We begin our weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a hike up Mt. LeConte.
We take the short but steep route up the Alum Cave Bluff Trail. It has several interesting features; among our favorite is a health bald.
Spring has come late this year; much of the heath is not yet blooming, but Jeane shows off a nice patch of flowers.
The heath bald is a gorgeous place to rest and snack on gorp, so the juncoes and red squirrels have learned to scavenge here.
Some of the juncoes venture quite close.
Trillium fading fast
Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)
Bluets (Houstonia caerulea)
We've climbed far above the valley below; there are many nice views like this on the Alum Cave Bluff trail.
Since much of the trail is on the side of a cliff, or full of fellow hikers, the latrine at the Mt. LeConte Lodge is a welcome sight.
We like arriving at the Mt. LeConte Lodge because the nice staff will sell us Snickers bars and let us sit on the front porch to enjoy them.
The people who were lucky enough to have their names drawn in the yearly lottery can stay in the cabins here overnight; Jeane and I will eat our Snickers, take advantage of the latrine, and head back down the mountain.
A fellow hiker offers to take our picture at the Lodge.
This is a good representation of the trail. It follows the cliff for much of its distance, and the park service has installed these cables to help hikers over the most treacherous (narrow, slippery) sections.
Patti admires this massive root system.
Erect Trillium (Trillium Erectum)
We discovered a single rhododendron blooming on the health bald during our return trip down the mountain
Jeane's enjoying the warm rocks of the heath bald.
Another interesting feature of this trail is called Arch Rock, the trail ascends, then descends down through this chasm.
The steps are muddy and slippery, so Patti is taking her time.
We had a lumpy visitor to our campsite.
Day 2 - we hike the strenuous but scenic Ramsey Cascades trail.
We're at a lower elevation than yesterday, so we find Mountain Laurel blooming here.
Mountain Laurel. WARNING: the next page contains a photo of a snake; we don't want to trigger any panic attacks.
This pretty guy crossed our trail
The trail crossed many narrow bridges; some high over a rushing creek. It was a little disconcerting to Patti to see the water moving so quickly under her feet as she was focusing on keeping them on the bridge.
The trail had sections of old growth forest; this was one of the larger trees that managed to escape being logged.
It's a Tulip Poplar (also known as Yellow Poplar, or Tuliptree); though it's actually in the Magnolia family, known officially as Liriodendron tulipifera.
After a grueling stretch of boulder hopping, we reach Ramsey Cascades.
Pretty little mushrooms we found on the way down the trail.
Patti, having noticed that the park service is working on installing a new bridge, isn't sure she should trust the old one.
But she has very little choice in the matter.
Jeane has to empty debris from her boots.
True Wood-Sorrel (Oxalis montana)
The Patridge Berry (Mitchella repens) was just starting to bloom.
©All photos and videos copyright Patti Bell and Jeane Hanley unless otherwise noted. These images may not be used without permission.