Monday, June 16, 2008

Russell Field Trail to Cades Cove- Day 3

June 16, 2008 Monday

Jack, Liz and I exited the Appalachian Trail and heading west on the Russell Field Trail which would take us into Cades Cove and our ride back to Fontana Dam. Debbie and Phillis were heading on for a couple more days to Newfound Gap (5045 ft) which will take them past Clingmans Dome (6643 ft) the highest point in the park.

This was an easy day. It was to be 6+ miles. We headed down, down, down, past azeala trees and the dying Eastern hemlocks. Jack and Liz had hiked this trail years before and the section had greatly changed. Many of the giant hemlocks were lying, crashed to the forest floor. This allowed for other species to catch the sunlight and grow; changing the make up of the plants along the trail. There wasn't as much canopy, therefore the sun filtered through and it was much warmer, which is not beneficial to a hiker. Jack was bothered, most of the day, by gnats.
We arrived into the picnic area of Cades Cove right after lunch and utilized their picnic tables for a pleasant sit down dinner. Jack and Liz shared their tuna and baby bell cheese with me and while Jack relaxed Liz and I went to find the car.

Our goal, to exit the park, was to take the car down one way Parson Branch road . To get to the road we had to travel through the one-way Cades Cove Loop. We stopped with the other tourists to take pictures of vistas and deers, and then we ran into a major traffic jam. People were leaping from their cars, with their cameras at the ready, to try to capture...what? A small bear was running through the woods, desperately trying to escape the throngs of tourists who were trying to capture it's photo. Sorry, no physical images here, only mental ones.

Parson Branch road came with a caution. It was dirt, it would have rough patches, and it was not suggested for cars that were low to the ground. Supposedly it would save us time? It turned into yet another adventure. We forded, what was it Jack? at least twenty areas with running water. The road was windy and steep; the driving was slow and we were surrounded by woods. It was with great pleasure that we arrived at route 129 (remember the Tail of the Dragon) Route 129 was at least paved.
Shortly afterwards we arrived back at Fontana Dam, transfered all belongings and the Great Smoky Mountain hike 2008 was at an end.

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