Saturday, November 6, 2010

Alum Cave Bluff

The stresses of life's challenges as you work yourself through middle-age can play havoc with a marriage, even one as old and strong as ours. My husband and I have found ourselves bickering and disagreeing on more things than usual of late. However, we both love the outdoors and so decided to return to the sanctity of nature to hang on to each other during this difficult time. Our hike to Alum Cave Bluffs was the first of what I hope will be many more.

I absolutely loved this hike! The first part of the trail runs alongside Alum Cave Creek and offers many beautiful scenes where you can stand, hold hands, and just listen to the creek music. We were again blessed with gorgeous weather and were dressed in just light hiking apparel--long, zip-off legged pants and t-shirts. I did feel kind of bad for my husband who didn't have a pair of hiking boots to wear today, but he managed ok.

A little over a mile up this hike, you come to Arch Rock. It is an awesome thing to see, knowing that at some point in history, it began as just a crack and has been weathered over time into the arch that you walk through to get to the bluff. Thankfully, the Park Service has provided a set of rock stairs and a cable to use as a handrail as you climb up through Arch Rock. This is not too tough though. I saw many young children on this hike and they made it just fine, so don't be afraid of this section. Once you pass Arch Rock, you continue to climb until you reach the namesake of this hike. The bluff isn't really a cave at all, but a large, slate rock that is concave in shape. We climbed right up into that concavity and sat to rest, admiring awe-inspiring views of high peaks and beautiful fall colors.

We also had a little snack at the edge of the woods right before you go up into the bluff and were joined by a scampering little visitor the likes of which I had never seen before. He was looking for us to drop a crumb or two I'm sure. He was a red squirrel, which the locals call "boomers," and he was too skiddish for me to capture on my camera phone, but it was quite interesting to watch him playing on the rocks and trees as we sat to rest.

As we sat there, we were passed by folks on their way on up to Mt. Leconte to spend the night. I want to do that--it's definitely on my bucket list. Maybe next summer I will take that one on. After we returned down the path of this gorgeous trail, we made our way into Gatlinburg where we stopped at the Outpost and bought my hubby a pair of Keen hiking boots so he wouldn't have to do this in tennis shoes anymore and as a kind of commitment to continue hiking together. After that purchase we went next door into a restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and glass of wine. Now that was a nice ending to a glorious day!

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