail proved muddier than others I’ve been on in the park.  Given all the rain, the mud is not surprising.


The creek sings along beside the trail for most of the way.



When I arrive at what is a very popular swimming spot known as Midnight Hole, two guys are here.  I just hang around until they leave.  We chat some but at this distance from the hike, I don’t remember anything about them, only about the place itself.


In not too long, I have this lovely spot all to myself which is amazing when I see the huge number of people who are here by the time I return back down the trail.   The high is predicted to be 83 today but this mountain stream water is way too cold for me to be interested in swimming.  No pictures of the crowds.  This is how I want to remember Midnight Hole.

Really does look like fun though being able to swim right up to these little falls.



Once you get through the beginning climb, the trail is a very gentle grade.  This would be an excellent trail to bring young children on.  Wish Celia were here.



The two young men are at Mouse Creek Falls when I arrive.  Then two more people show up.  Then a group of about 10.   I climb down to the big rocks at the river’s edge and scramble all around taking pictures from every angle.   It’s a really wonderful waterfall.


Look up stream from a boulder in Deep Creek at the foot of the falls.


The 45 foot waterfall emerges from the dense forest on the far side of Big Creek and tumbles over sever tiers of rock before crashing into Big Creek.



Little by little everyone leaves and I have some time alone at the falls before another 2 show up.  At about 11:20 I start back down.  

Here’s one of several videos I took while I was enjoying the falls.  The sounds are so much a part of the wonder


Mouse Creek Falls and Blue Hole are among the prettiest spots I’ve seen in the park and I really wish I’d been here earlier in the day.  “Next time” I’ll plan my trip to the park better so I can stay at the campgrounds in different sections of the park and visit all the things I want to see that are nearby.  With this campground in particular,  I can visit these spots often and easily.  But that means making reservations probably six months in advance which I wasn’t able to do this time.

Deep Creek looking downstream from the foot of Mouse Creek Falls.


I pass a number of people on my way back down the trail but these are the only two on horseback.


What a beautiful waterway!


Other than the horses, this was the only wildlife of this great day.


It’s about noon when I reach the car so I’m not surprised to find the parking lot nearly full on this mid August day. 

Even though the drive here and back took as many hours to do as the hike did, I’m not at all sorry that I came.  I would not have wanted to miss these two lovely spots.  They are ones I would return to again and again if I lived nearer.

Hiking a Trail Under Construction–Rainbow Falls

Sunday August 12, 2018                                                                               Most Recent Posts:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park                                          Off Road, Off Trail and Bears in the Trees
Tennessee                                                                                      A Trip to North Carolina – Deep Creek

I’ve been wanting to see Rainbow Falls ever since I came to Great Smoky Mountains National

IMG_1013Park 6 weeks ago. But it’s under construction and only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Those of course are the most heavily touristed days of the week.  So I’ve bided my time trying to figure out when would be best.  Today is the day, early Sunday morning.  Maybe everyone will be in their church buildings.  My church is out here in the forest, under the trees, or by the ocean, anywhere in an inspiring natural area.


The Trails Forever Program, which  has done an amazing job in past years on other trails I’ve hiked, is busy working on this one this year.

I’m all alone when I start out on the gravel path though there was one other car in the large parking area.  That there is a second parking lot further down the road tells me how many people must often hike this trail.

Of course I soon start climbing and the gravel turns to dirt.


Le Conte creek cascades down the mountain below me.  The Rainbow Falls Trail is considered the most strenuous route to the top of Mount Le Conte.  It is 13.8 miles round trip coming back to the same parking lot on the Bullhead Trail mentioned on the sign in the first picture.  There is nearly a 4000 foot elevation gain in the climb up.  The first 1500 feet is on the way to Rainbow Falls.  I know what’s coming.


I start seeing some of the big trees I’ve read about.


The trail changes as I go and gets more rugged.  So far, other than at the very beginning I don’t see any obvious trail work though they have been at it for over 3 months now with three more to go.


I’ve been so lucky this summer with the rain.  Lots of people complain about SO much SO often but it’s made the creeks and rivers beautiful in late summer which is quite unusual.  I think it’s wonderful, but then I love water in all its forms.


I see quite a few big trees but there are only a couple I could find a way to do a timed picture with my camera.  No convenient tables for the camera out here in the forest.


Few things more beautiful than a bubbling mountain stream.

I’m perhaps half way along the trail to the falls when I encounter what seems to be new stone steps.  What excellent work.

I think they have really put a dent in or eliminated the erosion I suspect this was designed to correct..

As I hike along, I’m above the water and then next to it.


I come to another set of rock steps.  There are several more as I hike along.  These don’t look quite so new.


I catch a lovely distant view or two.


This is a very interesting trail with so many things to enjoy.



I come to the first of the one log bridges that I’ve seen many times before on the trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.




When I saw this,  I really did start to sing “You really got a hold on me”.  The song stuck in my mind long after I was past this determined tree.

An even bigger tree but not the biggest I saw.  I’ve learned that unless you can put a person in the picture for perspective, it’s hard to show the size of the giants.


The Smokies are in many places almost like a rainforest with trails close in and very green.


A bit further along I come to new wooden steps and wonder about the blue thing in the distance.


Turns out under this tarp is a big pad-locked metal box which must contain the tools a group is using to work in this area starting again tomorrow.


At this point I meet up with the first people I’ve seen on the trail.  They must be from the only other car parked when I came in.  Because I’m getting pretty close to Rainbow Falls, I wonder if this mini falls is part of its water running down stream.



Glad I came upon them or I’d never have this picture of me here I don’t think.  We swapped pictures.  They went on to the falls.  I stayed a while to enjoy this lovely spot.


The trail leading on from the little falls appears to be going deep into heavy growth.


At this point there is another tool chest and MUD.  I suspect they may be going to build steps all the way down through it. Great idea.  Hope the feet this week-end don’t do too much damage to the terrain.


When I get to this little cascade I wonder if the Trails Forever team lugged all these big long rocks for us to walk on as we pass by.  How much must the one that’s the bridge weigh?


In the background just to the left of the top center of the picture I can see what sounds like it must be Rainbow Falls.


I zoom in from here.  That’s it all right.


I’m very excited when I get to this point and it looks as though no one else is there.  Perhaps they went on up toward Mt Le Conte and the lodge which I’ve talked about in previous posts. 



This time the bridge is a one stone bridge over the creek.  It’s amazing to me that these stones are so long.


When I get closer, I see my companions are still here and he gives a good perspective for the size of the falls.  At 80 feet it is the tallest single drop waterfall in the park.  The falls gets its name from the rainbow that can be produced by mist on sunny afternoons.  Though I’d love to see that, I wasn’t willing to chance what I’m sure are huge crowds in the afternoon on the chance.  Not sure how common a rainbow is since I couldn’t find any pictures on line of a rainbow here.


This is my favorite picture.  I spent over an hour having a snack, taking pictures and just enjoying this magnificent sight and the wonderful sounds.  The other hikers left shortly after I arrived and I was amazingly alone.


I move about as close as I can get, given wet rocks, for this shot and use my phone because of the spray.


Imagine a rainbow.  Maybe on the rocks behind the falls.


This is just a gorgeous spot here in the mountains.  No wonder it is one of the most popular trails in the park.  I am so lucky to have it all to myself for so long.


People do begin to arrive.  To be expected since it’s after 10:00. Time for me to head back.  I grab this “snack with a view” picture a la John and Pam, send a selfie, as I always do, to Carrie and David.



IMG_1157As I leave, I look back across the creek and the one rock bridge and see yet another tool box with a blue tarp.  I wonder if it’s one crew moving from box to box or more than one.  How wonderful that these trails are being maintained. 

It’s hard for me to leave a trail that continues on.  I didn’t find the climb on the way up particularly difficult and am now wishing I’d planned to do the entire 13.8 mile loop but I figure I’m only half way up at this point and have neither enough water nor enough food.  Next time?

I retrace my footsteps and it is just as lovely going back as coming up and easier.  Does the tree look as big when I’m not hugging it?


They look as happy as I feel.



Lucky lucky me to be here in this place, at this time, surrounded by so much beauty!
Nothing could be more inspiring on a quiet Sunday morning.IMG_1188