Tuesday morning a minor miracle happened. We not only awoke early, we left the room early---for us. A reasonably quick breakfast and we were on our way. James had chosen to ride with us and he was my navigator. We had stopped on our way in and talked with a gentleman at the Welcome Center and he had given us a map and told us how to get where we were going. He also tried to sell us tickets to some supposedly new attraction but we didn't bite on that one.
Taking a left turn at light three we headed away from Pigeon Forge. We knew that this was going to be a drive but I became very glad we had stopped at the Welcome Center, otherwise we would have probably turned around long before we arrived. Traffic alternated between cruising right along to almost stopped. I was glad I was driving as my husband was impatient with the drivers around us. Eventually we saw the first sign pointing us in the direction to the Cove. A few miles more and we were entering the national forest. If I was accustomed to long walks in the woods I would have sworn we had entered a new world...then again, maybe we did. Branches from the trees hung heavy over the road, shading our way and we drove on. Small rivers flowed along the side of the road inviting us to stop and play for a while. Entering the Scenic Loop we stopped and for a dollar walked away with a map to the loop we were about to drive.
The cars ahead of me were in no hurry and I was glad. I wanted time to look at everything. We stopped at the first field so I could take photos of several wild turkey that were content to wander in search of food and ignore the humans that were standing with cameras seemingly permanently attached to their face. Pulling back onto the roadway we continued on.
At the first site noted on the map we parked and began to make our way across a field. My husband wasn't happy about the hike but he had been forewarned. We were told we had just missed several deer which disappointed me but I kept hoping to see wildlife at some point. We wandered around the cabin for a few moments and then headed back for the car.
At each point we would stop, get out and wander about examining the buildings and trying to imagine how life was at that time. The beauty of the fields and forest both took my breath. I tried to imagine the land before we came along and made the changes and did the damage we have done. To be able to cross and field, a river even a mountain and not see trash or graffiti left by those before us was a wistful thought. There were churches and homesteads and trails. James and I visited one homestead and then began to follow a trail that had a sign saying it was to a waterfall.
The trail was incredible. Going deeper into the woods it followed a creek that became a small, shallow river. The temptation was great to stop and wade but I knew that our time was limited. Two people ahead of us stopped and were pointing up on the hillside. There to my delight were three deer enjoying a meal of leaves from low-growing brush. They looked in our direction but stayed right where they were. They knew no harm would come to them there. I managed to take photo after photo of the deer as they moved about on the mountainside. Finally deciding to leave them in peace James and I walked on. After what seemed like forever we reached a point where the path widened. A bridge crossed the river and a wide trail lead to a parking area. We were going to continue on until I noticed the sign saying that it was still two and a half miles to the falls, a three to four hour hike. We had left my husband in the car for too long as it was, he would definitely not be happy if we left him another three hours. And with no cell phone service there was no way to tell him where we were or what we were doing. So, we headed back, only James decided to go a different route. I told him that we should stay on an official trail to which he pointed at a sign and informed me that the way he was going WAS an official trail. So- I followed.
The trail was fine, for a while. It followed the river, crossed over tree roots, around fallen tress and through fields of fern. It was beautiful and I fired of several shots with the camera. Everything was fine....until we ran out of path. At some point it had to have crossed the river, only we missed that spot. James in his wisdom said that as long as we kept the river on our left and the road on our right we would be fine. We could hear the slow moving traffic not too far away from where we stood. I knew that we weren't lost, I just wish that we were closer to the car as it was hot, I was thirsty and growing tired. James moved on and I again followed. Where did the time go that I was once the leader, dragging my brothers and whoever else would follow into one adventure or another?
We followed the edge of the woods and crossed a field. I kept stopping to take photos of wildflowers and insects which put James way ahead of me. When I was about twenty feet from the roadway a pick up truck with several people rising in the back passed. One rider attempting to be cute and draw a laugh from his buddies rising with him shouted out "Hot mama" I didn't even look up. I just kept wading through the knee high grass in the direction that James had gone.
Reaching the road I could see James up ahead. Calling for him to wait did no good, I realized later he was simply trying to get to the Explorer so he could come back and pick me up saving me the full walk. Once I was in the car I listened to the lecture that James had obviously already been subjected. It was somewhat deserved so I said nothing. I had wanted to stop at the point leading to the falls but said nothing as we passed it.
Following the slow moving traffic we made our way around the loop. We didn't stop again until we reached the ranger station. We hadn't brought any water with us so the fountain there was a gift. We spent some time wandering around the site, my husband checking out the buildings, me still taking photos. I was falling more and more in love with this place.
When we left there we came up on several vehicles stopped in the road. Others had pulled into one of the areas for that purpose. One lady had even climbed up on the top of her vehicle. When asked she told us there was a bear out in the field. By the time my husband had his fill of the place so James drove on. I was not happy, but not complaining. James did try to spot a bear for me as he drove, but it simply wasn't to be.
Leaving the loop we passed people enjoying the river doing their best to cool off in the summer heat. There were many places along the route we took that I would have loved to stop for pictures but didn't ask.
Once back in Pigeon Forge we made a quick run to Wal-Mart for sandwich fixin's and drinks. Back at the hotel we were all ready for a rest. I however dreamed of returning to Cades Cove and making my way to the waterfall...I really need to be careful what I wish for.