There was far too much sleeping in comfortable beds going on recently – it was time to camp again. Luckily, the campsite was only a 40-minute drive – to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! It was the most visited national park in the whole of America so we were sure to be in for a treat.

 

As soon as we started getting the equipment out of the car, a few different caterpillars visited us. One being all hairy and yellow, the other looking meaner with long horns! We’d not seen these particular types before so already we were on to a winner. With this luck, maybe we’d actually get to see some wild bears lurking somewhere in the forest.

Our tent was at the Elkmont Campground which ran parallel with “Little River”. It was quite scenic but the noise of the constant water rushing over the stones made me want to pee every 30 minutes!

Little River running by Elkmont Campground, Great Smoky Mountains

It was still light out once we’d pitched up, so we decided to walk a mile long trail to see Laurel Falls. As we parked up by the roadside, you could tell it was a popular walk as it was rammed. Due to Americans not liking to parallel park (from what we’ve seen) I grabbed a spot in the middle of two cars. It’s a good job I’m an excellent driver.

 

The majority of the walk was uphill but it provided some fantastic views of the forest. It’s become autumn so the leaves are changing. Having only seen green leaves for 10 months, it’s a wonderful thing to see an alternative colour!
The walk wasn’t too strenuous but a few people on their way back looked very out of breath. I pointed a massive bloke out to Stef who was walking so slowly. He must have started the walk yesterday. But at least he was doing the walk so credit where credit it due.

 

As we reached the end, we were presented with a small two-tier fall. It wasn’t the biggest and best we’ve seen, but we were saving the special one for tomorrow.
On the way back to the car, we passed the huge man – still on his way back! We must have been at the falls for about 20 minutes and he still hadn’t made it back to the car. Oh I did laugh, but not for long as when we went past him, he asked if we had seen the bear cub that was just off the path! We’d missed a real life wild bear! That smile soon went off my face. However, where a baby bear is, a protective mother bear is soon to follow. Black bears are not to be messed with so as well as being disappointed, I was also quite glad, as I wouldn’t want to have gotten into a fight with it!

 

Back at the camp, I built a fire and Stef made dinner. Whilst we were sitting warming ourselves against the flames, we kept noticing blue lights slowly flashing on the floor. Before you could actually see where it was in the dark, it had disappeared. We eventually tracked one down and it was some sort of glow bug. It was interesting watching the little blue lights wandering around. We finished the night off with one of the greatest campfire traditions – marshmallows over the flames.
We were up early the next day as we had potentially a 12-mile hike ahead of us. We were off to Rainbow Falls. The walk to the falls was only 3 miles, however, the rest of the route was 9. It was going to be a tough one as the terrain was all over the place. It was not recommended for beginners.

 

A mile in and I was already hungry. It was a good job that we packed a backpack full of food and one of water. Out came the new Ginger and Wasabi Walkers crisps – I hope they make them back in the UK for when we return!

 

Before you ask, yes, I have gone for a Mohawk and handlebar tash combo. Why not…

There was greenery everywhere. The trees were very high and every few seconds, you’d hear branches snap and leaves rustle. We were puzzled as to what was making the sounds but then saw that it was acorn type seeds that were dropping. Because the trees were above you, when you heard a rustle, you knew to cover your head. The acorns would land all around us as we walked and thankfully, neither of us got hit! It was like they didn’t want you there!

It was a pleasant walk at the start but the constant uphill path made it harder and harder. We got about half way and I was leading. All of a sudden a snake slithered past me to the other side of the path. The whole rattlesnake incident flashed before my eyes. Was I about to die? It was only a small snake but I chalked it up as another “near death experience”…Stef disagrees. This is why Stef leads – something always happens to me when I take over so I was more than happy to remain at the rear for the remainder of the walk.

a snake on the Rainbow Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountains
We eventually reached Rainbow Falls. It was an interesting 2.7-mile walk but it was well worth it. It was one of the largest we’d seen in the States. As we approached it, Stef reminded me that several people a year fall on the slippery rocks and die. Why is she telling me this? I’m not clumsy…much.

 

We sat down and had our lunch by the side and happily watched the world go by.
After a good rest, we took some photos and continued on with the walk. It had taken us a few hours to hike the 2.7 miles and we had 9 miles more to go. We started, but soon decided that it wasn’t going to happen. It was just too late in the day and it would have gotten dark before we had finished. Plus we didn’t have any torches. It was nothing to do with us already being worn out from the little walk we had done already…