A Winter Wonderland in the Smokies

Trip Start Oct 15, 2011
Trip End Oct 26, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Thursday, October 20, 2011

We got up today and had bagels and juice for breakfast.  We got on the road after 10:00 and headed to Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Park.  I stamped my Passport Book at the Center.  Then I bought a new 25th Anniversary Edition in the Gift Shop.  My old Passport Book is about full especially for the Northwest and Rocky Mountains.  Derek got a T-shirt at the Gift Shop.  We spent some time looking at the relief map they have in the Visitor's Center before we headed back to the car. 

We got to the parking area for Alum Cave Bluffs and found a spot.  Then we packed up for our hike.  We were already at a high elevation and were hiking up 2.5 miles with an elevation gain of over 1300 feet.  We took our lunches and put on our warmest clothes as it was very cold when we got up this morning.  At least it isn't raining.  The first part of our hike took us over a stream several times.  The trail followed the stream for quite a distance. 

When it left the stream we started to go up more sharply.  As we ascended the bridges got icy and we started to see ice on leaves.  Then we saw snow on some leaves.  As we got higher the snow got more plentiful until it was like walking in a wintry fairyland.  We stopped to eat our sandwiches on the way but we didn't linger as we got cold sitting there.  The exertion of hiking up kept us warm enough.  I was glad I had two pairs of gloves with me thanks to my friend Betsy who gave me three pairs as a Christmas exchange gift when I taught at St. Charles.  Thanks, Betsy!! 

We came to Arch Rock and had to take rock stairs up through the arch and then a rock ledge.  Slow going with all the damp leaves and melting snow.  We continued going up and up till we reached a corner where we stopped for an almost 360* view.  If not for the clouds just above us it would have been 360*.  The view of the colors in the valley and the snow in the uplands was spectacular.  After this corner the terrain got even steeper with more rocky going and finally stairs that lead to Alum Cave.  We climbed up into the cave, really just an overhang of rock and had a little more to eat.  Derek climbed up higher and took our picture in the cave.  On the way back down it was easier going as gravity was working with us.  On the way down there was more and more melting.  We were being rained on from the trees dripping on us.  Often we heard snow slipping off the rhododendron leaves.  As we got further down the trail it was noticeable how much the snow had already melted.  When we got to the corner with the 360* views we could see even more than before and actually saw a little blue patch for a few seconds.  By the time we reached the bottom, the sun was out and we were ready to shed at least a layer of clothes and use the bathroom. 

On the way back we stopped at Ober Gatlinburg, an amusement park and ski resort.  The view from up there, above Gatlinburg, was great.  They have a big pavilion that has an ice skating rink year round, lots of shops, a restaurant with an Oktoberfest menu and beers, rides for the kiddies, ski lift and alpine slide.  Larry and Derek went on the alpine slide and I video recorded them.  Then we went into the restaurant and had dessert and beer, I had pop.  Larry got Apple Pie Cheesecake and Derek and I had Black Forest Cherry Cake.  We stopped at Kroger for milk, OJ, bread and of course more beer.

Then we headed back to the cabin.  I got a shower before fixing supper because I was so cold.  For supper we had salad, garlic bread, and spaghetti with sausage.  Larry and Derek did the dishes while I wrote this blog.  Then they went out into the hot tub while I downloaded pictures.  We read and then watched the weather before going to bed.
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