Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ramsey Cascades - The Great Smokey Mountains - TN - 6/18/2017

Ramsey Cascades - The Great Smokey Mountains, TN - 6/18/2017


For our final day on our TN vacation (which happened to fall on Father's Day) the baby and I let Jeff pick what he wanted to do. His first response was to go hiking, and to hike the longest and hardest trail we've ever done! This trail pushed us to our limits, and we almost turned around to give up on multiple occasions. But, after 4.5 miles up the side of a mountain, we made it to the most amazing waterfall we have ever seen. It was well worth all the blood, sweat, and tears (literally). 

When doing our research on this trail we knew it'd be more difficult than others, but in actuality, it was a lot harder than we thought. Also, even though the signs say it's 4 miles in, it's actually closer to 4.5 miles to the waterfall. You may not think this extra mile (1/2 there and half back) would be a big deal, but the last bit is the hardest! The entire hike took us 6 hours 40 minutes, was a total of 8.91 miles (according to our tracker), and we climbed approx 2238 FT in elevation. 

First, the drive in is really interesting. It's a "two lane road", but really only fits one car at a time. So be very careful, and it's not paved either. You have to drive a few miles on this pebble road turn left onto a narrow bridge and go down another road for about a mile before you even arrive at the trailhead. There are bathrooms at a picnic area before you arrive to the trailhead. I would suggest stopping at those before arriving because it's a long day on the trails with no potty in site!

Once we parked we met up with a few other groups of hikers that were getting ready to head up the mountain. Of course, they were only wearing small camel packs and nothing like we had on, especially since we were carrying our daughter up the mountain. We all took turns taking pictures of one another at the trail head sign, wished each other good luck, and headed up the easiest part of the trail. Since the beginning was supposed to be the easiest I decided to carry our daughter those first 1.2 miles. It was a wider path, definitely maintained, and ran along a beautiful stream. About halfway up this part of the trail, we ran into a deer feeding on the side of the path. It just sat there looking at us and didn't run until we were literally just feet from it. So beautiful!

After hiking up another half mile or so we got to a point that was flat, and it was time to switch the packs. Jeff would carry Jolene in the baby carrier and I'd carry the camel pack. before we got loaded up and kept on hiking we did take a few moments to let Jolene stretch her legs, ate a snack, and changed a very full diaper. (side note, I swear we had 10 pounds in full diapers inside the one pack on the way back down the trail. So many diapers!!!!)

From this point on the trail went from a rating of "not so bad" to "holy crap it's getting steep" and ended in "I think I left my legs back there because I can't feel them anymore".

Along the way up, we walked over rocks, thru mud, crossed bridges, and streams. Some of the bridges were made of logs cut in half long way with only one side rail to hang onto. It was really interesting to cross these, needless to say. I was half scared and half in awe of seeing the rushing water beneath my feet. The sound of rushing water stayed with us for quite a few miles up the trail before it faded into the distance. 

At about 2.5 to 3 miles in there are two of the largest hardwood trees I've ever seen! One of them was so large that when I put my arms out it was still wider than I was! In FL we have very large trees but they are not these kind of hardwoods. It was truly a site to see, and if the trail ended here it would've still be an amazing hike, but there was so much more to see.

One obstacle that seemed to happen more and more frequently as we continued the hike was the constant tree in the trail. Good thing I'm not afraid to hop over fallen trees, duck under low branches, and at times just sit and slide down very large slippery rocks. The fact that I bought some hiking sticks at the beginning of the trip came really into play at this point. Even with all the obstacles in the paths the trail became more and more verticle. Some of the fallen trees looked to not be covered in bugs until you got close and they were usually covered in "Daddy Long Legs" spiders. I'm petrified of spiders so I really tried to not think about it, and knew that this type of spider wouldn't bite me.

This trail also had stairs, except they were basically small boulders and larger rocks stacked one on top of another to create stairs. They were very slippery, covered in a light mildew and wet from the dew in the air. I just took my time making it up, and made sure to remind my husband that he was carrying our daughter on his back so to not rush. Even though Jolene was passed out at this point, thank goodness, so she had absolutely no clue of the dangers.

Just when I thought my legs were done, and I almost wanted to turn around there was a steady sound in the distance. Runny water once again, only this time it was a stream. IT WAS THE CASCADES!!!! Looking ahead it was just crossing a stream and then thru another turn onto the path. But don't let this fool you. The stream was full of large, very slippery boulders, and once you got to the others side the path was basically almost 90 degrees straight up. Just climbing boulder after boulders, and I mean climb! I had to use my hands and feet to get up the trail, and poor jeff lost his balance once, but regained it. Thankfully he fell forward and didn't scare the baby too badly.

Upon reaching the top of the last rock there is was. A huge cascade at least 3-4 stories tall. the mist off the falls were so strong that it created a slight cold breeze in the air. We looked around, found a small space between two large rocks and made a space for us to sit down, get Jolene out of the carrier,  and eat lunch. Jolene couldn't run around like she wanted to. She only had a 2 foot by 4-foot area to run in but she was content, for the moment.

After taking lots of pictures, videos, eating the best tasting peanut butter and jelly sandwich to date, changing Jolene's now soaked clothes and diaper, we packed everything up and headed back down the trail. Even though we were going back down hill it was still at least 3 hours until we would get our first glimpse of the truck, and we realized we definitely needed to bring more water than what we did. Lesson learned very quickly!

After we made it back down the trail we did manage to decide that we sure did deserve a good meal. SO what did we do? We found the nearest Logans and ordered a bunch of greasy goodness, and Mommy ordered herself a nice tall adult beverage!

Thank you for reading, please enjoy the pictures below, and click on the link at the bottom to watch a video from this amazing hike!

To See A Video From This Hike Go To:

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