Now, after our unsuccessful first attempt at the Laurel Falls trail, I was determined that we would complete this hike! This trail is a 2.6mile roundtrip and is considered a moderate level two-hour hike, as it is uphill most of the way towards the waterfall. However, as it is on a well paved road the whole way, it is very easily achievable if you are willing to take the time and tackle it at a leisurely pace (i.e the pace of a three year old and a heavily pregnant mama).
J and Little E each picked up a sturdy long stick at the start of the trail and used it as a walking aid, leaning on it for support whenever they felt tired. J was full of beans that day, so he ran ahead with the Aged P, whilst Little E and I slowly ambled along behind, looking for squirrels and turkeys.
There were plenty of rocks to perch on whenever we felt tired (which was often), but we eventually reached Laurel Falls, which is a spectacular 80 foot waterfall. The hike brought us to a wooden walkway which ran across the top of the upper part of the falls, and we could look over to watch the gushing water running over the steep drop down to the bottom of the forest.
The kids were so excited by the waterfalls, they kept prancing around and daring each other to get closer to the falls to feel the spray of water on their faces. I didn’t want them getting to close to the slippery rocks, so I suggested that they dip their walking sticks in the cold running water and draw patterns on the pavement instead.
We had packed a picnic lunch with us, so we sat on a bench facing the falls and tucked into our sandwiches and bottles of juice, making sure to carefully keep all our trash away neatly, leaving nothing behind that would attract bears.
In the past, many hikers and tourists littered the Laurel Falls trail with leftover food scraps and sweet wrappers, attracting a foraging black bear who eventually became used to the smell of humans mingled with food. Visitors would even entice the bear by offering it food until one day, the bear bit a tourist and sadly had to be euthanised by the park service, who were of course very upset that they had to do away with an animal because of human stupidity.
After returning to the car, the Aged Ps decided that they really wanted to take the kids and I to enjoy the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival at the Dollywood theme park. This was actually a fun evening out for us, getting to watch back-to-back musical performances including an adaptation of A Christmas Carol which had some truly impressive holographic technology alongside live performers.
The kids were pretty tired out by this time, but they were excited by the lights, music and dancing!
With a tummy full of apple pie and Christmas carols ringing in our ears, we headed back to our hotel for a well-deserved rest.