Ramsey Cascades

Today, I hiked to Ramsey Cascades. The trail was an 8.0 mile total, out and back with 2190 feet of climbing. The trail winds along the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River through the largest old growth forest in the national park. I walked past the three largest trees I've ever seen, and everywhere was filled with life: wild flowers, butterflies, moss, trees, undergrowth, fungi. It felt like walking through a Hayao Miyazaki film. The trail ends at Ramsey Cascades the tallest waterfall in the park at 100 feet (though Rainbow Falls at 80 feet is the largest single drop waterfall in the park).

On the hike back I walked past a rattlesnake 10 feet off the trail. It rattled as I walked past, and was loud enough to hear over the sound of the creek. A half mile later I walked past an agitated bee hive. I walked calmly and briskly and avoided getting stung.

I brought my fully charged camera but unfortunately forgot the memory card. The only photos I took were on my phone (the best camera is the one you have with you), so I will hike it again to get better photos.

Mount LeConte

Today I hiked to Mount LeConte via Rainbow Falls then returned along the Trillium Gap trail passing by Grotto Falls. This ended up being a longer hike than expected, 15.3 miles with 4000 feet of elevation gain; I missed one of the legs on the map until I saw the mile markers at LeConte Lodge. I would rather just complete the loop rather than hiking two out and back trails. Unfortunately, the peak was covered in clouds so there wasn't a view from the top. The actual peak is a little distance from Leconte Lodge. Because I now had farther to hike than expected, the clouds blocked any view from the top, and I've seen it before, I did not hike the extra distance to the top.

The forest was pretty at this point in mid-summer. Everything was green. Everything was a little damp. Moss growing on everything. The trail above Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls was not crowded at all. I only saw 10 people during this stretch (except for Leconte Lodge which is always packed with friendly people). Rainbow falls is the tallest single drop waterfall in the park at 80 feet, and Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the park that you can walk behind.

At one point I walked through an area affected by the wildfires in 2016. All the trees were dead and charred black. Large white boulders stuck out without any moss or lichen growing on them. The undergrowth was thriving, enjoying all the light they could want, which made the contrast between the white rocks, green undergrowth, black trees, and blue sky all the sharper.

Red River Gorge 2

This weekend, I went to Red River Gorge (aka the Red) to climb with friends. I onsignted Brolo El Cunado (5.8), and top roped Mary Pop-Parazzi (5.5), Pocahontas Path (5.7), Raindancer (5.10a), Rinse and Repeat (5.7), Cheaper than a Movie (5.8), Brown Eyed Girl (5.10a), and Baby Blue Eyes (5.10c) on the Chica Bonita wall in the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve. I toproped Wonkaholic (5.10a) and tried Old School Chocolate (5.7) on the Chocolate Factory wall in the Bald Rock Recreational Preserve. We climbed a good mix of slab routes with small holds requiring balance and crack climbs with laybacks. We camped and ate at Miguel's, and I got to use my new tent and sleeping pad for the first time.

Hal Canfield DKX MileFest

Today, on the summer solstice, I ran in my first 1 mile race at the Island Home Airport, also a first. I finished in 6:20. Previously, my fastest per mile time was 7:34 at the 2015 Turkey Trot 5k. Island Home Airport is pretty cool. It's only a mile from downtown Knoxville on a small island in the Tennessee River. Of course, because we ran on the runway and the airport is on a river, the whole race was flat! Quite a rare thing in East Tennessee.

Fireflies

I set out to see the synchronous fireflies, Photinus carolinusagain. This time I went to Elkmont Campground, the best place to see them, three days after their peak activity. Conditions were very good for the fireflies. The campground is at 2000' (the ideal elevation) the temperature was warm (70s; above 55), and there had been only a little rain. First we went to a small cemetery. The air was very still and we saw many blue ghost fireflies along the edge near the forest. Blue fireflies are difficult to photograph. With the 30 second exposure below I only saw a few yellow fireflies. The open area of the cemetery isn't the best place to see the synchronous fireflies; they prefer more wooded meadows. We walked to a more wooded area and saw the fireflies synchronize! At this point I put my camera down and just enjoyed being there.

Sunrise Hike

Today my sister, mom, and I went on a sunrise hike. We woke up at 4 am to drive to Carvers Gap and hiked to Round Bald (5825'). The sun rose over layers of blue mountains creating a beautiful contrast with the orange sky. We then walked around the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Gardens. This time of year is when the rhododendron are in peak bloom. We got lost on the trails and there was a lot of cloud cover. We saw a few blooms but not any at an overlook. 

Hiwassee River

Today, I kayaked the Hiwassee River with a few friends. This was a very calm river. At 11 am every day the dam upstream releases water. I rented a sit-on-top kayak from Hiwassee Outfitters, so I couldn't try rolling. I fell out of it trying to surf on a rapid. Paddle and kayak went down stream. It was like a yard sale. Kayaking was fun to try. I don't think I'll pick it up as a sport though. Afterwards we ate burgers and fries at Flip-Flop Burgers, a cool local place. Thank you to Kristy Tippey for taking photos. 

Firefly Hike

Today I went on my first night hike. We set out to see the synchronous fireflies. The fireflies are best seen at Elkmont, but the area is only open to those with a pass from the lottery in April. We hiked Abrams Creek because I'd done it before and the start is along the creek, hopefully where the fireflies would be. We started about 45 minutes before sunset, and hiked about 2 miles, paused to take pictures at the creek, and turned around to hike back in the dark. Hiking in the dark was a bit creepy. Spider eyes reflected my headlamp like diamonds with beautiful pure colors, but there were a lot of spider eyes. After having only seen a few fireflies on the hike we got back to the car and saw dozens in the field and forest edge next to the parking lot. Not what I was hoping for, but fun nonetheless.