I’m sure everybody has heard the song Smoky Mountain Rain by Ronnie Milsap. It took on a whole new meaning for my son and I when we backpacked to Gregory’s Bald.
I first learned of “balds” and this great hike when reading about it in Backpackers Magazine. The author mentioned how beautiful this bald was and that in June the flame azalea are in full bloom. I knew then I HAD to go to Gregory’s Bald. What is a bald? There are many theories but personally I believe they are the equivalent of a gift from a loving parent!
This photo does not do it justice but when you have been huffing through heavy canopy for several hours and all of a sudden with hardly any warning you are in a beautiful meadow with panoramic views of the mountains and valleys around you it is simply amazing.
Since I had my 10 year old son with me I decided to take the shorter of the routes to the bald, (Gregory Bald Trailhead at Sams Gap on Parson Branch Rd.) which from a map, looks totally fine. What I didn’t know is that it is best to have a four wheel drive, or at least a truck, to get up the first half of Parsons Branch “Rd”. There was another truck in front of us that had already made it up the worst part. My son and I were in a Ford Escape. As we were bouldering up the road I feel my back tires bounce completly off the road and I see my sons face blanch white! We slowly made our way up and the guys in the other truck started a cheer in our honor!
We made our way to the top without incident by mid afternoon and set up camp and looked around a bit.
This is what you HOPE it is going to look like when you go to Gregory’s Bald.
This, unfortunately for us, was our view when we reached the top.
And I had a feeling we were in for a night of Smoky Mountain Rain. And I was correct. Literally when we had finished with dinner and dinner chores I heard a few raindrops hit the rain fly, and soon thereafter it poured down rain all night long.
Several hours after dark another group came crashing into camp that had come up the Gregory Ridge Trail. I felt so bad for them in that they had to set up camp in the rain. I did not get a wink of sleep that night anyway because I was trying to figure out how we would get my car off the mountain! Based on our trip up the one way Parson Branch Rd I knew that several inches of water should make the trip down 10 times worse!
By the time dawn broke the rain relented. I was glad maybe we would not have to hike out in the rain. We made our breakfast and then began taking down camp. As we were rolling up the the tent raindrops started again. And yes we had a solid two and a half hour hike down the mountain in a monsoon. An hour in to the hike and we could hear the water sloshing in our boots every time we took a step. We had rain jackets but without rain pants the rain just soaked down our shorts, and to our socks, right into our boots.
When we got back to the car we literally stripped down to our underwear and just sat in the car and laughed!
Parson Branch “Road” is a one way road so I knew we could only go one way and I had no idea if we were going to have to abandon the car at some point, or worse slide off the mountain! But much to my relief almost the entire road going down from the trailhead was actually a paved road. But you can see here how much rain had already fallen.
Parsons Branch Rd comes out onto Hwy 129 Deal’s Gap aka Tail of the Dragon and as we manuvered the curves of this crazy road we hung our underwear out of the window to dry.
The Smoky’s are definately like a box of chocalates…you never know what you are going to get. Not all those who wander are lost but they certainly may be soaking wet!