Thankfully Thursday dawned beautiful, clear and bright. We headed to the Sugarlands Visitor Center with the completed Junior Ranger books, which the kids had begun on Sunday and continued to finish during the week. We met with a very informative Ranger: Brad. He answered question, after question, from Jake and Caitlin, nature, and all that it involves, is so interesting to Jake, he really absorbs everything he hears and reads so many books that he can hold great conversations with people. The kids did eventually get sworn in as Rangers and we were also sworn in as ‘Not So Junior’ Rangers and received our certificates and badges as well – who knew?!
We left the Visitor Center and followed the road to the Cades Cove loop. This 11 mile loop follows a trail around various churches and houses built and used by the small population living in the area in the early 1900’s. We were on the look out for bears all day, but did not see any, there were a number of deer, horses and wild turkeys though. The roads were waterlogged in places, due to the rain – the flip side of this were the large numbers of trickling waterfalls the rainfall had created: beautiful.
Everything throughout the day took rather longer than we had thought, however we were still determined to hike to one of the waterfalls. We headed back into Gatlinburg and drove up the smaller loop road (the road less traveled!) to the Grotto Falls lot. The hike was 1.4 miles each way over reasonably tough terrain, lots of roots and crossing 4 fast-flowing creeks. Amazingly no-one fell in, although I slipped and came close to taking Dave in with me – even that possibility that I was almost in the water brought huge smiles to the children’s faces, hmmmmm!
We saw bear poop and a tree with large claw marks (biggest scratching post ever!) but thankfully, no bears, despite the Ranger warnings that bears had been spotted in the area, again, we were on the lookout.
The Grotto Falls were great because we could actually walk behind them, which of course, was so much fun and hugely appealing to the kids. It was worth the speed march up and back, we got to the car just as the sun was setting, another 10 minutes and we would’ve been coming down in the dark (we did take flashlights just in case so we weren’t completely irresponsible!). It was somewhat of a precarious drive down, back around the loop though – those roads are extremely narrow with quite a large drop-off on one side. It was admittedly somewhat of a relief to reach Gatlinburg again!
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)