Monday, April 29, 2013

Rainbow Falls & Cave--Blue Hole Branch Falls

Wood Betony

Blue Hole Branch Falls and Rainbow Falls & Cave
Dana & Kenny Koogler
Saturday April 20, 2013

Pictures are here starting with frame 332
Rainbow Falls & Cave Pix 

     Saturday morning we woke and gathered our things up.  We packed and dropped off the key.  Grabbed some breakfast in town and hit the trail.  We planned
to visit Rainbow Falls & Cave today.  I knew there was another waterfall further back called Blue Hole Branch Falls.  I figured it would be a pretty drive to Overton County and should be a nice, short adventure before having to head home. We were keeping our grandson Michael tonight and Sunday.

      Well, I can't tell you a lot about the particulars on this blog because photos = evidence and telling some of what we did could be considered an admission of guilt.
We went back to see the falls and cave.   We found the road re-surfaced in gravel.
We found the gate had been moved to right by Cub Cemetery.  We also found the area had been logged heavily and it appears to be an on-going operation.  It was rather depressing to see.  Whoever did this had no concern for the environment at all and is only worried about making them some Ca$h.   They have left a big old mess and pushed logs over into Blue Hole Branch Falls.   

        We managed to find Blue Hole Branch Falls without any trouble. It had rained so much the previous days that you could hear it roaring off in the distance.  It was 
an impressive waterfall that flows and drops into a cave.   We found our way down the bank and approached it counter-clockwise. 



Kenny ahead of me moving toward Blue Hole Branch Falls.

Looking up from inside the passage to Blue Hole Branch

First glimpse of the falls

Out of the passage and onto a narrow ledge to see the falls from here

Blue Hole Branch Falls drops into a cave.

    We found the waterfall raging and still pretty despite the logging debris pushed into it.
Once through the right hand passage through the rocks we had to turn and hang on to climb on a narrow ledge to view the falls from here.  We found a better way down and a better viewing spot for the falls.  It was a neat place. Glad we finally got to see it.

   Next we turned around and headed a short distance back toward Rainbow Falls and Cave. I don't know where it got this name as I have been here several times and I have yet to see a rainbow here. It is a pit cave, but not like Never Sink or South Pittsburg Pit or the Dorton Knob Smoke Hole. It is eroded and has exposed all but the last 30 feet of the 110 foot waterfall. The cave opening appears to be down and to the right. It is very cool. I love the layers of rock here. You can carefully walk down into the pit part of the way and can easily see the bottom. During times of little rain fall this dries up to a trickle. Today it had the most water I've ever seen on it!

Rainbow Falls and Cave

Plenty of wildflowers around the falls today.

   It was a beautiful day to be out.  I know we'll go back. I found out there is more!
How cool is that?  Also have to take John and Sharon to see this.  

Above is a short , very cool video of Rainbow Falls Cave. The music is The Lazarus Pit.
A Lazarus Pit is supposed to bring people back to life or heal them. Love it!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lost Cane --Waterfalls and Wildflowers

Southern Red Trillium in the rain.

Lost Cane

Dana & Kenny Koogler
Friday April 19, 2013

Ride distance 30 miles total

Pictures are here: 
Lost Cane Pix

   I've said before that something calls me to come to certain places and when I listen good things happen.   Lost Cane is one of those places.  I had asked about the trail heading into it from several people.  The first man said he did not like it that it was really rough, the trail was confusing, it was overgrown, and that he did not feel safe there.
Talking with a few others they echoed the sentiments that the trail was very rough and overgrown and it was a place they just weren't keen on going. One weekend while I had to work Kenny, Buck and Dan Mullins gathered their stuff up and went riding.  Kenny pointed out the trail into Lost Cane to Buck and said it was rough and that was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  "LET'S GO!" was his response and that was the end of that.  

     They found the trail to be challenging, but they came home having had a great time and done a ton of exploring! Covered lots and lots of new ground. I benefited 
from their trip even though I was not able to attend.  I was hunting for a cave in the area and being drawn ever onward.   Finally this past Friday I answered the call to whatever I was being led to find.  The timing could not have been better. 

        We got us a room reserved at the local No Tell Motel and headed out for a day and a half of exploring and adventure.  We parked at Sharon & John's Woo Hoo Holler and hit out from there.   We went up another trail and did some morrel hunting. We succeeded in finding a nice mess or two of mushrooms!  It was great fun.  The weather was rainy and cold,but we put on our rain gear and went on just the same.   We enjoyed the scenery and stopped for me to take lots of wildflower photos. We also explored a ridge top trail we found and it was very pretty. 

    We stopped off by the first waterfall that emerges from a cave and goes back in the ground. It was flowing great today.  No water was coming out of that hole up on the cliff. I guess it is a cave?  The river was flooding today making that trail unrideable.   Never saw the Obey that murky and brown before nor with that much water in it!   Thinking on this made me decide it would take a Noah's Ark type flood
to cause water to flow from that hole up on the cliff.  If it is not running today I had to wonder if it ever does?

Wild Columbine along the road

The slopes are covered in wildflowers and new Spring growth far as the eye can see!

Waves of trilliums in the woods

Stinging Nettle Falls emerges from the ground and falls right back into the ground.

     We were pleased to find the creeks running so well. We spotted lots of wet weather waterfalls and cascades. 
Bills Creek is running great today.

Pretty cascade on Bills Creek

        We tore around the plateau on gravel roads and dirt tracks up through the forest.
We had a goal in mind, but had to fight the urge to explore every side path and trail. Fought to keep from revisiting every pretty place we'd already seen and once at a place had to remind ourselves to keep going.  We were not in a hurry, but had to motivate reasonably to make it.Kenny & I are one hell of a team when it comes to exploring.  I could not be any more fortunate to have married this wild-eyed Southern boy.   No one else would have put up with nor been able to match the wanderlust that consumes me.

     The path up the mountain always seems longer than it should. We wound through woods deep and dark. Some places the canopy opened and let in the sun trying to shine.
Great boulders towered and loomed up in the woods to our right. They hung draped with every manner of green, growing vegetation and flower.  Purple phacelia crowned one rock making the entire top bluish purple!  Blue phlox, yellow trilliums, white trilliums sprouted up all around.    We made one turn and there in the deep black-green forest I spotted something out of place.  Bright yellow dots!  Everywhere were bright yellow blotches like they were suspended in air.   I realized the yellow spots were kerria shrub! That means only one thing..... an old home site.  The kerria shrub had persisted long after the home was abandoned and deteriorated.  It had grown huge and was so pretty.  The rocks of the foundation lay just before it. 

Kerria shrub in the forest lingers on after the home is gone.

Old foundation to a house long gone.

   We passed up the old home site and had not gone far til we passed an enormous boulder about 25 feet high on the left. It was pock marked and you could almost touch it from the RZR.  I did not recall seeing it before, but Kenny did.  It had been night when we were there the last time so no wonder! We rounded a corner and I spotted our turn. "Here it is!" I hollered to Kenny.  He just grinned and looked at me and away we went.   Down into the guts of the mountain wondering what we'd find?  

     It was not long til I began to hear water running.  I looked around the forest and through the trees spotted a shimmering white stream coming down off the side of the mountain!  It was where I imagined there would be a waterfall and there was not one, but two!  The second one was a total surprise.  We stopped and went over to the closer one.
It was quite pretty and dropped about fifteen feet over a rock ledge down into a gorge.
Second growth trees stood like pale green soda straws all around us.  Down below the stream splashed and flowed for a short ways.  I could hear the second falls in the distance, but could not see it from here.  Jack-in-the pulpit grew here along with trilliums and other beautiful wildflowers.

Waterfall #1 Lost Cane

Jack in the Pulpit growing on the bank

     We could have climbed down from the side of the first waterfall and made our way downstream to where the second one dropped in.  It came from a different stream of water coming down off the mountain at a right angle to the other falls.  It was also quite pretty. It must stay at least moist all year long owing to the green algae growing on the rock.  The rock is either being formed from plant matter solidifying or being discolored by the algae.   It was slick and would have torn the bank up so we went down to the base of the hill and were able to easily walk over to see the second falls. It was not huge. Perhaps 20 feet high and had a fin of rock at the base over to one side.

Waterfall #2 Lost Cane

       We did not linger too long at this second falls. We had a fair amount of territory to cover.  I'd be interested on any repeat trips in coming back up to this spot and climbing up above this first falls to see if there are more cascades above here?

      We continued down the trail and it was rough in some patches, but nothing to shout about.  We also encountered some downed trees. The worst spot was a thick patch of rose bushes that crowded the trail to the point of leaving only a few inches uncovered.
We pushed through that.  The other potentially bad place was a downed tree that formed a sort of bridge across the trail.  I wondered if we'd be able to continue, but we did manage to get under it without any problem. The RZR's lower profile helped with that. I doubt the Rhino would have made it under.

    We began to see massive rocks and could hear the stream below us now on the right.
I saw one cascade and could hear another.  I hollered for us to stop. I had to check this out. Kenny was right there with me wanting to see.  The boulders were room sized.
The terrain was mossy and green and leafy. It was just beautiful.  We could tell the one drop off had a waterfall. We could also see another cascade emerging from the bank at a right angle to the first one.  We climbed down and then things got interesting. No way to go up the creek on the right hand side. The massive boulder blocked any progress and all the water was diverted to the far left.   Kenny made it round there first and I could tell by the look on his face this was going to be great!
Massive boulder blocking the stream on the right. I wondered why the stream flow seemed so small down here on this side and so big above it? I was to find out!

     We worked our way across the stream and up the bank.  Kenny indicated to me a hole that appeared to lead to the waterfall ahead of us. "You can crawl in here if you want to try it?!"  he said.  Now most wives would not be too pleased if their hubby told them to crawl in a hole, but this man knows me and knows how crazy I am.  I got his point. It was a shortcut.  He knew from the looks of it he was NOT going to fit but that I might be able to squeeze through.  We raced to see who would make it to the waterfall first??
He took the One if by sea route... I took the land route through the hole.
Someone asked me wasn't I worried about snakes? Simple answer is yes.. and no.
It had been cold and I was not terribly concerned. I did put my hood up to avoid having a bat down the back of my neck and I kept my eyes open looking around before I plowed through there.  I did not tarry, but made quick work of getting through. Lucky for me I did fit and the tunnel went in and up and popped me out in front of the falls!  I have photos of this, but what shows it better is the short video clip below.

     When I emerged at the top of this hole and looked around Kenny was only 1/2 way to the falls! ha! I won!  I also looked back at the hole and knew that I'd never have tried to crawl through it from this end. It looked tiny!


Kenny's bridge building route

Tiny opening to that shortcut tunnel

    Here was our reward for making it.. the third and biggest waterfall on Lost Cane Creek.

A nice 50 footer! 

   We checked out the waterfall and the big rocks directly in front of us coming down the creek.  Very cool.  Far to the right on the bank was another nice sized waterfall.. about a 25 footer shooting right out of the bank. It was coming out of a cave, flowing down and re-entering the earth in a swallet.  Part of the flow went into the swallet while part of the water went in the direction of that big boulder which blocked the creek completely on that side.  It appeared that pretty much all the flow from this falls goes back into the ground in two spots! The rock here was carved into arches and potholes and all sorts of neat forms.

Waterfall #4 Lost Cane--out of a cave.. into a swallet.

   I was absolutely overcome with excitement at finding and seeing all these beautiful things.   It was time for a little trail romance.Yeah. I love my friends, but I love my man more and he comes with some benefits so I was glad for the privacy today hey hey.

After our little romantic escapade we found a simpler route back up the bank to the RZR.
It was a rocky hill climb, but it was way quicker.

      Back on the trail and heading ever down the mountain through its heart.
We spotted more rugged trail. One path lead off to the side avoiding a rocky dirt ditch.
But what fun would that be?  I told Kenny this trail was like a freaking rollercoaster ride!
I was elated.  He responded "Why do you think we loved it so much when me, Dan and Buck came down here?". He was grinning ear to ear.

      In all this excitement of waterfalls and beauty and Freak Nasty.... I somehow missed the mark in hunting the cave and the cave drawings.  I think I know where we went wrong.  We passed a foot path heading up the left bank into the rocky cliffs.  It was either that spot or down closer to the end there was a big dirt berm that appeared to have an old road going up to it.  I am betting it was a cave entrance. It was just down out of view behind that bank of dirt.   That can only mean one thing.. repeat trips til the cave is found!

The Dirt Ditch-- the photo from the bottom does not do it justice.

      We no more got down the dirt ditch than Kenny exclaimed "More waterfalls!"
and indeed we did stop and find more!  We were able to stroll up to two more waterfalls in what had become a repeating pattern. One waterfall coming directly down the stream. A second waterfall entering the creek from a side stream at a right angle.  The fifth waterfall was the one on the creek. The sixth was the one coming in from the left.  It was about fifteen feet high and flowed over some ridged rocks and dropped into a swallet across the creek.  Below all this jumble of boulders and beautiful cascades was a cave and a rock overhang.   I could hear water running down in the small cave entrances.

      I walked over and stood before the sixth falls. It was situated in a green leafy amphitheater.  The ridge above was letting the sun peek over.  The hill above the falls was dotted with wildflowers. I stood with one waterfall before me and another behind me.  Surrounded by all consuming beauty.  I was on total sensory overload and filled with joy.
I found myself misty-eyed as I sometimes get when I am in such situations.  I composed myself and just gave thanks for the experience.  Kenny said "You're in Heaven!" and I had to agree.  I always think days like this make up for some of the not so good ones.

Waterfall #6 Lost Cane Creek.. out of a spring and into a swallet.

The Green 'amphitheater' behind and above the sixth falls.

    The fifth waterfall was interesting. It was about 20 ft high and cascaded down through a jumble of boulders.  It had a part that was over ridged rock with horizontal lines in it.

Waterfall #5 seen from in front of it.

Waterfall #5 seen from the left. That gives a better look at the ridged rock lines in it.

     We wandered around here a bit and checked out the cave, the creek, the wildflowers and boulders.  Finally we loaded up again and headed down the trail.   We did not find anymore waterfalls from that point, but the trip remained beautiful, wild and interesting.
Now we began the trip through the land of dry creek beds.  We'd see or hear the stream for a little while and then it was gone again.  We did not get out to examine every place the stream appeared and disappeared. Had we done so we'd have been all night getting through there!
      The terrain was flattening out. I could tell at one point we had not only lost most of our elevation, but we were down in the depths of the Cane.  All those times looking at the topo map where the lines made concentric shapes getting smaller and smaller... toward the middle. We were there now.  Down in the flat.  We did see native bamboo. We also saw lots of brambles, some downed trees again. It is pretty clear this place doesn't see much traffic or many humans period.  Everything is quiet except for any noise we might be making.   Moss covers most surfaces. We found a small sink hole.  A rock mound out in the center was completely moss covered. The fields down here and forests were a feast for the eyes.  Wildflowers! Everywhere in this bottomland.   Loamy, rocky soil and wildflowers.  We saw evidence of wild hogs in the form of digging, but mostly their scat.
Grapevines hung thick as a man's arm from the trees.  Lost Cane was like a combination of Eden and Saigon.   You'd be a long way from help down in here if anything went wrong.  I knew all this but even so I did not feel uncomfortable at all. I mention this because I will be going some place in the future where that is not the case. The spirit of place here is good.



Down in the depths of Lost Cane. Much is covered with moss and vines.

A smorgasboard of wildflowers!

Kenny found this spot in the woods that was completely carpeted by Virginia bluebells and wood poppies. Phlox and yellow trilliums were also thick here.

    We made our way along once again.  We found a downed tree that was going to have to be cleared.  It didn't take long with the chainsaw and two pairs of hands. We had it gone and were back on track in about five minutes.  We finally came to the point where we turned right and headed uphill.  Kenny was sure this was the place we needed to turn to go up to the cave.  I stopped and looked back over my shoulder.  I disagreed with him as soon as I took that backward glance.  The so called signs for the cave were warnings that Tennessee's caves were closed to entry. They were on two adjacent trees we had just passed. The signs were up facing in the direction to get the attention of anyone going UP the creek.  Not turning right and going up the hill.  He took another look and realized I was probably right.

     We went ahead anyway to see where this trail went?? It went uphill and I knew from the terrain and distance we were almost certainly too far down the mountain to be anywhere near that cave.  I've got it in my mind where it lies and this just seemed wrong.
It was a fun, rocky, steep hill climb that was a challenge to go up and come down. Glad we checked it out.  It petered out and you could tell beyond a point it was not traveled.
We came back down and thought about our options how to finish the trip?

   We could do as Kenny had wanted and go down and turn around and go back out the way we came in. Back UP the mountain.  That was going to be a long way out.
A glance at the time and we knew two things 1. we'd have to boogie to get out of there and 2. we'd not have any extra time to stop on the way out and look for things we'd missed.  I felt the temptation to stop would be overwhelming to me on the way back that way.  I convinced him it would be closer and smarter to go out the bottom.  We'd have more time and be closer to the truck when we emerged back out on the road.
Kenny's main concern leaving this direction was how rough it was going through that creek bed and with me along!  Now that I wanted to finish the journey this way he was all about it.

Downed tree over the trail.

Rocky dry creek bed. This is only a small sample of the miles of this we had to ride.

     The dry creek bed is hard. Buck and Kenny and C.D. are experienced riders and found it fun and challenging.  It takes time.  It may be the shorter of two distances between points, but it is not going to be the fastest or easiest.  I wanted to be able to say I'd done the entire trail from begining to end even the bad stuff.  So on we went.
Kenny handled it great and was glad we chose this route instead of back up the mountain.
That would have taken forever.  The jarring and bouncing and grinding down the dry creek was something else awhile.   Every so often down this trail we'd seen pipe. Black pvc pipe like someone had tried to pipe water.  Kenny made me put the camera up and get my parts INSIDE the RZR for the rest of the trip since it was hairy.

     We finally made it out and were real glad of it. It was an awesome adventure.
We had a little daylight left so though we were damp, cold and hungry that did not stop us from a few side excursions on the way out.  Then back up the road to Woo Hoo to load up and head to the motel.  We were glad to get in where it was warm and get some dinner in town.  The No Tell Motel is actually the Jordan Motel and while it lacks some fancier things more modern hotels have it is inexpensive, clean and relatively comfortable.
It is the only game in town so we know we'll be back again.

    We got some sleep and prepared for the next day's adventure!
Good Night!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chimney Tops Nature Trail Wildflower Hike & Crooked Arm Cascade

Dwarf Crested Iris 

Chimney Tops Nature Trail Wildflower Hike & Crooked Arm Cascade

Dana Koogler solo 
Hike distance 2.5 miles total
Thursday April 18, 2013

Pictures are here:  
Chimney Tops Nature Trail Pix

  I had see beautiful photos of different people's photos of Chimney Tops Nature Trail taken during Spring wildflower season.  I had never hiked it and knew I needed to go check it out.  I had been saving it for a family hike and picnic, but plans kept getting messed up by weather and other things.   I wanted to get out on Thursday and spend a day in the sun and woods. Friday called for foul weather with lots of rain and turning cold.
We had plans to go away for part of the weekend and I needed to get home at a reasonable time to pack.  I figured today was the perfect time to do a combination hike.
I'd hike Chimney Tops Nature Trail today. I'd drive the river road out to Cades Cove and view wildflowers along the way.  I'd hike Crooked Arm Cascade and wrap up my day by
driving out Rich Mountain Road to head home.  I turned out to be real pleased with my choices.

Silver Bell tree in peak bloom!

     I knew Chimney Tops Nature Trail was part of the Wildflower pilgrimage tour and there would be lots of people.  It was busy, but I got an early start and found a good parking spot.   Everyone was in a good mood and friendly. I met and talked with lots of very pleasant fellow wildflower enthusiasts and hikers.   I had a good time.  The trail was
a loop and the main attraction here is the carpets of fringed phacelia and the trilliums!
The fringed phacelia is what makes those snowy white carpets of flowers!  It is a tiny, delicate beauty.  The large flowered trilliums were incredible! They lined the banks and were too numerous to count!  Some had begun to age to pink and that always adds some variety to the display!  

Carpet of Fringed Phacelia

Closeup view of the little flower that puts on such a big show!

White wakerobin, yellow violets, and fringed phacelia in a grouping.

Masses of trilliums to be seen along the way.

Crisp, pure white of a freshly bloomed Trillium grandiflora

A particularly scenic spot along the path. A bench surrounded by wildflowers!

  The path is uphill for part of it and has some parts that are rocky and make you work a little bit, but overall it is not hard.  There are benches provided along the way as rest stops.
I really liked this trail and could not believe I had not hiked it sooner! I will try to revisit here and hike it at different times during the bloom season to see what else I might find in the way of wildflowers?  It is a rich, cove hardwood forest so it should have some other pretty things in bloom during different times of the year.

Sun shining down through the forest canopy. I was very glad I got out to hike today and
soak up some warm weather, breezes, sunshine and blue skies! The next morning we entered Dogwood Winter in earnest!

Blue skies over Chimneytops Nature Trail

      I saw lots of beautiful wildflowers here.  Some that I saw were blue cohosh, dwarf ginseng, white violets, yellow violets, purple violets, trilliums, phacelia of purple and fringed, showy orchis, dwarf crested iris, white wakerobin,  canada violets, bishops cap,trillium leuteum, nodding mandarin, wild geranium and phlox.   It was also nice to be
at a facility where there are other people happy and having a good time.  It was good to have bathroom facilities with running water and paper towels.  I don't mind roughing it and do so frequently, but I was glad for modern conveniences today.  I take a fluid pill and sometimes I feel like I have a bladder the size of a thimble!

      On to Crooked Arm Cascade!

Pictures are here on pg 20 starting with frame 309
Crooked Arm Cascade Pix

   I drove out the river road all the way to Cades Cove.  I usually take the local route and cut across at Metcalf Bottoms to go home, but today I was heading to the cove. I did not want to miss anything in bloom along the way there. I was pleased to have chosen this route today! Lots of other people had the same idea, but traffic was not bad at all. Nothing near what I expected.  I don't have a lot of road rage like the Silverback in the family.  That big gorilla is the one to cuss out fellow motorists 99% of the time.
Kenny Koogler .. has 0 tolerance for slowpokes on the road.


Little River and redbuds in bloom along my way.

I saw great masses of these wild columbines in bloom along the rocky roadside on my way out to Cades Cove!

Me pulling off every little bit to take pictures! I was really thankful for those many well placed pull offs today! Blue blue skies and puffy white clouds!

    I stopped at the main parking area for Cades Cove just before starting around the loop.
I sat there and ate a quick cup of yogurt for lunch. I asked the man at the info booth to be certain that Rich Mountain road was open today. He confirmed that it was.  I set out to hike to Crooked Arm Cascade and planned to drive that road on my way home.

    I had not gone far when I spotted something neat on the trail.  The dry dirt beside the trail suddenly sprung up with lime green sprouts.  I took a closer look and there by my feet were about a dozen adders tounge ferns! 
Southern Adder's Tounge Fern. Ophioglossum vulgatum. It doesn't look much like what you'd expect for a fern, does it?   Watch close to the ground for these delicate, interesting little plants.

     I had forgotten just how easy and beautiful a hike it was to Crooked Arm.
The piney woods smelled heavenly.  Lots of green fresh new growth and the scent of pines and a good breeze today.   I saw a side path and turned to follow it.  I was very glad I did because after all these years I finally saw a lower portion of these cascades I had never visited before!

Lower Crooked Arm Cascade

    I turned back to the main trail and continued up the hill and around the bend just a bit further and I could hear the main falls of Crooked Arm Cascade.  I found a steep, rutted side path leading down to it.   I carefully picked my way down the bank until I stood before the falls.

Crooked Arm Cascade is about 25 feet high. There was not as much water coming over it today as I have seen, but it was still worth the trip.

    I stood and enjoyed the falls for a spell.   The water sounded so nice.
I loved the view of the new green leaves fanned out over the falls. Around the falls yellow and black butterflies soared and swooped.   Showy orchis, large flowered trilliums, and perfoliate bellwort bloomed around the falls on the banks.  Moss and ferns and other delicate plants lined the far bank where it was wetter.    I checked out the debris mat below the falls for snakes, but did not find any today.  I finally trudged back up the bank and hit the trail to make my way to the jeep.    I found myself confronted by a pair of gentle does who wanted to visit.  They checked me out and posed for pictures.
The grazed and batted their eyelashes at me.   I talked to them and they nodded back to me.

One of a pair of does on my way out from Crooked Arm

Beautiful clear day out in Cades Cove

   I cruised out through Cades Cove enjoying the sights. I did not see any bears today, but I did see turkeys!  I also saw some very pretty vistas and some more wildflowers.  I saw bluebells along the roadside.  I turned onto Rich Mountain Road to enjoy a country drive with much less traffic and hopefully some pretty wildflowers.  I was not disappointed. I saw some nice views and wildflowers. I only saw one other vehicle the whole time.
I saw three men on horseback who came up the road about the time I was crossing the park boundary line.    I took my time and enjoyed the quiet and easy, leisurely drive.
I grew up driving on stuff like this and worse.  It is a great road to me. It is like an interstate highway far as I'm concerned.  
View back into Cades Cove from Rich Mountain Road

Rich Mountain Road in good shape.

View toward Dry Valley from Rich Mountain Road

Spotted mandarin in bloom! First time seeing it in the Smokies!

Dwarf Larkspur in bloom near Rich Mountain Road

    I enjoyed stopping along the way home and seeing various pretty things.
I ended up in Townsend where I needed to be to get a few items from the store before heading home.   I had a full day that was enjoyable and still got me home in time to pack for the next episode tomorrow!  

Here is a short video highlighting what I saw today. Turkeys dancing, lower and upper Crooked Arm falls, and the deer out on the trail.