Wednesday, August 11. 2021
At 7:00 everyone was still sleeping, so I went up to the picnic area thinking I would try fishing Anthony Creek for an hour. As I put my rod together, two guys in their 60’s parked next to me and got their hiking gear out. I asked if they were going for a big hike and one replied, “Well big enough for us.” Thunder rolled close by and it started to rain. Off they went saying they hoped it wouldn’t be a big rain. I wished them well. The rain came harder, so I put the rod back in the case. I was rather unprepared for rain, as the whole thing was a spur of the moment idea.
It is Wednesday, the day the Cades Cove Loop is closed to cars and open to bikes. The parking lot was filled, but experienced bikers parked in the picnic area, which was quiet. Rain or no rain, they were going.
Our crew was slow to get up, probably tired from our long hike yesterday. It was 8:30 by the time the kids got up. Martha and I fried bacon and made pancakes. The kids enjoy being involved in the cooking, but it does get a bit messy, although we agree it’s worth it for the experience.
By 10:30 we were ready to bike and the rains had cleared. Martha loaded some snacks and filled the water bottles. Off we went, riding through the horse barn parking lot. A ranger warned us it was slick after the rain. I did not want to take another fall after breaking four ribs last year. We have driven the loop four times now, looking for wildlife. In the horse pasture we saw four turkeys.
8 year-old Melissa rides a little bike with only one gear, and she does an incredible job with it, but there are some pretty good hills on this 11-mile ride, and she walked most of them. Josh, riding his mother’s bike, proved to be a much better rider since we last rode together a year ago. He has been riding with his friends in the neighborhood. Last year he couldn’t keep up. This year I couldn’t keep up with him.
I stopped to take pictures along the way. The beauty is striking even after driving it four times. Josh and I waited for the girls many times. Martha told me not to ride ahead. Josh wanted to go, and I wanted to ride with him, but that made for a lot of waiting. We stopped at the farm with the cherry trees, and sure enough the same bear was back in the tree, although a different one. A nice ranger named Mark, told us the cherry trees are full of berries this year, but the bears do a lot of damage, breaking limbs to get to the fruit, so the tree may not produce the next year. Maybe it’s a natural pruning job. A bear in a tree draws a big crowd, but the bear seemed unaffected. I was amazed at the way this big animal walked out on limbs with ease, then up to the next one, pulling branches with one paw to get to the fruit.
We explored the old house, outbuildings and barn before getting back on the road. Josh and I, way ahead of the girls, stopped at the next farm to explore the house and barn. Then back on the road, up a big hill, we decided to wait for the girls again. They didn’t come, so I rode back quite a ways, but didn’t find them. Either they had passed us at the farm, or someone was hurt. Martha’s warning loomed in my head, “ Don’t ride ahead. Stay with the group.” When I rode back, bikers warned me of a car coming. What?! I managed to get off the road as a ranger car passed me. Could they be in that car? There is no cell phone reception in the park. We should have taken radios.
Josh and I decided they passed us, so we sped ahead. Finally back at camp, we found them sitting at the picnic table smiling. Whew! We went back down to the Visitors Center and got ice cream. It was 4:00 and we were all sweaty. With no showers and no hookups in the park, we have had to be innovative to stay here a week.
Josh, Melissa and I drove down to Little River at the bridge where there is a popular swimming hole. This would be our bath for the day, while Martha took a bucket bath. The water was cold, but felt great once we got in…….except Miss Melissa didn’t get all the way in. It was just too cold for her.
We drove the 9 miles back to camp and made Tacos for dinner with everyone participating. It was a good day, and everyone enjoyed the Loop bike ride.