|waterfall along Flat Laurel Creek Trail|
The first part of this trail parallels 215 at a higher elevation at we had views across the road to some of the color on that side.
|view across 215 from the trail|
Looking up along parts of the trail revealed some brilliant sun-lit color above the shady trail. Unfortunately the light was the same at the waterfall, but it was worth it just to see the color.
|along the trail to Wildcat Falls|
The trail continues up to the Black Balsam area, but we decided to head back to the vehicle and try something else. I wanted to check out Bubbling Spring Branch Cascades, so we headed there next. The color is brilliant in that area, but at 12 noon, I was looking right into the sun for the shot. From that same pull off, I also took a shot looking down 215.
|Bubbling Spring Branch Cascades|
|215 north of Bubbling Spring|
From here we decided to check out the Black Balsam area. Cindy suggested the Sam Knob Trail and that turned out to be an excellent choice. There were a lot of people - including hunters - in this area today. We both had forgotten that is was Columbus Day and a lot of people had the day off. We did manage to find a parking spot and headed down the trail. There has been some very recent improvements to this trail. Most of the section leading from the parking area now has gravel and a very nice boardwalk with steps leads down through the section of trail that was very eroded and ends right before you get into the field before Sam Knob.
|new boardwalk on Sam Knob Trail|
|Sam Knob ahead|
The color at this elevation is beginning to fade as you can see in the shot of Sam Knob. We were mainly interested in seeing the view to the other side that looks down on 215. The next few shots show the different views we had from on top of the mountain. Once you get up there, you have to know where to go to get the views. It's not a really large area, but paths lead every which way. If you find all the spots, you have views looking in every direction.
|looking towards Devil's Courthouse and Mount Hardy|
|closer view looking towards 215 and the Parkway|
|looking NE into the Shining Rock Wilderness Area|
|looking back towards the parking area and Black Balsam|
By now it was late afternoon and time to head to the house. We won't be out again until Thursday - good luck with your hunt for color!