Day 44: Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
We started our day by driving up to the Newfound Gap, where we went into North Carolina, momentarily. We were going to check out Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the park, but the fog was too thick to make it worth heading up to a higher elevation, so we headed down to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Grotto Falls. Grotto Falls is the only falls in the park that you can actually walk behind and that, combined with the fairly easy nature of the trail, made it one of the most crowded hikes we went on. The falls were spectacular, though. On our way up to the falls, we passed a fairly recent deposit of bear scat, and I commented that on a trail this crowded, we weren’t likely to actually run into a bear. And then, on our way back to the car when we were less than a quarter-mile from the end of the trail, the bear in picture five proved how wrong I was. He was gracious enough to pose for that picture before bounding off into the woods. This led to me talking at length about how we had just seen “a live bear, an actual live bear.”
After finishing the hike, we drove the rest of the Roaring Fork Trail, stopping to check out some of the old farming buildings along the way. On our way out of the park, we saw a large group of people pulled over to the side of the road, and as we were about to go by, I realized that they were all looking at a bear cub in a tree, so after a quick U-turn, we got out and watched this bear chowing down in the tree for quite a while and it was exactly as great as you would think watching a bear cub at the top of a tree would be.