Day 3 (Part 2)
When I left off with the last trip report we were enjoying a scrumptious picnic at the Visitors center composed of ham sandwiches and chips! (After hiking just about anything turns into a gourmet meal, doesn’t it?) We met some of the nicest people in that parking lot. As we started to fix sandwiches we realized we had not brought any paper plates or even paper towels with us. Told you I wasn’t all the bright early morning-pre coffee! A man overheard us realizing this and brought over some paper plates and napkins from his truck. Which was really sweet of him, and although I greatly appreciated it, I was hungry enough at this point that I wasn’t going to let a lack of paper products slow me down.
We finished the loop, but didn’t really stop to look at any of the cabins this time as we had spent a great deal of time looking at them before. As we were finishing the second half of the loop, we got stuck behind a man riding a bicycle. Now I am not sure what the rules are about riding a bike on the loop, but this guy was A-nnoying. He would pull over to let us pass, but not far enough that we could actually get around him, and then he kept looking back at us trying to wave us around him. But the thing that really got me was the part with all the big hills, where the signs are posted that say riders must walk their bikes through this part. Well this guy would get in the middle of the road and ride his bike down the hill which meant we had to completely stop at the top of the hill until he cleared the bottom. In writing this it doesn’t seem to be that big a deal, but it was really frustrating at the time. I guess instead of being able to just enjoy the scenery we had to watch out for his own safety, more so than he was even.
Anyway, after we finished the loop we drove on to Meigs falls and to the Sinks. I was surprised at the volume of water considering the draught… both were very pretty as always. While exploring the wonderfulness of the park, we started talking about previous hikes we had gone on, and got inspired to hike to Laurel Falls again. We lost the pictures of that hike and wanted to see the waterfall again and take some more photos. When we got to the parking lot for the trail head there weren’t too many cars there, so we decided to just go for it then.
Now in my every day normal life, I am a completely girly girl which is to say I don’t typically spend a lot of time out doors and I am a total pansy, but something about being in the mountains and especially in the park _______ me, and I want to be outside as much as possible and to see everything there is to see. So needless to say about halfway up the hike my thighs were trembly and quite confused as to why they were being forced to hike twice in one day when normally a pleasant stroll through the mall is the most work they do. They were good & mad and had no qualms about letting me know this, so several times I had to stop, catch my breath, and tell my muscles to pull it together! The trail to Laurel Falls is only about 2 miles round trip, but it is a steep one. Much steeper than I remembered, but all in all not a bad hike. I think that hiking it just a couple hours after finishing Abrams Falls is really what did me in. But it did cause me to think that Laurel Falls is a bit misleading with it being rated as an easy hike and encouraged for strollers and wheel chairs. The first time I hiked Laurel Falls was a very hot humid August afternoon, I was way way overweight and out of shape and honestly that hike kicked my butt. I was out of breath and hurting by the time I got to the top. For a while that experience really turned me off of hiking in general because I remember thinking if this “easy” hike was so hard for me, I am sure not going to try anything else. But a few trips later, I hiked to Grotto Falls and found it much easier than Laurel Falls. I see the convenience of it being paved makes it easier for those with smaller children and is easier than walking on the rocks and roots at times, but I guess my point is this, if you have a hard time with Laurel Falls don’t let that keep you from trying other hikes. And truly if you start out on one and it becomes too hard to finish, then there is no harm in turning around and you have gained a nice walk through the beautiful woods.
Anyway, back to my story. The hike was actually rather pretty; we were able to see some nice winter views that are obscured when the trees are in full bloom. When we got to the top there were a good number of people there….middle of the week…. in January…. Is there ever a time when this waterfall isn’t busy? Sadly Laurel Falls was a tad bit disappointing this hike. There wasn’t much water at all. In fact some of the rocks that are normally covered in water were bone dry, so much so that people were actually climbing up the rocks with no problem what so ever. It was still pretty though and I am glad that we went. Plus in all fairness to Laurel Falls it was hard to compete with the solitude and the exquisiteness of Abrams Falls which I had completely fallen in love with that morning.
After the hike we went back to Sugarlands to pick up some information for another area we wanted to explore. I got the idea that it would be cool to gaze upon three waterfalls in the same day (well 5 if you count the Sinks and Meigs) so we took the path to Cataract Falls. This was really a pretty walk, very quiet and serene. In fact I enjoyed the walk itself much more than Cataract itself. There was virtually no water in Cataract which is pretty much what I expected after seeing Laurel Falls. In fact there were trickles of water on the side of the road that had more water volume. I don’t say this to be discouraging to anyone planning to go. Because it’s a lovely little walk and it is pretty. I just don’t want anyone to have expectations of seeing a big waterfall. And I am sure after a heavy rain fall it is much prettier.
We concluded our day in the park and headed back to the cabin to relax. I don’t think I have ever been so grateful for that hot tub in all of my life! It was divine. We stayed in that night and had a great dinner courtesy of me. The kitchen in the cabin was well stocked with pots, pans, utensils… everything we need to cook a big meal of breaded minute steaks, augratin potatoes, tiny peas and crescent rolls. I really enjoyed eating in and spending that extra time in the cabin.
All in all this was my absolute favorite day of our trip. We spent almost the entire day exploring the beauty of the park, the true attraction of the area. For me this is the main reason to go to the mountains in the first place. If you haven’t spent much time in the park, I would hope this inspires you to do so. If you don’t you are truly missing out on some incredible sights and the memories to be made in this little piece of heaven on earth.
To me the cabin is another little slice of wonderfulness, so I was glad to spend a relaxing night in front of it. In the past we spent so much time at night on the parkway that we forgot to enjoy the cabin itself and I was determined to do so this stay.
Here are the links to the pictures of Laurel Falls and Cataract Falls.