Adriana Zoder: Roaring Fork, Grotto Falls are something to see

Oct. 19, 2013 @ 11:32 PM

Since our recent hike to see Grotto Falls, which I wrote about in my previous column, I have been obsessing over the Roaring Fork River. I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s the sheer beauty of nature that touched me deeply. Or, maybe, was the attraction of the forbidden fruit, while the National Park was off limits due to the government shutdown.

Regardless, I have been reading about this mountain stream and learned some fascinating facts. Trip Advisor lists the Roaring Fork River as the No. 1 attraction (out of a list of 34) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Roaring Fork Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1976, consists of several old residences that used to belong to Reagans, Ogles, Bales and Clabos.

With all the political craziness in Washington temporarily over and the park re-opened, I plan to go back to the Motor Nature Trail and take some more pictures. But the greatest reason for going back is simply to be there, in nature, and listen to the river.

Toward the end of the Motor Nature Trail, just past Ely’s Mill, as you get back into Gatlinburg, you can still hear it. A few more yards and city traffic takes over the soundscape around you.

It’s like waking up from a dream to reality, a reality in which man-made sounds (and other things) have completely taken over natural sounds (and other things).

I have only hiked to Grotto Falls twice, the first time being back in 2005. That’s when we saw the llamas coming down from Mount LeConte Lodge. I thought they looked really cute.

As I was getting closer to pet them, somebody warned me that llamas spit if they feel encroached upon. I backed off immediately.

Of course, the hike to Grotto Falls is part of the Trillium Gap Trail, named so because of all the trillium. When I hiked it last, a few weeks ago, there were no blooms, but we could see the plant itself all over the trail. We will have to go back there in spring or summer to take pictures of the beautiful trillium.

Little streams cross the trail in several spots, which creates puddles where rocks have been placed strategically. One should polish their rock hopping skills before attempting to hike to Grotto Falls. My children certainly had fun skipping rocks.

Trillium Gap Trail is the only one out of five trails on LeConte where horses are allowed. Dogs are not allowed though, and there’s a sign to inform hikers about that. And last time I was on it, I saw not one, not two, but three dogs which belonged to three different owners. We met them at different points along the trail. All three of them were coming down while we were going up. One couple with a dog actually asked us to take a picture for them and we did. We could not help but wonder, “Are they ignorant of or ignoring the park rules?”

When we got back down, a park ranger was driving in his electric car on the Motor Nature Trail. Those hikers and their dogs got lucky, because the ranger missed them by 30 minutes.

Grotto Falls remains one of the most popular trails in the Smokies, in my opinion, especially because of the Roaring Fork River. Hiking it immerses you not only into relaxing sights, but sounds, as well. And who can resist the sound of a mountain river rushing down?

Adriana Zoder, a Gatlinburg resident, is a writer and homeschooling mom. She and her husband have two children. She maintains the blog www.homeschoolways.com.