Herb set up a Slackpacker weekend and welcomed me to the group. I drove to Cades Cove after work master trail coffee barista Dwight already working hard. Pumpkin bread (made by Judi) and hot chocolate by the fire, packs ready to go, Gene, Judi and Garnett heading for the Rich Mountain Loop, Dwight for a scenic drive, Amy, Gloria Dale, Herb and I started for Rainbow Falls Trail. With a two wheeled U turn in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg we got biscuits from McD’s, (thanks to Gloria Dale) The trailhead parking was already packed so Herb was instructed on parking procedures going the wrong way on a one way road and we secured a spot. We headed up, and with a lot of wardrobe changes, made it to the Falls which was little more than a trickle. Further up we had two youngsters ask us how far to the Falls, Herb and Gloria Dale pointed them back down the trail. They must not have recognized the trickle they passed. We saw a spur trail that led to an overlook and Amy and I made an executive decision that it wasn’t necessary for map marking. We found the junction for Rainbow Falls and talked to a trailrunner that had passed us earlier and gone up to the lodge and back and was heading down Bullhead to finish his 3 hour run L Amy led us down Bullhead looking back along the way trying to see the Bull. I didn’t see it on the previous trip even with all the other ladies pointing out the obvious to me. We made it back to the trailhead and headed down the road towards Gatlinburg but got stopped by a bear jam. Bear sighting #1. We followed the crowds thru town, then managed to miss our turn by Sugarlands, With more informed directions Herb did another amazing U turn in the crowds of cars to get us on the right road. We marveled at all that traffic trying to get into Gatlinburg. Never seen it that crowded. At the entrance to Cades Cove we got in another bear jam and saw the full grown bear munching in the leaves on the hillside, not ½ mile from our campground. He must have found enough to eat, we didn’t see him after that. and found the group of campers around a roaring fire. I don’t think I have ever seen that much firewood at a campsite before. I was invited to a table full of food topped off by Judi’s delicious lemon cake. Plans were discussed for the next day’s hikes, what trails needed to be marked off maps; Judi working on her SECOND map!!! With a full belly I slept well under the stars, just the hammock, no tarp. I woke up to the sounds of a crackling fire, Firemaster Herb and
We arrived to another food filled table with hot soup and cornbread (made by Judi) ready for us. We shared our hiking stories and Dwight’s drive and waited for Amy’s dance. We studied maps and planned hikes, shared cough medicine around the fire and watched the stars show up. The coyotes woke us up sometime thru the night, and Gloria Dale’s noisy neighbors finally settled down. I snuggled into Craig’s down quilt and enjoyed another night in my hammock.
morning I woke to the sound of a crackling fire. The extra hour for the time change gave Judi enough time to rise and bake coffee cake for breakfast. I am loving this slackpacking getogether! Amy was heading to Rich Mountain Road to finish Indian Grave Gap, Gloria Dale was going to Anthony Creek to get a few miles in, Gene and Judi had to pack up the RV, Dwight and Herb were packing up, Garnett and I were on our way to Round Top Trail. We left her car at the Y and drove to the trailhead on Wears Valley Road. We snagged a parking spot .1 miles from the trailhead. Round Top is a pleasant trail, not a popular one according to the Little Brown Bible. We found one tree in the trail, and a big downhill slide that must be a re-route gone bad and was startled by a big bird. When we got the Little River crossing Garnett scouted out a good spot to cross. It was cold and knee deep and felt refreshing. In the parking lot we were applauded and cheered by two ladies who had watched us cross. Garnett took me back to my car and we stopped traffic for a short time, no U turns, all 4 tires on the road, no horns blaring. A great weekend of beautiful weather with good friends and new friends.