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We had decided to get up early and get to Clingman's Dome for a sunrise.  Well...  we changed our minds once the alarm went off!  So, back to bed until the VERY LATE hour of 8:00 (that's late for us).  We still managed to get there before a lot of the crowds and secured a parking spot near the trail to the Dome.  For this hike, we decided to hike on the Appalachian Trail (or Clingmans Dome Bypass Trail).  The views were supposedly much better and an even bigger benefit was that there were practically no crowds.  During the fall season, it's truly a sport to find places that you can still see a beautiful fall view but not be elbowed and jostled.  We were doing great on that count so far, and this hike was no exception.  It was approximately the same distance from the parking lot to the tower; it seemed to me that the hike was less straight uphill and more enjoyable; and the views were incredible!!  From now on if I go up to the Dome, it will be via the Bypass Trail!!

 
 
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For the the third day of our fall adventure, we decided on two hikes - one to Grotto Falls near Gatlinburg, TN and the second hike to the Walker Sisters homestead on the Metcalf Bottoms Trail.  We got to Grotto Falls quite early and were the first ones at the falls that morning giving us some great opportunities to grab some shots before the crowds began.  Grotto Falls is a nice hike but can get very crowded.  In addition, parking is very limited, so if you do this hike, you'll need to get there early or park somewhere further down the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. 

After the Grotto Falls hike, we went on to Metcalf Bottoms off of Little River Road.  The highlights of this hike are the old one room Schoolhouse (complete with the cemetery in front of the school) and the maintained homestead of the Walker Sisters.  The Walker sisters were five spinsters who lived out their lives on this farm, clinging to traditional ways of their parents.  After the park was formed in the 1930s they obtained a lifetime lease from the NPS (as was typical for most mountains folks of that time) where they lived until the last sister died in 1979. 

If you continue beyond the turn off to the Walker Sisters, the trail continues on as the Little Greenbrier Trail.  We decided to go on that trail, as we heard there were some views to be had.  The trail was a wonderful fall landscape and did provide some glimpses of the bejeweled mountains with her fall colors in brilliant display.

 
 
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For day 2, we started out at Cades Cove to try to get some shots of the houses
and barns in full foliage.  Then it was back to Elkmont for a hike down Jakes
Creek.  Elkmont is the site of an old logging town that was then turned into a
resort town.  Now the area is within the boundaries of the National Park and is
not maintained at this time (although there have been restoration plans
discussed for some of the old houses).  Jakes Creek wanders down a nice, wide
old road and provides glimpses into the town's past.  While exploring within the
homes is definately not allowed (and due to the condition would be very
foolhardy), the outside gives unique glimpses into the lives of the folks that
left this place in order to provide a National Park for generations to come. 
This is the type of trail to wander slowly, pondering the lives that have come
before and to silently acknowledge the sacrificies their families have made for
this park.  The trail begins at the Jakes Creek Trailhead within Elkmont
Campground.  While you can stop at the end of the houses (approximately .3 of a
mile), Jakes Creek Trail continues for a total of 3.3 miles and ends at the

intersection with Panther Creek Trail.  Another option is to take the trail on
to the left at .3 miles for a loop on the Cucumber Gap Trail. Or you can go
right at .4 mile to Meigs Mountain Trail which eventually ends at The Sinks off
of Little River Road.

 
 
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Indian Springs - October 14, 2012
Every year for fall, my husband and I spend a week camping and hiking the
mountains of North Carolina, searching out the wonderful fall color and trying
to avoid the crowds at the same time.  With a little planning and a lot of
walking, you can achieve this nirvana state!  The first hike of the trip was to
a new waterfall (new to us) - Indian Flat Falls.  This was a fairly easy 7.6
mile round trip hike that begins at the Tremont Trail head near Townsend
Tennessee.  The trail follows an old, wide railroad grade creating a nice hiking
surface.  This is a multi-use trail, so you will have to dodge the horses (and
the droppings!).  The trail follows the stream for the most part, giving
wonderful views of small cascades along the way, including a small waterfall
called Lynn Camp Prong Falls.  Stop and enjoy this one, but keep going - there's
more ahead.  At approximately 2 miles, an unmarked side trail on the right leads
to the remains of an old Cadillac (you have to look hard for the trail, but it
is marked by a small cairn).  At approximately 3.5 miles, you'll cross a
wonderful little log bridge.  You'll quickly lose the creek, but as you near the
falls, you'll hear the unmistakable sound at approximately 3.75 miles.  Take the
spur trail on the right (the trail leads off from what looks like a solid rock
wall once you round a corner) which will take you to the upper falls.  While the
lower falls are accessible with some scrambling, the views are best from the
upper falls.