Continued from Part 1.
So, we make it to Townsend after driving for several hours. We stop off at the Visitors Center and buy a few hiking trail guides and maps of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While there, I flipped through their guestbook, and I see that no one else has signed in from the West Coast. Even though it is the most visited National Park, I have yet to really meet any Californians that have been there (except those that have spent some time out East).
Anyway, we decide that our introduction to the park would be a recommended driving tour of Cades Cove. Since it was both recommended and accessible to virtually anyone with a vehicle, it was quite popular. There was a ton of traffic as we drove the loop, which took us to various historical structures as well as meadows and landscape.
Here's a Primitive Baptist Church built in the late 1800's.
And, here is the John Oliver Cabin built in the early 1800's.
It seems that bats have taken up residence at this old cabin...
Here's a photo taken from the car during the drive.
At some point during this driving tour, we started getting the itch to do something a bit more active. So, we decided to hike to Abrams Falls, which is one of the trails that Cades Cove offers. It was a 5 mile round trip hike to the falls, and it gave us our first real glimpse of the fall colors.
One silly thing that happened was that we somehow lost an hour when we arrived at the trailhead. We couldn't figure it out, and we assumed that Daylight Savings must have occurred (only much later on in the trip did we learn that Tennessee actually spans two time zones) -- keep that in mind if you ever do make it out there.
In any case, this trail was not too difficult (rated Moderate), and it served as a perfect introduction. It was really nice to get out of the car and hike around. The fall colors were really cool, and I'm sure that none of these pictures really do them much justice.
Here's a shot taken while on the trail.
And, Abrams Falls...
After this hike, we called it a day, and made our way back to Townsend. It's a sleepy gateway town, and there's really not much going on. We went to a restaurant called Smoky Junction, and had some trout. Nothing too special, but it certainly was not bad.
Shortly after dinner, we went to bed as we were planning on waking up early to do some more exploring.
Continue to Part 3.