Monday's big adventure? I had Wayne drop me off at the trailhead for Alum Cave! I had noticed that the fall color was looking pretty good in that area when we drove up to Clingman's dome and my trail guide I printed out and brought with me indicated the elevation change was only 1125 feet and the trail length was only 4.6 miles round trip. No problem...right?
The first mile of the trail follows the creek and is a gradual uphill climb that wouldn't sap most people's energy. What should have taken me 20 minutes took an hour because I kept stopping and playing with my camera. Can you blame me?
As thrilled as I was with the views along (and in) the creek, I was happier to be back on a trail through the rhodendron thicket. Or is it mountain laurel? Either way, that's the stuff!
Still, the creek kept calling to me, and outside the thicket some golden leaves were still hanging on to the trees.
I kept my eyes peeled for salamanders since I've still never seen one, but the pools I ran across were probably not the right habitat for them. I'm hoping that if I get to hike with Sharon while I'm here that she'll know where to go.
Few people passed me on the trail, mostly at the beginning and lots of hellos were exchanged. Everyone was in a great mood as they descended from their afternoon hike. It was getting on toward dinner time so not many folks were looking to head uphill like I was. Wait! What's that interesting texture on the log in the creek?
Just beautiful the effect water can have over time, isn't it?
Back on the trail I started getting a little more serious as I glanced at my watch and realized that too many minutes were leaping by.
But I had to stop and use the gorillapod for a shot in this idyllic location.
It wasn't long before I made it to Arch Rock at the 1.4 mile mark. The picture doesn't do it justice, it was pretty cool for an arch not in Utah. I wrapped the gorillapod around a skinny tree, and ran to the bridge. The first two times I didn't make it and then I had to wait as a couple came out of the arch and crossed the bridge. Just my luck, they stopped for a rest and got a good show watching me set the timer and run to the bridge again. Third time's the charm and I made it with a laugh and a wave!
Tomorrow I'll show you the rest of the hike. No more gradual climbing for the second half and I had to pick up the pace!