This summer has flown by and I can’t believe it is almost over. For my last weekend here in Townsend, my cousin and his girlfriend came up to visit. They spent Friday night backpacking above Elkmont and got pounded by the storm that came through early Saturday morning. We had agreed to meet at the trailhead to go sightseeing and/or hiking on Saturday so at the appointed time I drove up to find them soaked but in good spirits. The drenching the park received did wonders for the streams. First on the agenda for the day was a drive up to Clingman's Dome.
We stopped off at Sugarlands and left one of the vehicles there before heading on up the hill. On the way it became apparent just how much rain had fallen. The West Prong of the Little Pigeon River was rolling and the water was stained. Fog still enveloped the highest peaks providing a perfect example of how the park got its name. Shortly after passing the Chimney Tops trailhead I stopped the car and we piled out for a brief photo session.
As you can see, the stream had plenty of water to go around. All the little tributaries pouring off of Mt. Leconte were near bankfull. The clouds had been lifting steadily all morning as the atmosphere slowly warmed but the higher elevations were still socked in. At Clingman's Dome we were treated to something different than what we had come for but still provided some interesting photo opportunities.
The clouds were rolling up over the mountain sometimes cutting visibility to 100 feet or less. On the walk up we found some wildflowers that were just now reaching their peak at this high elevation. At the summit we enjoyed the cool moist air that felt more like fall than summer. After walking back down to the car we decided to drive over to Cataloochee and check out the elk.
Since I have never been through the Cosby and Big Creek area of the park we decided to take the scenic route through that corner of the park. A couple of hours later we rolled into the magnificent Cataloochee Valley and quickly found the animals we were looking for. I even caught a couple of fish and the late afternoon light provided for some interesting pictures.
By the time we reached Cataloochee we had made half of a loop so the day would not be complete without finishing. We drove around to Maggie Valley and then towards Cherokee. When we reached the top of the ridge between the two towns we caught the Blue Ridge Parkway which took us back into the Park near the Oconaluftee visitor center.
Nathan Stanaway Photo
The drive over the ridge completed the loop and after picking up the second vehicle we headed to my cabin for the night.
Sunday morning was great, mainly because I slept in for awhile and then we had a big breakfast. After my visitors left I went fishing for what will probably be the last time in the Smokies for awhile. I just had to fish a favorite section of Lynn Camp that I still had not fished yet this summer. The fishing was appropriately spectacular with plenty of fish coming to hand in the 2 or so hours I spent on the water, a perfect end to a summer of fishing in the Park.