For Memorial Day, Jay had an epic hike planned out for us. Instead, we opted to sleep in a bit, then head into the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for an epic Jeep ride + pretty (and short and easy) hike.

The above picture is of the main road. Some of this can be cut off by traveling the interstate into North Carolina, which we did on the way home, but either way roads of this nature must be traveled.

Topless of course. (This picture was taken from the passenger side of the Jeep, looking up.) I’m relatively new to the Jeepin world, so I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. But more on that later.

Midnight Hole is a swimming hole that we were not prepared to enjoy. If I’m honest, I’m kinda glad. It was crowded with skinny, hipster college age kids smoking and drinking PBR. Call me old, but that’s just not my scene.

Just a half mile up the trail sits the falls, beautiful and serene. Both the distance and elevation gain made this an easy hike, much easier than the ones we tackle on the Tennessee side. Jay regretted not bringing his fancy camera, which is usually too much effort to lug around.

 I think we did okay just using our cell phone cameras. Not to mention, when Jay gets out the big camera and tripod he can spend ages sitting in one place.

The entire trail was beautiful, and I snagged a few photos on the hike down.

While we were out and about, a short rain came. I didn’t feel like much, but tell that to the Jeep sitting in the parking lot with the top down. Remember how I said I was unprepared?

Um, yeah. Apparently the Jeep seat was filthy, so when the seat (and then my butt) got wet it resembled more mud than rainfall. I rode all the way to Cataloochee with wet britches. Without a garbage bag to sit on, changing into my clean pants would just end with the same result.

 Getting lost on the way wasn’t entire a waste of time. The dirt paths roads were gorgeous.The only other people we encountered were 2 dudes on dirt bikes. Yeah. That kinda road.

Shocking I’m sure (or not if anyone truly knows me), I was starting to get annoyed with Jay and the situation. My butt was soaked, I was cold, and I knew we were spending more time getting there then we would actually spend once we got there.

BUT THEN we got there, I looked to my right, and it was immediately worth it all.

The elks were re-introduced into the area by the Park Service several years ago. That’s the tag in his ear. The pictures don’t truly represent how massive these guys are. In my head, they are the same size as deer. In reality, they are much larger. They make me feel small, even when viewing them from my redneck’s jacked up Jeep.

After a bit of riding around, a few pictures, and quite a few more elk, it was time to head home. Jay wanted to take the open Jeep on interstate, so I knew I’d need to wrap up to stay warm.

That post-race space blanket really came in handy folded up in my backpack!! Next time I know to bring garbage bags and don’t forget the jacket!!


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