Just like that: fall is gone and winter is here or at least it was on this weekend. We decided to head north, like we do often, to Cherokee. Only this time, we traveled on into the Great Smoky Mountains and the Chimney Tops.

The Chimney Tops Trail is one of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park because of its length and spectacular views. It gains 1,400 feet in 2 miles which makes for a steep climb, and because Wessy was not with us (she can’t hike the Smokies) we did not go to the top. To reach the summit, there’s a steep rock scramble that can be slippery when wet or covered in ice. I did it years ago and don’t know if I’ll have the chance to do it again since Wes is with me.

One of several foot bridges from the trail.

Anne and Pat smile for the camera. We were all missing Wessy since she was away working on being trained.

Chimney top in the distant. A long hike and a rocky climb. I do like a challenge though so if I get a chance to go again, I’ll be tempted to hike!

The forestry service really takes care of this trail. This area of the Smokies is know for bear sightings and even attacks—which are super rare. The reason dogs are not allowed on these trails is not because of bear activity! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has prohibited dogs in the “backcountry” since the park was established in the 1930s. The park prohibits dogs on hiking trails because they can carry disease into the park’s wildlife populations. Makes sense.

Dogs can chase and threaten wildlife (something Wessy would not do! LOL!), scaring birds and other animals away from nesting, feeding, and resting sites. The scent left behind by a dog can signal the presence of a predator, disrupting or altering the behavior of park wildlife. Small animals may hide in their burrow the entire day after smelling a dog and may not venture out to feed. Finally, dogs bark and disturb the quiet of the wilderness.

A quiet trail without a dog looks lovely but lonely . . . without Wessy bouncing around.

I remember we could not decide if we needed our jackets on or off. Hot and then cold and then hot again.

Pat standing in the middle of one of the many wonderful streams.

I keep finding these broad downed trees that work as tripods for long exposure times.

Cool photo but usually this is a rushing river. So where is all the water? It will return by spring.