NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Traipsing Around Tremont

After I left Mom and Annmarie to go do their own thing in Cades Cove I headed over to the Institute in Tremont.  When I was hiking with my pals on Curry Mountain Trail Gene mentioned that there was supposed to be some Jack in the Pulpit up behind the Institute on an unmarked trail so I thought I'd traipse around the woods and see what I could find.

I peeked in on a couple of unmarked paths, but ended up taking the Lumber Ridge Trailhead to the trail that heads out to Spruce Flats Falls.  As with almost every hike I've been on I had the trail to myself for most of the time.  I passed two guys coming out who told me to "be careful" out there.

Pennywort at the trailhead

The trail got a little rocky, a little narrow, and in some spots a little steep.  Add some on and off again rain to the mix and it was a nice little adventure.  Good thing I brought along my umbrella.

At one point the rain was coming down really hard, but there wasn't any lightning so I pressed on.  I got a phone call from Katrina when I was approaching this cool staircase.  She happened to call me every day when I was on the one point in the trail that actually had cell service.  How did she do that?

My persistence paid off and I arrived at the falls right when the only other people there were leaving.

My new camera is so great that I don't even have to bother with taking any tripod with me.  Thank goodness because the camera and lenses are heavy enough without adding any extra weight.

The rocks were wet but easy to get around on to get the shots that I wanted, but I could see why the other hikers had warned me to be careful and I used good judgment.

Lower falls

I did set up the Gorillapod for a shot of the falls that included me, even though I was a wet, muddy, frizzy mess.

Upper falls

As I was starting the 1.5 mile trek back to the Institute I heard a little rustling beside me.  I caught the slightest movement out of the corner of my eye and spotted this fella.

All the little critters I see would be hard to catch with companions along to distract me.  I enjoyed my quiet moment with the amphibian who thought that if he just held still enough I'd never see him.  Still, it's not going to be the same at home...I might finally have to look into joining the Kettle Moraine hiking group.

I didn't find the Jack in the Pulpit, but I would have never known about this trail to the falls if I wasn't looking for a patch of wildflowers.  Sometimes it's better finding what you weren't looking for, right?

We finished our drive home today, but don't worry, I still have at least a week's worth of posts about our trip left to share!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hanging With the Ladies

No Monday Mural today, too much to talk about down from Tennessee still.

I spent some time with the ladies I shared a house with, I swear.

French Toast made by Pam

I kept trying to get them out in the woods with me, but they had their own ideas.  I did talk them into taking a drive through Cades Cove.  We took separate cars though because I wanted to do some hiking in Tremont.  
Little River Road
We went as far as the Townsend "Y" together to see some wildflowers on the Chestnut Top Trail, but first I had to veer off onto the side of the road to capture the vivid Columbine blooming on the rock face along Little River Road.

Then it was on to the Chestnut Top Trail for a wildflower stroll with the ladies.

I had an opportunity to put all my new-found knowledge to good use and tell them the names of just about everything they pointed out.

Wild Stonecrop

A butterfly enjoys the Beaked Violet

I saw some Fire Pink when we were in Kentucky, but I was happy to see a little red here in the Smokies too.  The "pink" refers to the shape of their petals and not their color.  The tips of the petals are notched or "pinked" (think of a pair of pinking shears).  The deep tubular corolla evolved to use flying insects and hummingbirds as its primary pollinators, giving it a better chance of the pollen being passed on than with crawling insects.

By now I'm sure you're thinking to yourself, for goodness sakes, how many wildflowers must Pam show us?  Well, there are 1500 kinds of flowering plants in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but I promise not to show you that many.

One-Flowered CancerRoot - the only one I've seen

After they were done looking at the flowers they stopped along the Little River to pose for some photos before they left for their drive through Cades Cove.

On Saturday even more Newfie cousins showed up.

Sunday breakfast 

That's three Newfie cousins with three daughters and an extra non-Newfie friend thrown in for variety.  When they got started on the "remember when" tales with the convoluted family tree that goes along I felt kind of sorry for poor Deena!  

3 cousins and 3 daughters

She took it in stride though and by the end of 24 hours I hope she felt like family.  You know them Newfies, nothing but foolishness.

Goofy Newfies

While the cousins played catch-up and drank tea I dragged Deena and Darlene to Porter's Creek to hunt for Lady Slipper.  

When we came back we had some more visitors to our backyard after supper.

If they were hoping to get some scraps they were in for a disappointment.  We made sure to latch the bear-proof lock on the garbage storage outside.

Mom and cub just grazed underneath our deck for awhile and we all hung around watching them.

It was a short time we had together, but full of laughter and friendships both old and new.  Hopefully we'll all meet up again soon...the bears can stay in the Smokies where they belong though.

Today we drove as far as Indianapolis, tomorrow it's all the way home but I don't think it will be long before I'm back on the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I even picked out an RV park in Townsend for us to stay at next time so I can explore the other end of the park more!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring Beauty on the Appalachian Trail

I don't know how much of the Appalachian Trail I'll hike in my lifetime, but I figured I had to start somewhere.

Most of the hikers I met on the AT are hard core - one asked me if I was on my way to Maine.  I told him I'd like to be but I didn't think 24 ounces of water would get me there.  The AT passes through 14 states and was one of the major undertakings of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

I didn't get very far...maybe a half mile in heading toward Maine from the Newfound Gap parking lot before I turned back.  I was only there to find a few new wildflowers I wasn't seeing at the lower elevations.

Spring Beauty

I turned around so quickly because it didn't take long for the wildflowers to peter out and some really rugged trail to set in.

I did jog across Newfound Gap Road before returning to my car to check out what was on the other side...kind of like the chicken who crossed the road, maybe?  Apparently this is the only place for 70 miles where the trail crosses a road.  Better have packed wisely, my hiking friends!

Trout Lily

Besides the great view in the first few feet there wasn't much else to see.  The trail looked like something I'd enjoy a little later in the year and I've made a note to have Wayne drop me off on another visit so I can hike the 7.9 mile stretch to Clingman's Dome.  Maybe we'll have hiking buddies by then who will even want to join us and we can do a shuttle and all go.  Any takers?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Charmed at Chimneys

This post is going to be short and sweet, like the Cove Hardwood Trail at Chimneys Picnic Area.  (Not like me, I'm short and somewhat ornery.)

When I pulled in to the loop for Chimneys Picnic Area the other day I was stunned by the display of White Trillium.  They are everywhere!  The 3/4 mile nature trail is a little steep in spots, but definitely easy enough for anyone to tackle and filled to the brim with wildflowers.

lots of cute Rue Anemone

When I first started the trail I thought the pink Trillium I was seeing might be another variety, but further reading informed me that the petals turn pink with age, informing pollinators that pollination has already occurred.  Is that cool or what?

I almost missed the Fringed Phacelia tucked in amongst the Triliums. This bloom also apparently fades to purple as it ages.

I stopped at Chimneys on my way back from Newfound Gap and a quick jaunt on the Appalachian Trail which I'll tell you about next time!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Our Little Secret

When Mom and I were at the Sugarlands Visitor Center the other day the ranger told me about a service road behind the dump station across the road that was full of wildflowers.  Mom didn't want to go, but I parked off to the side and went in for a stroll.


If you're looking for wildflowers, this place is an easy to access jackpot!  I saw every flower that I saw on Hen Wallow Falls without having to climb a mountain.  Not that I regret that hike, the waterfall shoot in the rain was a great experience.


Everything was shimmering with water droplets and so healthy looking next to the creek.  Sweet White and Yellow Trillium carpeted both sides of the trail.

Yellow Trillium

My eyes even caught sight of this cute little snail as I was walking around looking for Jack in the Pulpit.

I didn't find the Jack, but I did find the Crested Dwarf Iris just when I was getting ready to turn back around.

Crested Dwarf Iris

The trail kept going but Mom was waiting so I had to turn back.  But yesterday afternoon I drove back over there after tending to my allergies.

First May Apple sighting of the year

Right where I parked the car I spotted some May Apple and Showy Orchis blooming.

Showy Orchis

I don't know what flower the one below is, but a bee sampled it and it was the only around.

I wasn't even technically on the trail yet and I heard a sound off in the undergrowth.  A couple of turkeys were enjoying the tourist-free area too.

That wasn't my only wildlife sighting.  On this trail and also on Curry Mountain I heard the sound of tiny newly emerged grasshopper nymphs pinging off the crackly leaf litter.  Check out the eyes on this fella.  Anyone who knows anything about grasshoppers at this stage please comment and educate me!

I also spotted the Canadian Violet, easily identified due to its unusual height.

A little further in on this short trail I spied a Swallowtail that I've seen a few times in the area.

The trail is slightly overgrown, but not so bad this early in the year.  There were a few blowdowns, but nothing that seriously impeded progress.

I also saw tons of Beaked Violet.

And after a couple of creek crossings I even spotted ONE Jack in the Pulpit.

Finding a spot to get a picture of my little hiking buddy was tricky, but I eventually found a spot I thought a monkey would love.