Wednesday, June 30, 2010
To hear John Rowland tell it, you just can't call yourself an-outdoor-loving-hiker if you've never been to Gregory Bald. Okay, I'm paraphrasing a bit. Still, I was pretty frustrated that I had a writer commitment the week our Wednesday group was scheduled to take the long awaited overnight trip to Townsend for the hike. But then, I got a phone call from John inviting me to go along with him and Kathy on the Friday before the Wednesday hike. Well, I proved my quick-stepping abilities and made myself available! Let me tell you, I'm so glad I did.
John and I met at 6:30am and headed to Cleveland to pick up Kathy. We made a quick trip up I-75 and got to the turn-off into Cade's Cove about 9:30am. All was well til we backed up behind the infamous sight-see'ers there to get their quick fix on nature. It was Kathy's first time in the Cove so that made it special to point out places of interest. She got a treat though as we passed a bear at the edge of a meadow around the loop.
I started off in the lead at a pretty good pace, dodging horseapples already on the trail under a pretty full canopied forest. I knew I'd wind down and John or Kathy would jump up. The trail wounded around the ridge in easy curves with a gradual incline. The horses overtook us, John took the lead, and we continued on up the trail. The farther we went, the muddier the trail. I figured the horses were tearing it up a bit. There were a couple of trees down to circumvent, but it was no big deal.
We took off on up the trail and soon realized, we were climbing at a steeper incline. Then, we felt drops of rain. I prayed for it to hold off until we got a chance to explore the bald. We spotted more and more flame azalea in bloom along the trail and then, suddenly, we broke through and found ourselves in azalea heaven!
Shades of orange, salmon, wine, red, pink, peach, and even white azalea's were everywhere I looked. They grew individually and in large bunches as though planted by some some long ago gardener. Blueberry bushes laden with fruit were also all around. As we gazed out over the view down on Cade's Cove, the rain began to fall a bit more. We didn't want to miss out on the sites on the bald so John began to show us the trail through the thick grass. It would have been fun to just get lost within the bunches of azalea's in bloom. Kathy and I oohed and aahed at every turn. The rain eased up a little and we found a spot to eat lunch near an aged tree.
The drive home was a treat in itself as we drove on out Parson Branch Road and into Deal's Gap, then followed the Cherolla Skyway into Tellico. John and Kathy weren't interested in stopping to eat, so I sat in the back seat and contemplated what I would eat when I got home. (a bowl of dry cereal as it turned out)
I heard the Wednesday group had a fantastic hike, as well, with a beautiful sighting of a baby fawn in the grass. Wish I could have seen that.