For finally graduating with my Associates in Divinity from Grace College of Divinity in North Carolina, my wife and I spent a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains to celebrate both of our hard work; my studies and her putting up with me.
We decided to take on Clingmans Dome, which really is not daunting task. It is a concreted path with somewhat of an incline. It will wear out the not-so-in-shape person. They have a few places to take a sit on the way up if you get tired and you do start to feel it in your thighs as you ascend the pathway. Once you reach the top, the dome comes into view and what a view it is to see it peaking out of the tops of the spruce-fir zone.
One would think Clingmans Dome is a spectacular structure that beckons a moment of awe as it winds in spiraling form to the highest point in the Smokies. However, on closer inspection, the Dome is spartan and weather-beaten. The rock facade is beginning to deteriorate and the dome itself is showing signs of years and years of use.
Which is why there is an initiative by National Geographic to repair some of the nation’s greatest parks. You can visit VoteYourPark.com and vote for your top five parks to help unlock $2 million in preservation funding (only through July 5, 2016).
However, it was still a pleasure to visit the Dome. The views were not pleasurable since the day before experienced rain which left fog encompassing the altitude. Hence why they call them the “Smoky Mountains.” Through the fog, we got to see some distance but not much.
After some time we decided to hike the forest trails back to the parking lot instead of the over-publicized concrete path. At the Dome, you can take the Appalachian Trail for a half mile (or so) which then connects with Clingmans Dome parking lot trail. The AT was another chance to mark some mileage off walking such a prevalent and most acknowledged trail of all long trails (CDT, PCT, AT).
The fog cleared in some spots to give views to the rolling landscape below as we walked among the footsteps of those who had gone before on the AT; Benton McKaye, Grandma Gatewood, Earl Shaffer, Bill Bryson, Jennifer Pharr Davis, Warren Doyle, Bill Irwin, David “AWOL” Miller, Buddy Backpacker, Zach Davis, Baltimore Jack, Neva “Chipmink” Warren.
Knowing I’m walking in those footsteps was an honor for something I deeply respect and dream of.
After reaching the fork that takes hikers back to the parking lot of the Dome or continuing on the AT, we knew we needed to be getting back. We turned off the ridge line to walk back down the side of the mountain through the thicket of fir (so deep you couldn’t see ten feet to either side). We enjoyed the cool air, the shadowiness of the spruce coverage, the countless streams pouring out of the side of the mountain, and the occasional view when the trees opened up.
We knew we were getting close to the parking lot when we starting hearing voices. The trailhead presented boulders larger than a house that presented a small glimpse of our size in comparison that could easily give someone a sense of insignificance in this word. After reaching the trailhead we over heard a park ranger giving an answer to the constant question of all visitors: Why are some of the pine trees dying.
“Those aren’t pines, they are Fir trees and the balsam woolly adelgid is killing the Fir.” See here
I wished we could’ve had a better view but it was still pretty cool to mark a few things off the bucket list so it was worth it. Plus who gets the opportunity to view the Dome with fog coverage? You can see pictures all day long of the 7 mile view because no one thinks the fog is worth seeing but I enjoyed it.
Hope you enjoy the video.