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Gregory Bald backpack, June 29-30, 2009

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Gregory Bald backpack, June 29-30, 2009

Post by smokies_hiker on Thu Jul 02, 2009 10:38 pm

Three of us spent 2 nights at campsite #13 just down from Gregory Bald on June 29-30. After two dayhikes to see the azaleas in each of the last two years, I wanted to go up there and have an entire day to just wander around (or lay around!) and soak it all up. Mission accomplished!
We didn't get on the Gregory Bald trail out of Sam's Gap on Parsons Branch Road until almost 6PM. Then about halfway up one of our group who was out ahead of the other two rounded a bend and startled mama bear and two cubs about 30 yards ahead. The two cubs immediately scampered up two different trees, while mama bear huffed at the intruder, who slowly backed up a ways. Mama bear went down into the woods off the trail, and one of the cubs was way up a tree well off to the side of the trail, but the other cub was in a treetop right beside the trail, and mama was still huffing at us. You don't have to speak bear fluently to know what that sound means, it's unmistakeable; so we all backed up a little farther, but still to where we could see the cub that was treed right beside the trail. Finally it started down, then further down it disappeared from our view. We stayed where we were for a little while longer, then carefully proceeded up the trail, talking so that mama could hear us. But we didn't see any of them, and most importantly we didn't hear mama huffing at us any more. So we made it to the campsite at 9PM, just in time to set up our tents before it got really dark.
This trip was later than I usually go, so I was wondering how the azaleas would be. When we got to the bald about 10AM, you could tell they were a little past their peak, but still the bald was spectacular as usual. And it was a wonderfully clear and reasonably cool day, considering July was just a day away. The clear blue skies and the lack of the usual Smoky Mountain haze was quite remarkable, almost stealing the show from the beauty of the azaleas - almost. We wandered around, enjoying the azaleas and taking pictures, then laid in the grass for an hour or so and marveled at how clearly we could see Cades Cove below. And maybe we even napped a little.
We went back to the campsite about 3PM for a late lunch/early dinner, then returned to the bald about 5PM. By now there were lots of puffy white clouds, but the haze was still missing. I took some more pictures, for which I got a lot of kidding; I did go nuts with the camera - over 150 shots in one day - but that's the beauty of a digital camera, just keep firing away and then weed out the duds when you get home. We had intended to stay up there until sunset, but it was quite breezy and eventually became downright chilly. So we decided that where the sun would actually be setting wouldn't provide all that great a sunset, and we headed back to camp about 8PM.
Just to bring us down to earth from the euphoria of a perfect day spent on the bald, we got rained on from about 4AM to about 8AM the next morning. It was kind of like a symphony, starting out with a little lightning, then a brief shower, then a lull, then more lightning, a little thunder and a stronger rain, then another lull, then building to a full-blown crescendo of loudly crackling lightning, booming ground-shaking thunder, and a deluge of rain. But when it was all over we were pretty much dry, and our gear was mostly only damp around the edges. We packed up our wet tents and headed back to the car, very glad that we had made the trip, and happy that the good weather and the bad weather had aligned the way they did.
There are a few pictures in the photo section. There's also a link to the whole 137-shot album; I did actually cull a few, but what can I say, it's an amazing place and everywhere you look there's another picture begging to be taken. A slide show at fast speed took me about 7 minutes on my DSL Lite.

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Join date : 2009-06-06
Location : Chattanooga, TN

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