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Spring is finally here, so we officially kicked off the hiking season with a trip to Collins Creek Quiet Walkway.  Not what most people think about for hiking, but we had been on this short trail before in the summer and saw that it had great Spring wildflower potential.  So, we went back today, and we certainly weren't disappointed!  I love the little quiet walkways in the Smokies - they're great leg stretchers, usually very quiet without a lot of people, and give everyone an opportunity to experience a taste of the Smokies.  The trail was packed with trilliums, violets, chickweed and all sorts of beautiful flowers.  We heard a lot of birds as well, but unfortunately, they were so high up in the trees, we couldn't get a good shot of them.  But we still scored BIG in the wildfiower department on this trip.  Definitely recommend this short hike if you're in the area.

 
 
PictureWaterfall at Florence Nature Preserve
Florence Nature Preserve is a new acquisition of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy in Upper Hickory Nut Gorge in Gerton.  The trail we took today was relatively new so we wanted to check it out for spring wildflowers and to check out the waterfalls there (supposedly two of them).  This trail just recently opened to the public and the signs were just up.  Since we got there a little late (had to work a 1/2 day), we decided to not do the entire trail but rather to hit the two waterfalls for a straight out and back.  We found the first waterfall easily.  It was more a small cascade, about 7-10 feet tall.  The second one was much harder to locate.  We ended up overshooting the small side trail and had to backtrack.  Dear hubby found it on the way back - that one was a long narrow slide with lovely moss covered rocks, but not too spectacular.  We did see wildflowers as well, along with a number of birds (none of which we were patient enough to capture shots of).  The hike overall was somewhat strenuous in spots, but in very good condition.  Hopefully we can make it back and check out the remaining trail sections when we have a full day.