I took a whirlwind vacation around July 4th weekend this year. The main attraction was a long-planned family reunion in North Carolina, but I took advantage and headed up into the Smokies on Wednesday afternoon 7/2, catching a quick hike at Clingman's Dome.
The next morning I headed to the Alum Cave trail head, and after listening on on a ranger's instructions for a large group she was leading up to the bluffs I headed out.
Sounds of the river are mesmerizing on this first section of the trail. It's enough to put me into another world. The water whispers its secrets to anyone who takes the time to properly tune in.
The bluffs are a sight you have to see in person. Not an easy place to
express with a camera. On up past the bluffs I passed Gracie's Pulpit,
and thought of her singing her hymns here as she rested and took in the
views. Further up the steel cables become common, and you get to
experience the rock ledges that are perfectly safe in July with no ice
or snow, but they just might catch your breath if heights bother you.
This turned out to be my second trip to the LeConte Lodge, the other being a 13.8 mile hike last spring with my daughter, up Rainbow Falls and down Bullhead. This time I started solo, but met up with a gentleman who turned out to be a good hiking partner for the day. Lots of interesting stories, and someone who enjoys nature as much as I do.
Despite it being 7/3, the temps were milder than normal with no rain. At the top the fog was packed in so thick I thought I felt rain. The llamas were camped at the top, resting for their journey back down Trillium. Seems they got the holiday off on Friday, so a rare Thursday delivery of supplies was scheduled.
The trail is a classic. My first trip to the lodge via Alum, and it's one I'll do again.
The next morning I got up early, with maybe four hours of sleep, and drove across North Carolina on Friday 7/4. In between a great reunion I also visited Fort Macon and the Outer Banks on days trips from the house. As I drove past Alligator River Wildlife Refuge I looked down a dirt road on my right and watched a black bear go across the road. Another place I'll return to for a second pass.