I wanted to return to the River Bluff Trail, up near Norris Dam, but this time, I wanted to arrive in time to view the wildflowers. Last time I had gone, I had gotten there too late to view the wildflowers in bloom. This time, it was late March when I headed out on a chilly spring morning, and I fully expected to see at least a few flowers starting to come up.
I discovered this gem during the late winter of 2015, and I've been back multiple times. As I made the trek back and forth between Knoxville and South Carolina, to finish the move, I passed the sign for the Seven Islands State Birding Park. The sign was just off of I-40, about 20 minutes from Knoxville. The sign indicated hiking, and I kept figuring that I'd give it a look. But it took some months before I went out there.
So, my wife and I, still on our hiking vacation, decided to take some time in the Great Smoky Mountains along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. After looking through some hiking choices, we opted to go for the Andrews Bald Trail. This trail is about 3.5 miles round trip to a peak that tops out at around 6300 feet. It is a moderate trail, with an elevation gain of about 900 feet, but it's a nice day hike.
I've been to Paris Mountain State Park many times now (Mountain Creek Trail, Brissy Ridge, Sulfur Springs Trail), and each time I've been to the park, I've been impressed at how fortunate Greenville is to have such a great resource just north of the city. I had been on the Sulfur Springs Trail last winter, but it seemed like a good time to try it again, this time during the summer.
It has been much harder than I might have expected to go hiking during the summer. My weekends have been filled up with other activities and distractions, but I started jonesing for the outdoors, so I made some time for a quick trip into the mountains. Due to time constraints, I decided to go to a place I've been before, Glassy Mountain, a short hike just north of Pickens, SC.
This week I had taken a few days off, and my in-laws had gotten into town the weekend before. On the last day of their visit, they joined me for a short hike in Devil's Fork State Park in upstate South Carolina. The trail we took is the Oconee Bells Trail, which is a 1-mile loop through the park. The trail is named for the Oconee Bell, one of the rarest wildflowers in the United States.