Great Smoky Mountains, TN: 12/5 – 12/8/19

We continued heading south on 211 to 81S into Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We had reserved a spot for three nights at Greenbrier Campground in site 48 that abuts Little Pigeon River.

Front Yard View
Backyard view of stream.

The next morning we dressed for warmth and headed to Great Smoky Mountains, among the oldest mountains in the world. The beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway runs from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the southern entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. U.S. 441, known in the park as Newfound Gap Road, is a high mountain road that cuts across the ridge near the center of the park, providing outstanding scenic views. We entered the park from the north.

We had a late start and arrived at the trailhead about 20 minutes before noon. You can see the snow on the ground at the beginning of the trail. Notice on the trail sign the distance to Katahdin Maine is 1,972.0 miles. This entry point is about 228 miles from the Appalachian Trail’s southern starting point in Georgia.

This part of the Appalachian Trail led us to Charles Bunion Trail, an 8.5-mile round-trip trek with an elevation gain of 1,854 feet.

The trail was snow and ice covered most of the way. It was cold and damp. It wasn’t long before we had to put on our micro spikes.

We made it to Charles Bunion summit and perched ourselves on the rock.

View looking to the right
View looking to the left

The Cherokee described these mountains as shaconage, meaning “blue, like smoke.” It seems appropriate, don’t you agree?

When we returned to our truck, I noticed the sign in the parking lot showing the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.

Facing East
Facing West

The next day we drove through the town of Gatlinburg to Cherokee Orchard Road, which led to the trailhead for Rainbow Falls Trail.

It was a bit warmer today, and the constant gain in elevation made layering necessary today. We would peel off the outer layers as we climbed up, only to put them back on once we reached the falls. Our trek today would total 6.7 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 1,680 feet. The trail ran alongside Le Conte Creek. Here we are getting closer to Rainbow Falls.

And, yet another warning sign.

There were several people hanging out at this juncture, but we still opted for a selfie.

Scott wanted to get as close as possible to the falls. The heck with the warning sign. Can you find him in the photo?

It afforded him a much better angle than mine.

Gatlinburg, TN, is one of Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s principal gateway communities. It is located on U.S. 441 on the park’s norther border, just two miles north of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The city offers lodging, dining, and shopping. During the holidays, the main streets are loaded with holiday lights. Here are just a few.

Saturday, December 7, was the 44th Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. We didn’t go since the parking was ridiculous and the crowds even more so. It was, however, televised and due to air in about 100 markets during the week of Christmas.

Next stop is Hilton Head, South Carolina!

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