Exploring a National Park by driving and hiking through it is the most common, riding a horse was something different for us and what better place to do that than Great Smoky Mountains National Park? There are a couple of horse stables in this park. The one we chose was Cades Cove Riding Stables because that was the one closest to where we wanted to explore that day.
Our ride lasted for about an 45 minutes through beautiful forests of the Smoky Mountains so it was long enough to enjoy it but not too long where those of us not use to horses would get sore. The day began cloud covered with the threat of rain but we managed to stay dry and see peaks of sun as the ride continued making for a great summer morning while taking in these surroundings. Several of the Rhododendrons were just beginning to bloom along the trail providing for an even prettier landscape to ride through.
The trail leader was very knowledgeable about the horses and trails and took care of any potential issues with the horses quickly. Some horses just don’t perform as well next to certain other horses so sometimes it’s best to keep them separated in a group. Once in awhile a horse wants to go at a different pace than the rest of the group and needs to be put back in their spot to follow the group for the best and safest ride for all. If your in Great Smoky Mountain National Park and are interested in spending time on horses, I definitely recommend Cades Cove Stables. And NO, I was not compensated to say that.
While exploring Great Smoky Mountain National Park we came across a brochure explaining the synchronous fireflies. Fireflies are visible in many areas and we’ve enjoyed and evening or two watching these interesting little insects near our home. I’ve even taken some time to try and photograph their nighttime dances with some success. It was decided that a trip to Elkmont, which is the best location for viewing this nightly light show in June, that night would be an enjoyable way to end a great day in the Smokies.
According to the brochure, the peak days were already behind us but that there were great light shows for several weeks still to be seen. As we arrived in the Elkmont area our first challenge was to find a spot to park which proved more difficult than expected as we were there a couple of hours before nightfall. Apparently we weren’t the only ones wanted to witness these synchronous fireflies. Eventually we followed others and parked alongside the road and walked back to the viewing area which was being descended on by hundreds of other people. This must be a good show if there are this many people here this early in the evening.
As darkness began to fall over the area we wondered into the forest next to Little River and found what appeared to be a nice relaxing spot to lose ourselves in the increasing darkness along with others hoping to witness a firefly spectacle. While waiting for these insects to begin their show we explored the river’s edge until a flash caught our attention back in the woods. And then another, and another. The show was beginning! As the minutes went by there was some firefly flashing but nothing more spectacular than we would see near home. After about 20 minutes we decided it was time to retire for the evening as it was a long and eventful day leaving us ready for our pillows.
On our way out of the forest we stopped to talk with another couple who lived in the area. During the conversation they explained that the show had not really started yet and we should stay awhile longer. Soon after there were golden streams of light blinking all over. It was beautiful and exciting to watch. They were all over the place showing off their tricks of flight and color. Now it makes sense what all the publicity was about. We couldn’t imaging what the show would be like during the peak season. Now this was about as perfect as it could be to end a day full of adventures.
On our last morning exploring Great Smoky Mountain National Park we decided to find one last waterfall or two that are listed as waterfalls that you can drive to on our Waterfalls pamphlet we purchased the day before at the Cades Cove Visitor Center. This is a stop on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail which is basically a hiking trail for cars for those unable or unwilling to hike. There are several places to stop on this trail and hike if you desire otherwise there’s much to see from the comfort of your vehicle. I don’t recommend bringing a large RV through this area as the roads are one land with several tight corners.
There is a pull off on the right side of the road which you have to cross to see this tiny waterfall. At least it was a tiny waterfall while we were there. Looking at other peoples pictures of this place show much more water flowing during wetter times. In order to see the waterfall up close we had to scramble up a few steep rocks which is just the sort of challenge made for a younger person and so up we went. Once near the falls you could see many areas where water was dripping through the moss making its way eventually to a small stream in on to one of the many rivers in the park. It was easy to determine that we were there during a dry time as the moss which clings to the sides of rocks was beginning to dry down in the summer sun. During the wetter times this climb may be too dangerous to do because of the slippery rocks so a definite advantage of the lower water flow.