I had a weekend of hiking planned: Deep Creek area, Cades Cove area, and camping in Cades Cove. One hike got cancelled, the other one changed. Plan B, hike in Greenbriar Sat, hike with Lillian . Greenbriar got cancelled/changed. Plan C Hike with Lillian Sat/Sun. Good to go!
I stopped along my route to Townsend at Look Rock Tower. Had a 360 degree view of clouds. Explored a couple of backroads and drove to Townsend Y, found a pretty place by the West Prong Creek to eat my lunch in the car in the rain. Found Lillian at the Y and we started up the Chestnut Top Trail to finish the 2 mile section she needed to mark off her map. The early spring wildflowers were all gone but we saw some interesting ones and lots of ferns. Everything was washed clean by the showers. The temp had cooled off but the humidity was there. We saw the big tree marked by a bear and the views of Thunderhead. Lillian found her turnaround spot and we headed back to the cars and on to Cades Cove where we set up camp.
The campground was full and we got there too late to buy firewood so I scouted the picnic area and found enough to last the evening. Just as we were turning in for the night, an owl talked to us. The birds singing the next morning woke us up. The plan for today was contingent on how Mill Creek was flowing. If low we would hike Rabbit Creek Trail to campsite 15; if too high-shuttle car and hike Goldmine-Cooper Road. The water was no more than knee high so we hiked Rabbit Creek Trail. We met a pair of backpackers who had seen the Abrams Creek crossing at the Hannah Mountain Trail and decided it was too high and swift to cross and had to change their course. We told them the crossing to get out was good, they didn’t know they would have to cross to get off the trail. We got to 15 and took a snack break. The campfire on the hill was still smoking. Rabbit Creek is right there so I don’t understand why folks don’t get water to pour on their campfires when they get ready to leave. After a snack we hiked back to the trailhead, stopping to change our boots to water shoes to cross Mill Creek again. A family with two young kids and a German shepherd were playing on the other side of the creek with the dog jumping and splashing and barking. He was on a leash, but I yelled across the creek and asked if the dog was friendly, because we had to cross. The man said yes, he’s just a puppy, and Lillian asked if he could keep the dog from shaking water all over us. They moved over to let us cross and the dog got excited at strangers getting too close to his family. Safely across and at the kiosk I looked to see if the “No dogs allowed on trails” was still posted. Yes it is but bless the dog’s hearts, they can’t read.
The parking lot was packed by this time, and so was the loop road. We exited onto Hyatt Lane and saw several folks out of their cars with zoom lenses pointed at a bear crossing the field. We crept thru the bear jam and back on the loop road. We exited onto Rich Mountain Road. I had never driven out this way. 7 miles of gravel road to go to Townsend with a couple of overlooks to stop at. We stopped at Indian Grave Gap Trail and hiked the 1.1 miles to the junction with the Rich Mountain Loop trail. The mountain laurel was in full bloom on the trails today, this trail had trillium and bloodroot leaves that were HUGE! Back to the cars and across the mountain to come out at the Ace Gap trailhead.
Thank you Lillian for being my hiking and camping partner for the weekend!