Day five was the final day of Ashley and my extended weekend vacation. We got up early and it was raining. We had planned to take a few hikes early in the day but given the rain and anticipated slippery mountain roads, we opted to simply drive to the North Carolina side and hope for improved weather.
Just as we crossed over the state line, the weather began to clear up some. The rain let up and the sky began to start to clear. A few hundred yards from the exit of the Smokies National Park we were stunned to find a large field filled with grazing elk. Ashley had never seen elk in the wild and these were huge. It was a fun time watching them wander. To top it off, there were a small flock of wild turkeys behind them.
After the wildlife watching, we entered the Cherokee Reservation. A drive through what in many places seemed like a 3rd world country, we ended up at the front of a short trail head. Mingo Falls was only about a third of a mile into the mountains and was awesome. It stood at around 150 feet tall and given the morning rain, the water was spilling over the rocks at lightning speed.
For lunch, we headed down to Bryson City to meet up with a family friend of Ashley's named Christine. The three of us went to a cafe called Mountain Perk and explored their vegan options. Ashley had a chocolate chip bagel with peanut butter and I had hummus veggie wrap. They were also nice enough to give each of us a small cup of soy chai tea to keep us warm.
Once lunch was over, Ashley and I headed back into the National Park to get in our last hike of the trip. This hike was about 2.5 miles round trip and had three waterfalls on the loop.