On Sunday we officially left Asheville for the Great Smokey Mountains, where we would stay for three nights at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Truth: after hiking for two days, we found that our rooms were at...the...bottom of four flights of outdoor steps. To quote Earnest P. Worrel: "These steps might as well be Mt. Everest."
But before that, at the beginning of the day, we headed to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a cool seven miles through picturesque forest that includes trailheads to several waterfalls.
I knew from my 'research' that there was a much higher chance of seeing black bears in the Smokies than in the Blue Ridge - but I didn't expect us to encounter one literally five minutes into the trail!
So it looks like an adolescent bear, especially since the mama didn't come barreling out of the woods to eat all dozen of us who had gotten out of our cars to follow the bear on foot.
We chose Grotto Falls as our waterfall for the day; it was warmer than the day before, and the trail, we think, is closer to 2 miles one way than the 1.5 they advertise. Very beautiful, though, and I'd never seen so many rhododenron in bloom as there were this year.
Grotto Falls was literally a piece of paradise. Even with a ton of people there (who happened to be much more cognizant of those who were taking photos).
When photogaphing waterfalls the ideal situation is a cloudy day; we didn't have any of those that week. ;-) Hence my neutral density filters. So it was difficult to get a great exposure in which the water didn't have blown highlights and the surrounding area was exposed correctly (so that the entire photo has even lighting). But, I did what I could! I especially liked the moss-covered rocks at the base.
There are plenty of overlooks along the Parkway; unfortunately I didn't get a snapshot of the name of this one but, the memories last nonetheless.
I was, I'll admit it, a bit adamant about catching the sunset at Clingman's Dome while we were in the Smokies. There was a lot of driving involved, having to get to the NOC and then back to Clingman's, so I'm very grateful to my friends for being up for it.
Lots of sunset photos here!