To set the record straight, I get very nervous on winding switchback mountain roads. But the roads in Tennessee are probably about as good as you will ever get, not only in that situation, but in general. So even though it was raining, we headed off for the Cades Cove Loop. Cades Cove is in a relatively flat area between mountain ridges in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, according to the tour booklet. The drive is an eleven mile loop that showcases some of the most beautiful scenery, wildlife and history in the area. This information comes from the tour booklet: Cades Cove was a farming community. There were essentially five gravel roads that the settlers used to come and go from the area. Many of these are now used as hiking trails. The National Park has over a hundred trails spread throughout the area. In the Cove, there are over 80 historic buildings. Several historic churches were in the community: Primitive Baptist Church, Methodist Church, and the Missionary Baptist Church. There are many forms of wildlife in the park, although I think you would have to hike in the park, not just drive the eleven mile loop, to see most of them. We did see deer, wild turkeys and almost saw some bears. By the time we arrived, the park ranger was heading back to his car and the bears were gone.
On the way back, we stopped at several of the pullovers. These are paved areas that cars can park or stop in to let other cars pass them or to take pictures or just get out to see the scenery. Along the way, I got out to take a picture of the creek running next to the road. While there and looking further back into the woods, I noticed a small waterfall. Then further on, we stopped at a larger waterfall called The Sinks. We pulled over and took pictures several times until we reached Laurel Falls.
I am not able to hike very much due to problems with my ankle. However, this is one of the shortest hikes in the area 1.3 miles to the falls and 1.3 miles back. We decided to tackle this hike. As long as I can take my time, I’m usually able to do things. On the way up the trail, some teenagers about 30 feet ahead of us saw a bear cub right before he scampered away. Of course, we missed that one too. On the way down from the falls, we heard this strange noise. We asked a park volunteer what it was, and he said that it was probably a baby bear calling for its mom. The brush was very thick around there, and we couldn’t see it. The falls were spectacular. Not the largest ones I have ever seen, but quite beautiful.
On a sad note, the day before we left someone hit and killed a bear along this road. It was the fifth bear killed this year.
By the time that we got down from the hike, it was about 3:30pm. We ate lunch/supper and headed for the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the middle of Gatlinburg, actually almost directly across from our motel. Not far after we began ascending the trail, there was another traffic jam. Unfortunately, we were about seven cars back and two vehicles in front of us were two very rude motorcyclists. Yes, it was a bear that everyone wanted to see. But the motorcyclists were in a hurry and kept reving their engines. Eventually, they turned around and left, but not before scaring the bear away. So there was my third close encounter that never happened. By the time we descended the trail, it was dark, and we were very tired. It had been a very interesting, event-filled day!