This path leads to the upper of four falls, each about 10 to 15 feet high. During the low-water month of November, the scene is serene, comforting. During the wet months of spring, the scene would be noisy, definitely not serene, maybe intimidating; a good reminder that mother nature has many moods, not all of which are pleasant.
I don’t know whether to use singular or plural nouns in describing these waterfalls (this waterfall?). It’s not quite a single, tumbling cascade. It’s clearly not a single, plunging fall. It guess Indian Flats Falls is a series of four modest falls and for that reason it’s best to step back and take in the whole scene, rather than focusing on each individual waterfall, none of which are overly impressive by themselves. This is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Four modest waterfalls, each by themselves, might not be worth walking two hours to see. Four waterfalls in quick succession, dropping about 60 feet in about 150 horizontal feet, are.
It was easy to find other lightly worn paths twisting through the rhododendron thicket to the lower falls. This is the point in the hike where you take out the book, crackers, tuna, and peanut M & Ms. It’s also the point at which you think, once again, that you really need to bring a small pillow with you on these hikes. Your bundled rain jacket will have to do.
I think the most inspiring view was from the bottom, looking all the way up; although, I know from past experience that scrambling around to the top of the uppermost fall (on dry land, not climbing up the wet rocks) and looking down as the creekbed falls away into the distance would have been impressive. I didn’t do it on this trip. I don’t know why. I guess I just wasn’t in kamikaze mode today. It was more of a slow-paced, “snoop around and see what you can find” kind of day.
When it’s time to leave, you’ll have one more decision to make: the easy route or the hard? The easy route is to backtrack the way you came. The hard route would be interesting but wet – get in the creek at the base of the bottom falls and hike/wade your way back down to the footbridge that you walked across earlier. It’s less than two tenths of a mile down the creek, so it would be very manageable. If you opt for the wet route, bring an extra pair of wool or nylon (definitely not cotton) socks to put on once you are back on the trail and your boots have drained.
As you walk back down the Middle Prong Trail, there are a couple more points of interest. In the Panther Creek Trail area, there are a couple of old chimneys remaining from old homesites. There’s also a deteriorating, old car which looks to me to be a 1920’s era Model T but is reported to be a Cadillac that once belonged to a CCC supervisor. The path to it is obscure. The best directions that I can provide are the following: When you pass the Panther Creek Trail begin looking to your left and you’ll see that the slope is rather steep. It remains steep for about half a mile, after which it begins to spread out, providing space for an old camp or homesite. The old car will be in that open area. My final bit of advice is going to sound useless: the side path is immediately after a rhododendron bush about 15 feet high and 15 feet across. I know, I know. “Turn left at the rhody bush” is like telling someone in East Tennessee to turn at the video store or tanning salon. But in this case it’s pretty good advice. This open area on your left isn’t lined with a continuous thicket of rhododendron. There are only a few significant rhody bushes, so after each one, look for a lightly-worn path.
I suppose providing directions to a junked car isn’t the most glamorous way to end an article on a hike in the Smokies, but Tremont is in East Tennessee, after all. It was only a matter of time before one of these articles ended with a junked car in a field by the side of the road.