Sunday, August 7, 2016

We Hiked to Grotto Falls with Some Big Excitement on the Way Back!

Hiking to grotto falls
Hiking to Grotto Falls

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 6-mile, one-way, narrow winding loop road.  The speed limit is around 10 mph.  This is a very scenic drive, with hiking trails and historical cabins to explore.  It is also home to Grotto Falls.  Grotto Falls is one of the coolest waterfalls Nadia and I have ever seen.  If you are wondering why, continue reading to find out!

hiking at Grotto Falls in the Smoky Mountains
Hiking Up the Trail

When we finally got to the Grotto Falls Trailhead, the parking spaces were all gone.  The ranger was telling drivers to just find a spot and pull off on the side of the road.  Good news, we found a spot.  Bad news, it was downhill.  I did not want to miss the walk, so I was rushing up the hill.  Of course, it was no problem for Nadia, but for me I could not catch my breath.  I think I was adjusting to the altitude again.  I did not want the Ranger to see me and think I could not do this hike.

Hiking Across a Tiny Stream Grotto Falls
We Crossed this Tiny Stream
The trail is 3 miles and took about 2-3 hours round-trip.  We had a nice group of about 15-20 people to walk with the Ranger.  I was happy about the large group, because they said that about 15 minutes ago they all watched a bear walk across the street!  There were two Rangers with us and they were both very nice and informative.  The Ranger went over what we were to do if we saw a bear.
Stop and back up slowly.  Do not turn and run.  Make sure no cubs are around and wait for the bear to move.  If he does not move, we are to make noise and clap our hands above our head, to make us look big and shout at the bear. – You see how well I remember this stuff now, but read on.
Our Ranger Leading the Program - Great Job!
We started on the trail heading up.  The hike is not bad.  We stop every so often, so the Ranger can talk to us about the trees and plants.  It gives us a chance to catch our breath.  There are a lot of roots and rocks on the trail, so watch your step.  My ankles were turning.  We crossed about three streams.  Nadia and I were really enjoying ourselves.  Finally we arrived at the Falls.  Here is the answer to my previous question.  Why is Grotto Falls the coolest waterfall?  Because you get go behind the actual falls.  The mist of the water is very refreshing after your journey up.

hiking waterfalls outdoors family

After we made it.  Nadia did not want to stick around. “Mom, I have to use the bathroom really bad, let’s go!” I replied, “Can’t we just wait for the Ranger?”  I did not want to run into a bear on our own.  Nadia could not wait. So I thanked the Rangers and we headed back down on our own.  She ended up just having to use the woods.  We were continuing our hike and I look down the path ahead and one of my biggest fears has just come true!  “Nadia Stop!” I shout.  She is still walking. “Nadia STOP!”  She sees what I see.  A very big black bear is on the trail!  He is just minding his own business smelling the ground.   Everything I learned went out the window.  I grabbed Nadia and turned us around and walked quickly back up the trail.  
At least I did not run.  Even though I just failed Bear 101, we were lucky and the bear did not follow us.  We ran into some hikers that we had passed earlier and told them about the bear.  I asked if we could continue our hike down with them.  They said yes, especially since I had bear spray in my backpack.  They were two older couples and were very nice.  They sang and I clapped my hands as we traveled down the trail.  We did not see the bear again, but they said that now I have a story to share. The trail is actually very heavily populated with people, just nobody happened to be coming up at the time. We let people know that we passed on the way down, that there was bear on the trail and to use caution.
Behind Grotto Falls waterfall
Behind Grotto Falls
When we got to the end of the trail we said our goodbyes.  Nadia was all excited cause she saw a bear on the trail.  I was still scared inside and mad at myself that I let fear take over when I saw the bear.  I also was reaching the point of not going hiking ever again.  We ended up seeing the Rangers again before we left, so I told them about the bear and what I did.  The one said, "All you did was just offend him." He also said that I needed to get back on the trails and hike and not to let this stop me.  I gave a shaky “OK.” ​
We got back to our car and continued our drive though the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.  It was just an awesome drive and we both really did enjoy the hike.  When we finished and ended back up in Gatlinburg, I got lost and made a wrong turn.  I had to plug in the GPS.  Here I ended up in Pigeon Forge.   I was able to get us safely back to the Sugarland Visitor Center, where I just stared at the bear exhibit in the museum.

Below is my newest book that is available on Amazon that was written about this road trip along with some added bonuses

Below is my first travel guide