Fall leaf report 2012: crack smoking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

I finally decided to take two days and head to the mountains to view the fantastic fall colors and do some hiking with Troy. The news reports gave glowing reviews of radiant leaf colors not seen for a decade. Reports of outstanding fall foliage were greatly overstated and may be the result of either hopeful merchants or crack-smoking leaf hunters.

Let’s review what good fall leaf color looks like.

Roaring Fork in a good fall color year (photo credit to Troy, not me)

Now, let’s see what exists there this year:

OK, but I will not be composing poetry rhapsodizing over the verdant fall colors.

For those of you who want to know, there is good color in a 1-mile stretch heading to Cades Cove (roughly 5 miles in) and there is some decent color in Greenbrier and around Chimney Tops. However, the crowds are unrelenting, the traffic is horrendous, and there is of course the horror known as Gatlinburg to contend with. I’d pass on this year. Unless you enjoy endless streams of Mississippians in Cadillacs cruising at 2 mph in Cades Cove slamming on their brakes every time they see a deer.

An oasis in a sea of fudge shops, Dukes of Hazard memorabilia and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

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Big, freakin’ trees – Upper Mariposa Grove

Texas is always arguing that everything is bigger in Texas. Suck it, Texas. California has you beat by a mile.

Big freakin' tree

Seriously, these are big-ass trees. The kind that make you say Holy Sweet Baby Jesus when you see them.

I would sweat bullets in an ice storm living below these

I don’t know why I am writing a post about trees. Except they are huge.

100 feet up, the first branches.

The best place to see them in my opinion is Upper Mariposa Grove in Yosemite. Fair warning: the hike is hard, steep and long and it’s over 6500 feet in elevation so you’ll suck wind 100 feet into the hike. It’s the kind of hike that makes you question why you started in the first place. After the Grizzly Giant tree, you won’t see hardly anyone on the trail. Because it sucks to hike that steep a trail. Jean’s Pain rating: 7 out of 10 for steepness, lack of oxygen and the occasional old lady with a hiking stick who makes you look bad.

Troy hiding in a sequoia tree