Smoky 1

I have to be honest, when I look back at our 5-day visit to Great Smoky Mountains, one memory blocks out all the others. Clouds. Never-ending clouds dumping buckets and buckets of rain. I think we saw blue skies peek through twice. I would estimate it probably rained 40-50% of our total time there and was cloudy 85%.


That might not seem like a lot of rain, but trust me, it is. Nothing ever dried. It wears you down. And most unfortunately, it hamstrung our itinerary.


However, I feel like we still got a great picture of the park. In usual #SwitchbackStyle we packed a lot into our days…

My favorite part was backpacking for 2 days on a 23-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Even though we cut it down from 3-days because of the rain and we couldn’t see any of the hyped spectacular views along the way. It was very cool to stay the night in an AT shelter where we shared sleeping space with 12 other few thru hikers and section hilkers (2 of whom gave us an impromptu concert <see video> with the “guits” they packed all the way from Maine). For more on the fascinating AT, check out Elizabeth’s post on Friday.

And of course we hit all the highlights like Cades Cove and Abram Falls (surprisingly we saw only 2 others there because, guess what, it was raining!). We even made it a bit further off the beaten path to check out the more impressive Grotto Falls that you can walk behind. Then we used our one non-rainy afternoon to hike an 8-mile out-and-back to the Ramsey Cascades. It was great way to cap off the visit and by far and away the best waterfall in the park. Elizaeth says itmight be her favorite of the trip.


But instead of blabbing about all this stuff and whining about rain, how about I just let you check out the Great Smoky Mountains video….


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Written by Cole

  • Marty underwood

    Too bad! The Smokies are glorious. And oh the wildlife you can see!
    You hiked to Ramsey Cascades not falls.

  • Marty

    Too bad about rain. The Smokeys are glorious and wow the wildlife you can see.

    You hiked to Ramsey Cascades not falls.

    • Cole

      Oh yeah, thanks!

  • James Bordonaro

    So sorry you guys didn’t have good weather. I was there in July and it was really nice to be under the tree cover away from the heat down in the valley. I pretty much despised Gaitlinburg and Pigeon Forge for all the tacky commercialism. However, even though I didn’t go there (nor would I ever probably) Dollywood appeared much more refined as I often drove by the place on the way to tubing (very lazy rivers for the most part). Great thing about the Nat. Park was actually seeing bears! Long Long Long line of cars though one day when everybody wanted to take the loop road. I disagree with the in your face signs at the entrance to trails asking (rhetorically) “Did you kill this bear?” with a pic of a bear and an explanation that the bear may have become accustomed to humans by being feed and had to be killed because it bit a woman in the hand or foot. In my opinion, stop with the guilt trip NPS and stop killing bears for biting people! Where is the scientific research that shows bears are more likely to injure a human again after being feed. Doesn’t feeding make most wild animals more docile? How about a compromise with the public… the park service should provide more plantings of blueberry and raspberry bushes, and other nut and fruit trees to increase the supply of food available to bears thereby increasing the number of bears in the park and allowing all the people who were yearning to see a bear (remember I told you about the long line of cars on the Loop Road) to actually get to enjoy them in their natural habitat?

    • Through years of ‘first hand’ experience and research, does NPS know a thing or two about the bear we tend to overlook? No guilt trip intended. Possibly bears are not to be considered domesticated because they share the same terrain with us but because they are truly wild creatures. Designed to remain that way not for us to pet, tame or feed but to be respected and admired for why they are most definitely created; maintaining nature’s balance. When the sign says…don’t feed the animals…there is a reason. I liken it to government hand-outs…after receiving it once, not much work is required. It’s expected. Why not respect regulation. It’s for the bears protection and ours. More plantings are all well and good but once human food is tasted/offered; it’s kind of like chocolate.

      • James Bordonaro


        Thanks for your comments. I agree with you. Animals are not put on the planet for our amusement and generally feeding animals is not something I would encourage. My main point is that NPS shouldn’t guilt the public into not feeding the bears by claiming that they have no choice but to kill a bear that has become habituated to humans. The decision to kill an animal rests entirely in the hands of the NPS. When a shark bits a surfer do we kill the shark because its doing what comes naturally? I am not saying that this is necessarily the wrong approach with bears but until there is a study that NPS can point to showing a very strong association between an animal that has become habituated and the likelihood that the animal will attack without provocation then I’m not in favor of killing animals simply because they have a taste for “chocolate.”

        • Cole

          Thanks for the discussion James and Janelle. I was also taken aback a bit by the harsh signs. I guess they serve the purpose of getting your attention. The signs at the campground about bear-proofing your site were good reminders though. I imagine there is a lot of debate about the handling of bears within the NPS.

          It’s certainly horrible to think bears might be killed because they are fed by humans. I’ve heard some stories about the NPS relocating bears that have gotten the taste for human food and are hovering around campgrounds to remote areas of the park. Hopefully they can intervene with actions like that and getting to the point of killings are very rare.

          Because seeing a bear in the wild is certainly one of the biggest joys you can have in the park!

          • James Bordonaro

            I believe the NPS does do their best to relocate a bear that has lost its “fear” of humans or become labeled a “nuisance” because it has gotten into campers’ food supplies. I think they only euthanize the bears that actually bite or kill people. I hope there is an ongoing debate within NPS about the issue because the more people that come to the park (Great Smokey Mtns. is listed in NPS brochures as one of the most visited) and the more bear populations recover from past hunting they’re bound to be more encounters. Also, I think it relevant to discuss the type of bear in deciding on whether to relocate or euthanize. For example, a grizzly in Denali in Alaska may pose more of a threat to hikers then a black bear simply because of the size/weight of the animal.