Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Anniversary Weekend in the Smokies
It's a tradition of ours to spend a weekend in the mountains (in Townsend, the "peaceful side of the Smokies") to celebrate our anniversary. We never actually do this on our anniversary (March 25) because Jesse's birthday is March 27. We have toyed with the idea of going someplace else, but we are suckers for tradition. And with nearly 900 miles of trails in the Smokies, we have a lot of territory to explore.
This year we took our Saturday hike to Grotto Falls. We generally try to avoid two things when visiting the Smokies: Gatlinburg and most-visited places. Something about crowds and nature just don't mix well with us. (And why do people flock to Gatlinburg? We continue to be mystified.)
But you have to drive through Gatlinburg to get to Grotto Falls, and we really wanted to see Grotto Falls because it's one of those places that people say, "WHAT? You've never been to Grotto Falls?" —and because I demanded a short hike. Last year's 8-mile "flat" hike (I need to keep remembering that Randy's definition of "flat" is relative and has nothing to do with the "flat" of Iowa, for example) was a bit more than I wanted this year for a leisurely Saturday afternoon.
The hike itself is an easy 1.3 miles. It actually took us a couple of hours or more because we stayed with a man who had fallen and broken his leg. Randy was great at talking to him, keeping him comfortable, swapping Boy Scout stories with him. After an hour or so the search and rescue guys got there, and we headed up to the falls with about 50 other people.
Grotto Falls was pretty, and we do want to bring the kids back because they would love to walk behind the falls. Check out Randy's blog to get an idea of what the falls really looks like with a bunch of people there. You kind of have to wait your turn, on weekends from March through October.
After the hike, we drove around Roaring Fork Motor Trail, which was quite beautiful. It reminded us a lot of Cades Cove without the valley, with lots of cabins around. We stopped at the Ephraim Bales homesite, which is in the most spectacular setting.
I love to imagine what it would be like for this to be my front yard. Yes, I know. Hauling water, building fires, outhouses, and all that. Still.
We ate at Miss Lily's Cafe in Townsend for dinner that night, and I have to say two big thumbs-up for Miss Lily's. The food was absolutely perfect. Miss Lily's is a tiny bit off the main road through Townsend, so you might not see it unless you are looking for it. Locals, turn left by AJ's Hearth and Kettle restaurant and look to your right. Miss Lily's is the log house right there. I had the shrimp and grits, and Randy had the low-country pasta. Both were fabulous.
On Sunday we took a short hike before heading back to town to get the kids.
We intended to stroll along Middle Prong trail, but Randy thought it would be fun to explore an unmarked trail, properly called a "manway." In other words, it used to be a trail maintained by the Park but isn't any more. We had to climb over lots of fallen trees, which was fun.
I absolutely loved this trail, er, manway! Oh my goodness—I can't wait to bring the kids, some friends, and a picnic. The hike was easy and actually, truly "flat." (Please understand: I'm not against uphill hikes; I just like to know what I'm in for.) There were tons of rocks and caves for climbing on top of and possibly into, and lots of excellent swimming holes.
That's us, celebrating 22 years of being the Smalls. He's my rock. And my river.
If you want to read all the details about our hikes and see more pictures, take a look at Randy's blog, 900 Miles. He only got to add 1.4 miles to his trail count, but I don't think he minded too much.