This morning I made the drive down through Maggie Valley, North Carolina, up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and into Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the Heintooga Ridge Road. My goal for the day was to hike three short trails off of the Balsam Mountain/Straight Fork Road. I hit the Blue Ridge Parkway just as the sun was rising.
Shortly after entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I encountered a bull elk with his harem right along the side of the road.
I continued my ascent along the Flat Creek Trail which made its way through a rather grassy open forest,