After a round of goofy golf it was back to the hotel room where Ross would study his maps and waterfall guidebook. He found where he wanted to go the next morning. What kid wouldn't want to hike Boogerman trail! Ross had never seen an elk so he also wanted to check out the herd in the Cataloochee area. Unfortunately I-40 is closed at the TN/NC border so there was not an easy route to get there from Pigeon Forge, so we opted for plan B.
The next day we would head to the virgin stand of timber on the Albright Loop trail. I'm 42 and I've never been amidst a virgin stand on the east coast, so this would be a first for me too. In addition to the Albright Grove, the trail crosses Indian Camp Creek and Jim Casada's book rates it as an "A".
After a quick continental breakfast we headed for the unmarked Maddron Bald trailhead. We stopped in the office of the campground that hides the trailhead to ask for directions. While in the office Ross found what he had been looking for - a coonskin cap. Once he had his new lucky fishing hat we were off for the trailhead.
The trail was three miles up hill again and Ross did great again! We did stop a couple of times to rest.About 2.5 miles up, we finally hit Indian Camp Creek and time to prospect a new stream for brookies.
I quickly picked up a brookie below the footbridge....
...and one above the bridge (with my lucky fishing hat).
After picking up a quick two brookies, it was onward and upward.
About another half-mile we were in the land of giants (east coast speaking). I'm in my early 40s and I've never seen a virgin stand of timber - on the east coast. These trees were massive! A couple of them Ross and I tried to wrap are arms around and couldn't even get a 1/4 of the base.
After taking a short break we made the decision to make to head back down instead of further up. While we were taking a rest, the sound of running water got the best of me. We bushwhacked through the rhododendron to another small stream (Dunn Creek).
Wouldn't you know it, it held brookies too!
While I was working one of the plunge pools, Ross decided he was going to wet wade with me. However, his wading was unintentional. Next thing I knew he was on the rock with me - bare foot!
On the way back down we stopped at the bridge crossing and scrambled our way about 30 yards downstream. I nearly hit double digits in the handful of pools and pockets I worked.Ross releasing one of the nicer brookies...in his new, lucky fishing hat.
It didn't take long before walking past very "fishy" water and kicking gravel out of the sandals before we were heading back to the car for wet shoes and fishing gear.
While landing this little guy, I put everything else down. Then, for the first time all weekend, Ross asked to try his luck with the fly rod.
Ross working a beautiful pool with the new bamboo rod, and wet wading just like dad.
The one rainbow was all we managed out of Porters, so as it was getting late in the evening, we decided to call it a very successful day.
Before grabbing something to eat, we made a visit to the strip in Gatlinburg where Ross took some time to pan a bucket of dirt in search of minerals. We also made a stop at The Day Hiker, one of the nicer specialty stores on the strip.
After dinner, it was back to the hotel room to watch WVU "play" in the Final Four. It was a sub-par performance but it was great to see them on the big stage. One of the most heart wrenching things I can remember in sports was watching the third leading scorer in WVU history (behind Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley), Da'Sean Butler end his career with a blown ACL. Coach Huggins also earned a great deal of respect, in my book, with his interactions with Da'Sean.
The next morning it was up early to beat the crowds to Grotto Falls before the six-hour drive home.
Again, if I had done my homework, that weekend would have been so much smoother! The road to Grotto Falls was closed for paving. Ross checked his waterfall book and found one right behind the Sugarland Visitor Center.
Cataract Falls is located about 1/2 mile behind the visitor center on a nature trail that begins directly behind the building.
From the falls, it was breakfast at Flapjacks - Ross had been eyeing this place all weekend. So, with his fourth meal of pancakes in three days in his belly, it was time to hit the road for this year's version of Easter in the Smokies.
Ross is already planning our next trip to the Smokies and he also asked about a trip to Yellowstone...that's my boy!