First time up to Waterrock Knob this year. We usually visit whenever the Blue Ridge is open but in the winter, those times are next to none. But it’s spring now and most of the Parkway is open! On this day, showers were threatening, but we have stopped worrying about rain in these mountains. Any time is a good time to be here.

Waterrock is the highest peak in the Plott Balsams and is the 16th-highest mountain in the Eastern United States. After cancer and chemo, it was the first mountain I hiked. Crazy. I read that the distance to the top was short but I skipped the part that said “difficult.” It was a hard climb at the time but I loved it and was hooked.

The next day I hiked Black Balsam and then Richland Balsam (the tallest peak on the Blue Ridge Parkway) and I think I almost skipped up Max Patch.

We were  cold on top (40 degrees) at the overlook parking lot, and I had to pull out a sweatshirt that I had packed away in the back of the car. This was Wessy’s first view of the mountain she will soon climb! She was ready, but we decided to wait.

She did find a pretty good stick to carry home with her! Yeah sticks!

Pure Purple. When Wessy was a baby her breeder (Tyler) put a purple soft cord around her neck and named her Purple. That way he knew who she was from the other puppies. There was also a Pink, Teal, Orange, Red, Gray and more. I still buy her a lot of purple.

Mingus Mill is a favorite place to stop for a few minutes. It’s located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just a short distance from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center (another favorite). It’s a historic grist mill that’s still active on certain days. It’s also a popular spot for photographers. One lady I talked with on this day had the same small Sony Camera that I have. It’s just fun to meet and talk with people now. We have all been through so much.

Wessy does not “feel” this small! But she certainly looks small in this photo with Pat. Usually, we are on the way up to Clingman’s Dome to hike one of the several trails there. On this day, we just stopped at a couple of places to let Wessy have some “firsts.”

Like the first time you drink water from a mill race! A true first! Yummy such cold fresh spring water!

Then we headed over to Oconaluftee to look for Elk. They are easy to find these days. The herd has grown greatly. As usual, they were there grazing near the roadway.

Wessy is fascinated by the Elk and usually watches them silently, but this time she barked very loudly! I told her “no” but it was too late. The Elk immediately lifted their heads, and I thought surely all the rangers would descend on us telling us to move on, but they didn’t.

Dogs usually are not allowed to walk around in the Great Smoky Mountain Park—not sure why but my guess is because of the wild life that is present—like bears. And I have only seen one bear in all the years I have been coming to the park. Hope the same holds true for this year!

Finally, saw these girls as we were leaving. They were just hanging around together letting tourists take their photos. I always wonder what they are thinking. Maybe, “Yawn, boring . . . here they are again!”