The temperature was 28 degrees as Jennifer and I got out of the truck at the Cades Cove Picnic Area. The waters of that typically quiet river that runs through the picnic area were raging with run-off from the rains. An inch or so of snow remained on the ground in many spots making this a pretty morning for a hike.
It felt great to get back out here even though there were only two of us able to hike on this particular Saturday. We actually thought about not hiking with just two, but I am so very glad we did. The scenery as we gained elevation climbing up to the ridge of Bote Mountain became more and more spectacular. The snow deepened and eventually covered not only the hillsides around us, but also the trail itself. The quietude suggested that we were the only people in the world, but footprints on the path below our feet assured us that we were not the only adventure addicts who had traversed this way since the snow had fallen.
Not surprisingly, the closer we got to the top of Bote Mountain, the more snow crunched under our feet. Up here, you could definitely see evidence of many other hikers who had come out to experience the mountains under the cover of snow. We chose our footing carefully on this section, paying so much attention to our steps that we totally missed campsite #9 which lies not far off this section of the trail. The only way we knew about it at all was because only a minute or two after we came to the intersection with Bote Mountain Trail we had company. Suddenly up the trail behind us came a group of men who had spent the night at campsite #9 and had seen us walk by on the trail. But we had not seen or heard them. They were headed to Rocky Top to witness the views of the mountains in the snow from that high vantage point, so we parted, going opposite directions on Bote Mountain Trail.
We had intended to rest for a while at the top (that's a pretty steep climb we had just made in the snow), but after lingering for only a few minutes, the chill began to creep in encouraging us to keep moving. I had not been cold on the hike with the exception of the first 1/4 mile or so when I had zipped my jacket up enough to cover my face. But here on the mountaintop the air was crisp and cold. As we moved along Bote Mountain Trail toward Lead Cove, we were afforded beautiful views of the valleys below shrouded in cloud cover. This short stretch of Bote Mountain Trail that was new to me (1.2 miles) was much more pleasant than the other parts of the trail that I had covered. There were fewer rocks to trip up an unsuspecting hiker and nice views on either side to enjoy as you walked.