The weather took a colder, windier turn, but that did not stop us from getting out to explore the beauty of eastern Tennessee. We had hoped to do some hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but we opted for a lower elevation hike after taking in a couple of mountain top views.
We set off up the mountain on a small forest service road. Our first stop was at an overlook at the top of Unaka Mountain. As we pulled into the parking area, we saw some boondockers with their camper set up. How they managed to tow their camper up the mountain still boggles my mind. When we stepped out of the truck, one of the campers struck up a conversation with us. He had seen our Pennsylvania license plate. Somehow, we managed to find a fellow Western Pennsylvanian on the top of a mountain in Eastern Tennessee! He and Will chatted for a few minutes while Little Bird and I stretched our legs and soaked in the view. Before we got back in the truck, we got a tip from another visitor about another overlook just up the road a little further.
We took off in the direction he told us, as we are always up for a beautiful overlook, and managed to drive right past it (and kept going for a lot longer than we should have). We ended up stopping at a small recreation area where both Will and I took short walks, making sure to keep Bird and Daisy warm in the truck.
On our way back up, we spotted the pull-off for the overlook. Will went out first to scope it out, then I followed when he returned to the truck. The overlook was absolutely beautiful, but the trail to get to it was a little rocky and would not have been easy to take Bird in the backpack and Daisy. So, we each enjoyed the view, which was special in its own way, as we were able to take as much time as we wanted not having a toddler or dog distracting us.
After soaking in the views at those vistas, we made our way partway down the mountain to Beauty Spot. This is where we really felt the wind and cold. Beauty Spot is a bare hill where the wind just whips around you. We bundled Little Bird up and walked the short distance to the top of the hill. The views were breathtaking, unfortunately, so was the wind. We captured a few pictures, then called it a day. It was too cold for us to have the girls out of the truck for too long, and hiking anywhere on the mountain was simply not in the cards.
At the base of the mountain, we had passed Rock Creek Recreation Area. It is a small fee use area with a campground, picnic area, and hiking trails. We had not done much research on the trails, so we opted to follow the trail toward the waterfall. If all else fails, we certainly love ourselves a waterfall!
I was really excited to get out hiking, as it was my first hike in my new hiking boots. My previous boots had been solid for the past 4.5 years, but they were getting worn out and, as we have progressively hiked more and more, there were a few things I did not like about them. My new boots have a lot more ankle support and cinch down tight so debris does not fall into my socks. Breaking boots in is always a process, and getting those first few miles in is important.
We started up the trail, which followed a small stream. It was very reminiscent of a trail we hiked earlier this year in Smoky Mountain National Park, so we were really excited to see what was in store. However, we were not terribly far into the hike when we got a strange feeling. Daisy was acting spooked, which does not happen very often, and we decided to follow her lead and turn back. The trail was quite dense with bushes and sat at the base of some rocks, so the feeling of being watched and followed was one we wanted to pay attention to.
We made our way back to the truck without incident, thanking Daisy’s instincts even if nothing was keeping an eye on us. While we would have loved to have made it to the waterfall, we always have to follow our gut to keep us all safe. Even though we did not have a specific destination or hike in mind when we set out, we ended up seeing some incredible sights and getting out as a family, which is really what it is all about.