Our first hike of Labor Day weekend in the Smokies followed the Low Gap trail from the Cosby campground to a junction with the Appalachian Trail. At the trail junction was a clearing that had been taken over by flowers, and the butterflies were everywhere!
Some of the butterflies even cooperated for a photo!
The blue on this Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly was iridescent only when the sunlight hit at the right angle.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Jeane takes a break while Patti chases butterflies with her camera.
When Patti finally tears herself away from the butterfly-laden trail intersection, we continue along the Appalachian Trail until we reach a spur that takes us to the Mt. Cammerer fire tower.
From the fire tower we have a 360 degree view.
A view from the Mt. Cammerer fire tower.
Another view from the Mt. Cammerer fire tower.
We eat our lunch on the boulders below the Mt. Cammerer fire tower, and spend some time acting like reptiles.
As we head back down the trail, Jeane stops to read the interpretive sign, which tells us the fire tower was built by the CCC in 1937.
The Mt. Cammerer fire tower is a beautiful structure; Patti admires the elegance and craftsmanship of many of these CCC-built works.
Jeane thinks this is more like New England hiking than Smoky Mountain hiking.
Jeane regains her balance and her dignity.
We admire one more butterfly on our hike back to the campground. I think she's a black-form Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
Pale Jewelweed - a favorite of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, though we didn't see any.
Jeane poses in front of the natural flower garden where so many butterflies are feeding.
Back at the Cosby Campground, Patti dons her jacket as the evening air gets cooler.
Day 2: Patti does not approve of the Park Service's attempt at humor. She is happy that our round-trip hike to Charlie's Bunion is only 8 miles and not 2000.
It is an unnaturally sunny day -- we can't find any atmospheric evidence that we're in the Smoky Mountains. We discover that 8,000 of our fellow hikers have also chosen to hike to Charlie's Bunion on this beautiful holiday weekend.
Jeane takes a brief nap on the warm rocks while Patti messes around.
Charlie's Bunion is part of the Sawteeth, a series of jagged cliffs.
Here is the view around the bony protuberance that is Charlie's Bunion.
Jeane is enjoying the peace and solitude of this lovely mountain trail.
Quick! Take the photo before more people invade!
As one wave of people exits, Patti clambers up Charlie's Bunion.
Patti on top of Charlie's Bunion
The view from Charlie's Bunion
Jeane finally leaves her warm rocks to join Patti, and a fellow hiker takes our picture.
On the way back to the trailhead, we stop to photograph the warning sign...the trail going out to Charlie's Bunion is fairly treacherous.
We admire the view from the Appalachian Trail between Newfound Gap and Charlie's Bunion.
The view from the ridge between Newfound Gap and Charlie's Bunion.
Back at the parking lot post-hike, Patti finds this pretty caterpillar climbing around on a trail sign. He will grow up to be a Spotted Tussock Moth (Lophocampa maculata).
Mr. caterpillar has scaled the Smokies and is about to burn his behind getting too close to the sun!
As we return to the Cosby campground, we stop to photograph the entrance sign.
Though it's still full summer, we have a maple tree in our campsite that is dropping red leaves; it must be under some stress.
Jeane puts on mosquito-proof blue jeans to cook our dinner.
Our final morning, when Patti is supposed to be helping pack the car, she is distracted by butterflies again. This is our female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
Our campsite is furnished with blue Lobelia, which the butterflies are gaga over. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
Now, now, there's enough for everyone! I think we've got an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail in the foreground, and a Pipevine Swallowtail behind her.
©All photos and videos copyright Patti Bell and Jeane Hanley unless otherwise noted. These images may not be used without permission.