Great Smoky Mountains National Park
After our successful sighting of the Swainson’s Warbler on the 4th of July, the rest of our time was spent doing as much with the boys that can be packed into a long weekend. Eating good food and drinking craft beer was always at the top of the list, but we also had to take care of a few shopping chores that were required. There was a picture that Kathy wanted me to pick up at the Jim Gray Gallery in Pigeon Forge, (which then required lunch at the Pottery House Cafe and Grill, that has the best coconut cream pie) and then onto Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville for a new knife David needed. After taking care of these 2 bumber-to-bumper, God awful traffic errands we headed off into the mountains for some hiking.
On one of our hikes David leads the way to Spruce Flats Falls, a little known water fall that’s accessed from the Tremont campus. A moderately strenous hike, with a round trip of about 2 miles, the rewards are worth it as you near the falls.
On these hikes I normally don’t carry my binoculars since the focus is on hiking, not birding. I’m trying to force myself to remember that I need to separate these activities, because if I carry my bins then the hike quickly becomes a stroll in the woods where birding becomes the priority. However this doesn’t stop me from birding by ear and carrying my camera. Which comes in handy later.
As you hiked it was great to round a corner and to behold a vista like this.
Spruce Flats Falls
At the top most cascade there is this small pool, which is perfect on those hot summer days for a quick dip.
The following day we made plans for another hike, however this time we had to leave early enough so we could make it back for the soccer match. The trail David decided we try was Alum Bluff Cave Trail, which is one of the many trails that terminate at the Mt. LeConte Lodge.
So the trail starts at 3,830 feet, and climb to 4,955 feet. So this moderately strenuous hike covers a little more than 4 miles round trip and a modest 1,125 feet in elevation.
As the trail begins the rhododendrons were in full bloom. They almost enveloped the trail as you walked along.
As the trail climber higher and higher, we finally made it to Inspiration Point, and a well deserved rest before the final push to Alum Bluff Cave, which isn’t really a cave.
On this final leg we stopped for a breather and a drink when I couldn’t help but notice a bird lighting on a bare branch of an Evergreen. Much to my surprise I was looking at a Black-throated Blue Warbler.
The first thing I though was, “why aren’t they further north?” I wasn’t familiar with this particular birds range, so the natural thought of them migrating further north seemed normal for me. And if this was a straggler that didn’t make it to it’s breeding grounds than this might be a really good sighting. It wasn’t till I got back to my cabin and looked through my field guide that I discovered that Black-throated Blue Warbler do spend the summer in the Appalachian Mountains, as well as the northern U.S. and Canada.
The last few steep parts till the end.
As you can see it’s really not a cave at all. Sort of a shallow rock shelter with a man made railing to keep people from falling over the edge.
It truly was a memorable weekend. And it wasn’t just getting a new life bird, but it helps. It was time away from work. Time away from Ohio. Dirt under my boots. Cold mountain water. The stillness of a cool morning. Wood Thrushes singing from your front porch. Being with my Sons. The beauty of this National Park.
What more can be said?