Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gatlinburg Babymoon - Grotto Falls

If you missed it, Jennifer and I headed down to Gatlinburg the last weekend of October for a little "babymoon" (in other words, probably our last quiet weekend to ourselves for quite some time).

Even though we were only there for about 48 hours, we still managed to do a lot. Here are some random pictures I took and here's a few Jennifer got. And of course, I had to try some of the local beers.

Saturday morning we spent some time walking together along Little River which is easily one of the prettiest and most relaxing places I've been in a long time.

After walking along that trail for a few miles, we decided to try to find one of the waterfall trails we read about on hikinginthesmokys.com.

If you're planning on doing some hiking in the Smokies, that site is a really good resource for finding trails. It breaks them down by location, trail features (waterfall, views, etc), and difficulty (which was really important for us, considering that Jennifer simply doesn't have the energy she used to now that she's pregnant).
The trail we decided to go with was Grotto Falls because it was close to Gatlinburg, was only 2.6 miles roundtrip, and wasn't very difficult.

Finding the trailhead wasn't bad, but I questioned if I was heading the right way a lot. The main problem we ran into was that some of the street names didn't match what our phone's GPS had (or we couldn't find a street name). Even so, we found it without taking any wrong turns.

It's located off a very narrow one-way road called the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (or just Motor Nature Trail as the signs said):


I didn't catch this when we were researching the trails initially, but here's a tip about this trail from the website I linked to earlier:
Because of the extreme popularity of this trail, there are additional parking spaces beyond the trailhead. Your best bet is to get there early during the peak visitor season.
Parking was pretty scarce -- it was definitely more crowded than I thought it would have been for a rainy day, but we were there in peak season on a Saturday, too.


Even though there were lots of cars there, it wasn't too crowded on the trail.


I think the overcast skies and fog in the trees made the hike even more disorienting than it would have normally been. On the survival shows I like to watch, they always talk about how easy it is to get lost in the woods because of how disorienting they are. I always thought there were over-exaggerating that, but I definitely get that now. Even though we were on a trail, it felt like we passed by the same spot a few times.



We had to take our time with this trail because it was hillier than the other trail and the rain made things slippery.

Especially since this one was covered in roots and rocks.




The trail sort of zig-zagged around a few creeks


and eventually the sound of the water grew louder, so I knew we were approaching the falls.




Insert obligatory beautiful pregnant wife in front of waterfall picture here:


Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the park that you can walk behind, which I'm sure contributes to its popularity.




We took a nice little break at the falls to get some pictures and rest up for the hike back.

Here's a video Jennifer took: (it's amazing how loud it was!)



On the hike back we finally ran into some wildlife!

(Yeah, we were a little disappointed at the lack of wildlife we saw -- we didn't even hear very many birds chirping!)

First, we saw this really cool snail:


And then out of nowhere came this caravan of llamas that about ran us over!


We almost jumped on their backs, but they seemed to be on a mission.


We spent probably between 5 or 6 hours on Saturday hiking just these two trails.

Sure, we had a couple extra factors slowing us down a little, but that really goes to show how big this park is. We could easily spend MONTHS hiking it and not walk the same path twice.

And even though the weather wasn't ideal, it was exactly what we went to Gatlinburg for.

With no other distractions around, Jennifer and I can literally talk all day long.

Just a couple days ago we were wondering how that was even possible after 5 1/2 years of being together... how do we still have that much to talk about??

I think it all comes down to our friendship. We tell each other everything, and we can literally talk about anything or nothing at all.

Because no matter what we're doing, or what we're talking about, we just enjoy each other's company, and that's really all that matters.

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