We found a parking space along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail about a quarter of a mile past this sign, and hiked back to the trailhead. I was surprised how busy it was for the first Monday in June. We had hoped to miss the crowds of summer vacationers, since public schools were all still in session back in Michigan. We still probably missed the big crowds, but parking was scarce even on this early Monday.
I think Becca spotted this creature.
Much of the trail was embedded with tree roots and uneven stone.
We forded several streams along the way.
Up and up.
An exuberant mountain stream gave this area its unusual name. Roaring Fork is one of the larger and faster flowing mountain streams in the [Great Smoky Mountains National] Park.
Several sources claimed this hike was easy. Perhaps for a seasoned hiker it would be. However, for hikers only accustomed to the mostly flat middle of Michigan, this hike was difficult! As I mentioned in my previous post, our home is at a puny elevation of 836 ft. During the month of May, we walked several times a week around the family property, with elevation changes of approximately 10 ft. Apparently, those walks did little to prepare us for hiking in Tennessee. We found the air much thinner, and we were forced to be much more careful where we stepped. At home we navigate around stubborn weeds, a few tree roots, deer scat, and occasional dog droppings. Along the Grotto Falls trail were the aforementioned hazards along with nearly constant boulders, several stream crossings, and llama scat. No joke! I did NOT photograph the piles of “marbles” that often graced our path, but I read later that pack llamas are used several times a week to carry supplies to LeConte Lodge. In addition, the elevation gain along the Grotto Falls trail was 585 feet! Our unsteady legs (and wimpy lungs) climbed to a height of 3777 ft that first morning in Tennessee! For inexperienced hikers, such as us, the trail should be marked moderate to difficult! On a side note, we saw others even less prepared than we were. At least we wore athletic shoes. As we were leaving, we saw several families beginning the trail with young children wearing ballet flats and jelly shoes! Yikes!
After nearly an hour of hiking, sound of the Roaring Fork became more noticeable as we neared Grotto Falls.
Here are some cascades below the true Grotto Falls. Stay tuned for official Grotto Falls photographs coming tomorrow.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
near Gatlinburg, TN