It was time for our yearly anniversary trip to Gatlinburg. The drive to Gatlinburg on Friday was difficult. It was 27 degrees when we left our house with freezing rain. It drizzled freezing rain the entire way. Thankfully, Interstate 40 had been pre-treated so the icy spots were minimal. We had good light all the way there.

Saturday is always hiking day if the weather permits. We woke to a brightening sky. The temperature was the low to mid 30’s. We decided on a hike that began at The Sinks on Little River Road. This was our first time out this road. The trailhead parking lot was nice with an overlook at the section of the river that is called The Sinks. It is a narrow raging section with drowning warnings for anyone that may think they would like to kayak through the hydrofoil.

The trail began with a gradual, but continuous grade. There weren’t many rocks on the trail like we were used to. About 1/4 mile in we ran into ice. The ice was solid and about 1 inch thick covering the entire trail and several feet on either side of the trail. It was impassable. Phil got off the trail and had to stomp really hard to break enough ice to get a foothold. It took 35 minutes to go 200 yards. The ice was just so unyielding that we were exhausted by the time we got through that section.

When we reached the nose of that first knob, we were on the sunnier side of the mountain so the temperature was about 8 degrees higher and thankfully, the ice had already melted. It ended up being a really nice trail. We reached the creek and could not cross because of high water so we had to turn back. We will hike this trail again in better weather.

Our second hike of the day was a 1.2 mile paved trail to Laurel Falls. It was a gentle and quick walk out to the falls, but because of the ease of access, it was crowded. So, been there, done that, it was nice, but we probably won’t go back there.

We finished our Saturday with a nice meal at the Cherokee Grill with pork chops and prime rib. We didn’t walk down the strip to shop. If you’ve seen one cheap trinket from Taiwan, you’ve seen ’em all.

Mountains to the Sea Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Mountains to the Sea Trail

On Sunday, we decided to hike a section of the Mountains to the Sea Trail that runs the ridge line overlooking Avery Creek Basin and the Shining Rock Wilderness. The Parkway was closed due to snow and ice. We could took 276 to the parkway access at the Wagon Road Gap overlook between mile marker 411 and 412 and parked there. The parkway gates were closed in both directions.

We walked about 1/4-1/2 mile on the parkway to the trailhead near mile marker 412. The trail immediately started up. The trail rose steadily gaining about 900 feet in elevation then continuing on the ridge line for a couple of miles. There are great views in the winter with the trees bare of leaves. The views from both sides of this ridge were gorgeous. It is the first time we’ve been able to see the entire Avery Creek drainage and the ridge trails surrounding it.

The Mountains to the Sea trail criss crosses the parkway several times, so we hiked down and reached the parkway between mile markers 414 and 415 walking the parkway back to the car. It felt weird walking on the road. We estimate that we hiked around 5 1/2 miles in all with 900 feet in elevation gain. Great hike.