Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Flowers Explore - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park - 2021/08/01

While we're all out on this grand RV adventure we want to make sure we visit as many National Parks as we can. We're currently in Pigeon Forge Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains are a pretty short drive away. Let's go explore them!

Just a 40 minute drive or so from our campground. We're in Pigeon Forge, so we used the Pigeon Forge entrance. 

There's definitely some beautiful hillsides on the drive up. In this case, Theresa didn't have to tell me "I bet it looks beautiful in the Fall" because she's already been here when the leaves were changing colors. Back in October of 2012, we brought both sets of parents here for a Fall Foliage tour

Huh. I was not expecting a digital Welcome sign. It's like a roadside construction sign that they built a frame around. 

The Visitor Center is a bit busy. Luckily I was able to find parking for the truck. We jumped in the line and waited our turn to get inside. 

Less than 10 minutes later it was our turn. 

Whoa! A bear!

Theresa and the kids chatted with the ranger and got a Junior Ranger booklet for the kids. These are great for getting out and exploring. We also want to do some hiking while we're here. The Ranger showed us on a map a few trails we could tackle and wouldn't even have to drive there! There's one that starts right behind the visitor's center and goes to a waterfall. Sounds perfect!

While we're in the visitor's center though we should try answer as many of the activities here too. 

Bears are a big part of the Smoky Mountains. Wouldn't that be wild to find one of those out here! 

One of the missions of the National Park Service is conservation. We can help with that by not picking flowers that we see while we're walking. 

Speaking of walking, let's go on a hike! Just behind the visitors' center is the Fighting Creek Nature Trail. The Junior Ranger Guide suggests hiking to Cataract Falls, so that's just what we're going to do. 

Along the way there's a whole bunch of these signs showing us what kind of trees and bushes we're looking at, and something interesting about them. I think that's wonderful! I wish all nature trails did something like this. An Umbrella Magnolia might be good for the rain we're having right now. 

The paved portion of the trail was soon gone and the real trail began. 

Being in the tree canopy I think we can get rid of these umbrellas. It's starting to let up a bit too. 

That piece of tree bark looks like a lizard almost. We were warned to be mindful of poison ivy. The rule is "leaves of three, let them be."

Aww, I remember when I was little I would throw Paw Paws off a bridge into a creek with my dad.

There were no paw paws on the ground here, so I guess we won't be tossing any into the creek. 

A gum tree? Theresa and Alli love gum! 

It's a sassafras tree! Other people have been scratching at the bark. We didn't scratch it, but we did all go in for a sniff. It does indeed smell like root beer!

After a little bit more hiking, Cataract Falls was coming into view. 

Ian was expecting a massive flowing waterfall, but was a little disappointed to see just a little trickle coming down the side of some rocks. 

It's awesome being out here hiking and exploring. 

You never know what you might find. 

Ian saw some people standing around watching something that looked like a leaf. Except this leaf was flopping around. 

It's a Luna Moth! They're not particularly rare, but I've never seen one before. They're pretty large too, reaching up to 7 inches across. They are one of the largest moths in North America! Luna Moths only live for 7-10 days after they emerge from their cocoon, as they don't have functioning mouths. They live on the energy they stored up as caterpillars, mate, and then die. They are also most active at night, which is another reason you don't typically see them. 

Alli loves these little pink flowers. They're on a bush called Dog-Hobble. Named for their sharp leaves and thick growth, these can hobble hunting dogs that try to go through them. 

Ooh. A sugar maple tree! These are tapped for their sap in the spring, which is boiled to make maple syrup! I hope we get to see a maple sugar farm in our travels. I do love maple flavor. 
We have seen a ridiculous number of different trees. There's so many different kinds!

These are some pretty trails. 

Who is in the Christmas spirit? It's a Holly tree!
But that doesn't look like a Holly Berry. I know there's a couple people that are going to hate this photo. 

At the turn-around point of our hike, there's a cabin called the John Ownby Cabin. It was build in 1860, with some restoration performed in 1964. 

This one room structure is small at 20 feet by 18 feet, but I'm sure it was functional, and a nice escape from being outdoors. 

Wow! That's a bright little mushroom! 
The kids thought this looked like a Super Mario Brothers mushroom. Maybe if we eat this one we'll grow bigger like Mario!
And what do we do with mushrooms kids? We avoid them! Don't touch them, don't pick them, don't step on them if you can help it. 
This is a member of the Amanita fungi family. Some are okay to eat, but others are not. Half of all mushroom poisoning cases come from this family. 

This tree looked like a combination of 2-3 trunks into one! We found a few bees inside it. I wonder if they're going to be starting a beehive?

The Junior Ranger booklet suggests writing a song, poem, chant, or cheer about your hike and what you learned today (performances are encouraged). 
Theresa helped them come up with a few things and put a tune to it. We all sang it together and practiced while we walked amongst the trees. 

One of the Junior Ranger tasks is to make a rubbing of a leaf. We know that we can't pick one off the tree so we've got to find one that's dry enough to use on the ground somewhere. 

The kids had fun filling out the Junior Ranger book. 
Like what kind of things they would change if they were in charge. Ian liked all the trees, but would get rid of the poison ivy. Alli - i liyct the trayl and i liykt the jonyrangr program (I liked the trail and the junior ranger program). 

Turning in their Junior Ranger booklets. 
They were very happy to sing their song! I think they did an awesome job! Great just coming up with it Theresa!
After reading over what they'd change about the park, the Ranger told Ian that deer actually eat the poison ivy. And birds eat the berries! So I guess it's good for something after all. 

"I promise to help, protect, and preserve Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And help keep it beautiful for those who come after me. And have fun."

And we might not have seen a bear while we were out on our hike, but the kids did find bears in the gift shop. They both decided to spend some of the money people have given them for their trip on a souvenirs. 

And their Junior Ranger badge looks awesome! I love the bear on the badge!

The kids' thoughts.
Alli - Mi favorite prt was I got a nathr bag (badge). We wact the trail. We souw a lot of insects. And it rand (rained) on us.  
Ian - It was fun at the national park. My favorite part was getting a badge. We made a song. I thought it had too much poison ivy. 

1 comment:

  1. That was a great hike in the Great Smoky Mountains NP! many different trees & such useful, descriptive signs ("root beer" (sassafras) tree was a treat to smell!), colorful mushroom (what a glossy bright red), pretty pink flowers on the Dog-Hobble (what a descriptive name because of what it can do!), and amazing insects like the Luna Moth (amazing color and size & an unusual sight to see it flopping around on the ground). That was a wonderful, creative song to sing as part of the Junior Ranger program...great job! (also, that was a friendly Ranger interacting w/ the kids...liked her enthusiasm and her interest when speaking to Ian & Alli about the Junior Ranger booklet answers) Nice-looking badges to add to the collection (day stamp on the back, too!) What cute little black bear stuffed animals (I think I'd opt for that, opposed to meeting one face-to-face on the trail!) Amazing how a simple paw-paw brings back special memories with your Dad...just think, at this very moment many memories are being made in Ian's and Alli's minds, too, without them realizing it. P.S. Like that upward photo of the trees reaching high into the sky! EOM