Saturday, April 18, 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Porters Creek Trail

After a stressful week at work, I was given permission to head out on my own to do some hiking and it was much appreciated. I decided to head over to the Smokies to do two hikes I've been considering for quite some time now. The first hike was a return to Porters Creek. Noelle, Sierra, and I had hiked Porters Creek just over a year ago. However, on that hike we only made it as far as Fern Branch Falls. This time I intended to go all the way to the end of the trail at campsite #31.

It was a beautiful morning and I had made it to the trailhead early enough that there were just a few cars in the parking lot. I immediately hit the trail at just after 8:30.
Porters Creek Trail
straight path
The theme for the hike was definitely wildflowers. They were in bloom all over the place.
flowers and trail
Last year when we had hiked this trail we were just a little bit early for the main display of flowers, though the phacelia was in bloom then, which it wasn't on this hike. There was lots of trillium: yellow, painted
painted trillium
and other varieties that I am not able to positively identify.
There were also showy orchis,
showy orchis
showy orchis 2
wild ginger,
wild ginger
star chickweed,
small white flowers
wild geranium,
more geranium
dwarf crested iris,
dwarf crested iris
iris 2
and lots of other species. Other than stopping to photograph the wildflowers, the hike went pretty quickly. I stopped to explore Fern Branch Falls
Fern Branch falls
and this time scrambled up to the base of the falls.
Fern Branch closeup
Beyond the falls, the trillium was the thickest I think I've ever seen.
trillium lined path
lots of trillium

Besides trillium, the upper reaches of the trail passed by some big trees.
big tree
There were also some ferns whose fronds were not fully expanded. These are what are known as fiddleheads.
The trail never veered far from its namesake Porters Creek.
Porters Creek
At campsite #31
campsite 31
I turned around and started to make my way back to the trailhead, the hiking on the return went particularly fast since it was all downhill. I did stop to photograph some wildlife: a snail,
some butterflies,
tiger swallowtail
and this interesting warbler
who allowed me to approach fairly closely as it collected nesting material off the trail.
warbler 2

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