~Sunday, April 25, 2021~
Woke up to water pump problems again. It seems to be struggling and rattling very abnormally. The pump is new (installed on January 19th). Jeff checked the filter which appeared to be clear. The only thing he could think of is when there is too much air in the lines, like when we’re adding water from the water bottles to the rig. Let’s hope that’s all it is. After taking a few things apart and reassembling, it seemed to sound better. Definitely will be ordering a back up water pump. They’re not very expensive (around $80), and you really don’t want to be stuck boondocking for 7 days without one working.
Many people left our campground this morning, at least in our loop. Loop B, which seems to be the most popular, is still going strong. We have a list of our favorites which we’ll be referring to one day when we return.
With it being our last day in the “Smokies'', we just had to get in another hike. The one we chose was a bit of a booty-kicker. It’s not the length (2.7 miles to the Falls which we think was really 3). It’s the elevation gain. The Rainbow Falls Trail follows much of the LeConte Creek which in most cases were mini cascading waterfalls flanked by rich, green, moss and ivy. The further we hiked, it became more obvious just how many Frazer Firs, which only grow at the highest elevations in the park, have fallen victim to the balsam wooly adelgid, a tiny insect that was accidentally introduced in the 1960’s. It has killed over 70% of the park’s fir trees. This tiny insect feeds on the sap of the tree where vital nutrients are carried, taking just a few short years to kill it. Though it devastated this variety of tree, there are many other species of trees filling in the gaps, so the scenery is still very beautiful.
Cloudy most of the day, with the sun struggling to peek through the clouds, it made for excellent hiking weather. It took us about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to the Falls, and well worth the effort. As I always say, “you’ve got to pay your dues, to see the views”.
Normally, on flat ground, I can walk about 20 minute miles. But when there’s elevation gain, plus uneven, rocky trails, you can easily tag on another 30 minutes/mile. Jeff thought it was going to take us about 3 hours to get there, so he was pleasantly surprised that we were hiking at a faster pace than he thought. After a few river crossings on tree or rock bridges, the Rainbow Falls made its presence known. We stayed long enough to chat with a few other hikers, have a snack, and enjoy the scenery before heading back down. Time to get back…...45 minutes and virtually all down hill.
As you exit the Rainbow Falls area by car, there is a detour you can take on the Roaring Fork Historic Nature Trail (only accessible by car). Roaring fork got its name by being one of the largest, faster flowing mountain streams in the park. Initially very steep, the 1-way road finally levels out, though quite windy and very narrow. The lush dense forest with the many mini-waterfall stops, make this a must do when in The Great Smokies National Park.
As we made our way back to our campground, we had to go through the town of Gatlinburg again. I have to say this is the most unappealing thing about the park. I know the town was there long before the National Park was established. But there is nothing more depressing and jarring than the town butting right up to the pristine, beautiful forest that is called The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll see what I mean by checking out the video. It makes me wonder how Yosemite would be if it had the same scenario. I simply can’t imagine it. I was telling Jeff, that if this town was completely on its own, not surrounded by National Park land, I would feel differently in visiting it. It’s just too unpleasant in its current layout.
After a full day, we couldn’t wait to get back early enough (around 5:30), to actually enjoy a relaxing campfire while enjoying a few yummy appetizers. Since we got a little carried away with our fireside time, dinner didn’t get going until after 8:00….raviolis in tomato/cream sauce with grilled asparagus, salad and french bread. And what would a campfire be without s’mores? Since our little section of forest seems to be void of the perfect marshmallow sticks, we opted for a few bamboo skewers we had in our kitchen. Let’s just say, I couldn’t get the perfect roasting temperature, with my hand too close to the flames, but it was delicious all the same.