Friday, July 31, 2009

Otters, Logs, and Falls (A Trip to the Smokies, part 5)

Grotto Falls - a satisfying reward to a long and somewhat grueling hike

Our oldest daughter Audrey's favorite animal is the otter. We had read that a large number of otters made their home in the GSMNP, so we decided on the fourth day of our trip to seek some out. We chose to hike along the Little River, which was the least popular location in the park that was said to contain otters. We figured that the fewer people were around, the more likely it was that we would actually see an otter or two.

We hiked a long way and did not see a single otter. But we had some fun anyway. At one point, we found a mini-island that was connected to the near bank of the river (more like a creek, actually) by a single log. When I saw that log, the little boy in me quickly bubbled up to the surface. I just had to cross this makeshift bridge! To my satisfaction, I did so with ease (walking, I might add, upright!).

Audrey decided to join me, but she was a little too nervous to cross on foot. Instead, she cautiously scooted across on her bottom.

She made it, but I couldn't help ragging on her a little (after all, isn't this part of a parent's job?).

Not to be outdone, Beth decided to try it herself.

Her she celebrates her great achievement while I inspect:

When it was time to go back, I gave the girls a clinic on the "manly" way to cross. They chose to go across on all fours anyway.

As usual, we were wiped out by the end of our hike (which was only about 2 miles total this time, but still tiring). We decided to go home, have lunch, and take naps. After that, I wanted to tackle another trail. All the girls except Courtney balked. So Jennifer and I took Courtney and left Audrey to watch Beth and Christine. They had a lot of important cable TV to watch! (We don't have cable at our home).
Jennifer, Courtney, and I decided to attack another trail that lead to a falls - Grotto falls, to be exact. Here we are at the trailhead.

Unfortunately, this was not exactly where we started hiking. We parked at what we THOUGHT was the Grotto Falls trailhead, but it turned out to be a different trailhead. This mistake required us to hike an extra 1.6 miles - uphill nearly all the way, and on an extremely narrow and rough trail. So instead of hiking 1.2 miles to the falls, we ended up hiking 2.8. But without the two littlest girls, we could really hoof it. We made it in about an hour.
When we got to the falls, we were not disappointed. These were probably the prettiest of all the falls we saw during our trip.

The hike back was much easier than the hike to the falls, not the least of which because it was mainly downhill. When we got back to the real Grotto Falls trailhead, I had Jennifer and Courtney wait in the nearby parking lot while I hiked the remaining 1.6 miles to the car. With only me hiking, and going almost entirely downhill, I was able to cover the distance in about half an hour. Then I picked Jennifer and Courtney up and we drove home. That afternoon, I hiked a total of 5.6 miles, and on the day I hiked nearly 8. Not bad for a city slicker!
The next day, we would see some even more interesting sites...


elizabeth said...

Nice! Waterfalls are beautiful...

Fr. Christian Mathis said...

Did you see any Llamas? They use part of that trail to bring supplies up to the lodge on Mt. Leconte. The Llamas pack them up the side of the mountain!

Fr. James Early said...

No, sir, we didn't see any llamas. But we saw something even better, which I'll write about two posts from now.

AnthonyH said...

Nice falls. We went to Rainbow Falls near Jones Gap, SC this summer, and it was about 2.5 miles horizontal, and 1000 ft vertical for a hike, and we did a second falls (Jones Gap Falls) on the same hike, for a total of about 6 miles that day.

It's tiring, but it's nice that city slickers like us can handle such things, isn't it. My desk job modeling stormwater doesn't prepare me for this sort of thing.

Fr. James Early said...


Where is Jones Gap? We lived in Pawley's Island for about a year and a half while I worked for International Paper Co. in Georgetown, SC.

rjhargrav said...

That's Rainbow Falls, isn't it? I was there on Saturday!

Fr. James Early said...

James, I think you are right. I said Grotto falls in the post, but I now think it was actually Rainbow Falls (based on the sign in one of the pictures).