This past weekend two of my friends and I went to the Smoky Mountains for a hiking get away. It was a blast! We drove, and got to see beautiful scenery along the way. Road trips are fun, especially when it’s with people who like to stop at random places along the way. Sure it may take a little longer to get to where you are going, but the memories from those experiences can be unforgettable. Like the first side trip we took; on the way down to the Smokies we ended up having to do a U-turn to get to it, but stopped at Veterans Outlook. For Saturday the day hike that we had chosen was called Ramsey Cascades, if you are up for a challenging hike in the Smokies this is the trail for you. I’ve only been hiking for the past couple of years, and mostly those trails are in the Red River Gorge around 3-5 miles long. Ramsey Cascades, however is an 8 mile hike with about 2400 feet increase in elevation. It is an out and back trail, which means all that elevation, is within the first 4 miles making it a great leg and glute workout! My recommendation before hiking an unknown trail is to look it up first, thankfully we were able to look up this trail on the National Park Service website. They were not lying when it said a strenuous trail, there is also other helpful information on the website; like how long it will take, active warnings, and bear activity. Yes, bear activity. Growing up right outside of Chicago the only bears that I encounter were Da Bears, not gonna lie, mountain bears scared me more than the football team. Sorry guys! We did not encounter any bears during our trip, and I count that as a win! This was the first time that I had hiked in mist, there is something about it that just quiets the forest down, and gives it a fairy tale like quality.
It wasn’t until we were about ¾ to ½ a mile away from the cascades that I realized how many other people were on the trail with us! That last bit was also the hardest, it had seemed like we had been on the trail for way more than 4 miles and that we would never get to the waterfall! Then an amazing thing happened, we saw people on their way back from the cascades and they were encouraging us! “keep going you’re almost there!” “It’s worth it, you guys are so close!” They had seen what we were looking for and didn’t want us to give up hope and miss the beauty that was unseen, but just a little further ahead. We had taken a quick break to get some water and eat a bit of food and then we were finally at the waterfall!!! We sat there watching the water and resting before we started the hike back.
We made it back to the camper safe and sound that night! We slipped and fell down a couple of times but nothing too serious. A friend of mine had told me that when you hike in the rain it’s like a whole new forest! Since this was the first time I had hiked this trail I cannot compare it to when it isn’t raining but there was a different feel to this hike when I think about this hike and hikes that I’ve taken during sunny weather.
There were two major side adventures on the way home. Our first one was right off the side of the highway, literally on the shoulder of the highway. There was a pipe that was coming straight out of the side of the mountain!! Talk about mountain fresh water! So of course we had to stop and fill up our water bottles. It was surprisingly very fresh and clean tasting, my friends had asked one of the locals that was there filling up his water containers if the water needed to be boiled first, he said nope and that you won’t be able to find fresher water anywhere. I was nervous and stayed in the car photographing my friends. It sounds creepier than it actually was, I promise!
Our second adventure was Cumberland Gap, how fun right?! We stopped to get a picture with the sign, something my friend said was in a song or something, not to terribly clear on it, but we got the picture!
Then we saw that there was a pinnacle that we could drive up and look out from it, we of course had to do this. We drove up and up and up and thought we had reached the top to only go up some more! When we had finally gotten to the top we hopped out of the car and started on the trail, at the lookout we were supposed to be able to see Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky; here is what we saw:
It was like being inside of a cloud! One of the coolest things ever! I don’t even know why if I could explain why it was so cool, it was just so surreal. Nature is so amazing, this blanket of fog was like a wall but I knew, I knew there was this beautiful landscape I just couldn’t see it. I wasn’t even the littlest bit upset that I couldn’t see it either, I was just in awe of what I was able to see.
Have you ever hiked in the Smoky Mountains? What’s your favorite trail out there? Let me know!