I was all gung-ho to do a difficult hike to some waterfalls, but after the campground owner came around to have a chat because he was excited to have an Australian staying with them so he could talk about his daughter and granddaughters who live in Sydney, he had scared me off doing it.
He told me there was going to be a big storm. And that it wasn’t the ideal weather to be doing a big hike as the storm looked pretty bad. For some reason this news seemed to hit me like a punch in the chest and I had to bite back the tears that were threatening. It doesn’t happen very often that I have such an emotional response to disappointment, and even more rarely over something as trivial as a hike. But here I was, dealing with the dismay of having to change the plans I’d carefully crafted.
So I hiked to a different set of falls that were closer and easier to get to. I had my gore-tex jacket on to keep the constant drizzle off. My glasses fogged up which made seeing the network of exposed roots difficult. The walk was really pretty and given the weather, I had it pretty much to myself except for encountering a few brave families along the way.
After I got back from Hen Wallow Falls, the weather had cleared up, so I drove to the Visitor Centre, through the touristy town of Gatlinburg, and then decided with the sun now showing, that I would hike to Rainbow Falls.
It was more of an uphill than in the morning, and there were more people on the trail. It never fails to surprise me how under-prepared many Americans visiting national parks are. They embark on these hikes wearing flip-flops and carrying a half full bottle of water. Maybe I’m overprepared with my backpack, 4 litres of water, snacks, hat and Merrell hiking shoes, but I’d rather have those things than find myself wishing I had them.
Feeling like I’d walked a long way, I asked a couple coming back down if it was very far to the falls, and they said it was just around the corner. Around the corner was a smallish cascade that, while pretty, didn’t really seem impressive enough to name a trail after. So after a pause, I decided to keep following the trail and see where it lead. Lo and behold, 10 minutes later, I came across Rainbow Falls, complete with a sign. I shook my head and thought about those silly Americans who had walked all that way only to miss the actual falls because they weren’t curious enough to see where the path went.