April 20, 2017

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • 5.88 miles
  • 4:43 duration
  • 847 elevation gain

Back in February, my sister Alice told me that she was planning three wildflower hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains this spring with her hiking group. The first was on a Thursday, the second on Good Friday, and the third today. Since I am still gainfully employed (unlike all of my siblings who have retired) I have to work on Thursdays, so told her I would join them for the Good Friday hike.

Unfortunately, my body had other plans, and after being sick most of the night before, I had to cancel going on the Good Friday hike. This disappointed me greatly, so I decided to take today off and join them for the third and final official wildflower hike. It was to be a rather large group, including both of my sisters and several of their friends.

I spent last evening preparing for the trip; fixing a lunch, packing my backpack, laying out my clothes, making sure I had my hiking stick ready, and charging my camera and phone batteries. This morning I was up bright and early and on the road around 6:20 am in order to meet the group at 8:30 am.

But this hike almost didn’t happen as well. As I was driving to meet the group, I got word that it was raining heavily in the area we planned to hike. We decided to meet for breakfast and give the rain time to clear out. This strategy worked, and we hit the trail a little before 11:00 am. Our group had shrunk from the originally planned 10 hikers to four hardy souls: My sisters Alice and Mary Lou, their friend Sarah, and me.

We immediately began seeing wildflowers along the trail, and made our way slowly as we stopped to take photos. After about 40 minutes, we reached the first exhibit of what we had come to see, a beautiful clump of yellow lady slippers. Because these and the pink lady slippers that we saw later in the hike are often poached by persons who wish to either sell them or try to transplant them in their own yards, I am being careful not to identify the area where we hiked today, nor will I be posting my usual map of our route.

In addition to the lady slippers we saw a myriad of wildflowers some of which you will see photos of below. We were also treated to the sight of a large group (flock?) of butterflies in various colors. Along the way we encountered many other travelers and enjoyed chatting with them about the various flowers we were seeing.

After returning to the parking lot, we saw a raccoon that appeared to be injured or at the least confused. We watched it for some time with concern, but it eventually scampered into the woods, so we had hopes that it would be fine.

We ended our time together with a stop at the Burgermaster Drive-In in Townsend where I had one of their delicious peanut butter milkshakes. This was indeed a special day, and I am so thankful that the weather cleared so that we could carry on with our hike.

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