Today I hiked a short 2 mile out and back trail to Spruce Flat Falls with my parents. The family was in Gatlinburg to celebrate my grandmothers birthday. This trail is not on my map and is only marked “falls” by a sign near the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.
Today my friends and I climbed at Leda, in Soddy-Daisy. This is a pretty area with many sport climbs in our range (<5.11). The property is owned by the Montlake Golf Course and also includes the bouldering area Stone Fort Little Rock City. With climbers and golfers everywhere it makes for an odd crowd.
I top roped Walk By Me (5.7), Knock on Rock (5.9+), Speedway Boogie (5.7+), Free to Think (trad 5.8), and Cracked Actor (trad 5.10a). Cracked Actor has an awesome off width crack which is too big for a hand jam (i.e. hand cracks) but too small to fit my whole body in (i.e. a chimney). There were a few crimps in the off width that made it easier. The crack then became a finger crack with a sharp edge and an awesome layback. Unfortunately, I didn't have the energy in my grip to finish out the juggy, pumpy moves to the anchors without resting.
Today, my friends and I climbed at Lilly Bluff at Obed. It was a beautiful day. The routes at Lilly Bluff were more difficult that I expected. I top roped a few classic climbs, Tarantella (5.10a) and Ticks Are For Kids (5.10a). I lead Rocking Chair (5.9-) and finished the lead (with rests) on Clyde the Mega Dude (5.11b/c), my first 5.11! Though, only the crux is 5.11. The rest of the climb is 5.8-5.9. I was totally worn out by the end.
Today, my friends and I climbed at South Clear at Obed. We set out with the intention to climb trad at North Clear but the trail was really overgrown and we couldn't find the right routes. So, we went to South Clear and sport climbed. I only top roped this time. It took a while to adjust to the heights and being on a rope after bouldering in the gym. I climbed Best Seat In The House (5.9), Double Feature (5.10c), Shadowhawk (5.9), and tried Cheap Seats (5.10a) and Spawn (5.10b/c). Best Seat In The House and Cheap Seats were slabby climbs. I was sweating too much in the heat to deal with the small holds on Cheap Seats. We started on Shadowhawk and Spawn. These were both high climbs (90 feet) with great views of the river. I got worn out at the end of Spawn and didnt have the strength for the last few moves. Double Feature started with a cool boulder problem using a two finger pocket. The rest of the climb was big moves. Unfortunately, we all got yellow jacket stings on the hike in and out (they build their nests in steps on the trail). This was still a great day out.
As I wrote before, I had to go back to Ramsey Cascades because I forgot my camera the first time, and if there are not any (good) photos did it really happen? This time my sister met me at the trailhead to hike with me. There had been a lot of rain this week so the river and falls were roaring. It also rained on us for about 20 minutes. The whole forest was just as green and alive as ever. Just like last time there were many cool fungi. My favorite is the clear one that looks like frosted glass.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I set out to see the synchronous fireflies, Photinus carolinus, again. 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.