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My wife Dolores and I backpacked Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in September, 2009 while on vacation. Ranging from strenuous hikes that may require backcountry camping to short walks, the park has over 800 miles of trails.
We began by driving through the park and looking for a nice trail to hike, preferably one with waterfalls. The Smoky Mountains are just beautiful!
We soon come to an overlook where the state line is located for North Carolina and Tennessee. The elevation here is over 5,000 feet!
Dolores at State Line
We decided to hike a small portion of the Appalachian Trail just to say we were on it. Look how far it is to Maine from here!
Most people come to the Smokies hoping to see a bear. In the park live some 1,500 bears. The Smokies have the most biological diversity of any region in the world's temperate zone, from microscopic organisms, to the big animals like elk, deer, and bears. All of which is protected for future generations to enjoy, the park is a sanctuary for a magnificent array of plant and animal life.
You can really get a sense of just how high it is up here by looking down on the road far below.
Road Far Below
Dolores and I soon come to an observation tower on top of a mountain. Someone was nice enough to take our picture.
Dolores and Joe
Next, we head out to a place where we can hike out to a waterfall. I have to drive out a ways to get to the trailhead when suddenly we come upon all these people beside the road with their cameras out taking pictures of bears! Well, I stop the car and look to the left and I see this mother bear moving to my left. I quickly grab my camera and take her picture.
Large Mother Bear!
I soon see one of her cubs and take it's picture as well.
Small Bear Cub
I then see the second bear cub and get a shot of it.
Second Small Bear Cub
The mother bear had moved away and the cubs were a little spooked. Perhaps by my car, maybe because of all the people trying to take photos. One of the cubs climbs up the tree right next to my car, so close it could have jumped in through the window! I quickly get a shot of it before it gets out of sight.
Bear Cub Climbing Tree
Well we finally reach the trailhead and hike out to the falls, all the while watching for bears! We did not see anymore bears. We get to the falls and hike all around including walking behind it.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has humid, hot summers, mild winters and a moderate climate. Keep in mind that the topography can drastically affect local weather and that elevation in the park ranges from just over 875 feet to 6,643 feet, when planning a trip to the Smokies. And clear skies at lower elevations do not guarantee equally pleasant weather on the higher peaks, temperatures can vary 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit from mountain base to summit.
To buy the land that became Great Smoky Mountains National Park, money was raised by school children who pledged their pennies, private groups, and individuals. The Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund donated five million dollars to create the park, in addition. This park is for you, if you are looking for a good chance to get a photo of a bear and a beautiful place!
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