|The grand view of LeConte from the summit tower of Clingmans Dome|
Continuing my first experience of the Smoky Mountains as an all growed up adult, I turned my sights to Clingmans Dome. At 6,643', it is the highest mountain in Tennessee and the Appalachian Trail. The mountain is famous to thru hikers and casual day trippers alike. A road leads to the top but I hate to do that type of thing. Looking for a hiking trail I discovered that there are actually a multitude of very long trails to the summit. I suppose one could really make a trip out of it and start at some high mountain in Maine but I hadn't the time today. Newfound Gap is on the AT and offers a nice 16 mile round trip hike to the summit. This would have to do today!
Here's a map-
Despite its length, the hiking runs quite smoothly. Newfound gap is at about 5,000 feet and there are several little and large bumps along the ascent of the highpoint. The biggest "bump" is Mt Collins. This 6,188' mountain makes the Southern Sixers List which I've been enjoying. With this in mind, the trail is a bit of a rollercoaster ride but its enjoyable! I had the privilege of a glorious sunrise on Newfound Gap and dappled sunlight on the AT. Whatever challenges there where on the trail were quickly ignored with all the sights-
|A lovely sunrise on Newfound Gap|
|I just couldn't get over how lovely this place was.|
|The Appalachian Trail|
I'm a middle-of-the-pack hiker when it comes to speed and I felt like I effortlessly reached the summit in 3 hours exactly. At times I was just flying along the AT. To make things even more enjoyable, I had the trail to myself! Sure I saw two or three wanderers at each of the trailheads but there were none between Clingmans and Newfound Gap! I love it when that happens.
|View from the summit tower|
Down from the crowded summit, I was back in much-loved solitude. I saw one hiker who was bushwhacking some waterfalls from the ridgeline. Apparently the Southern States have hardcore bushwhack types too! We swapped stories of tangling through spruce and underbrush and being rewarded with pieces of wilderness that hardly ever see humans. Certainly I'll try my and at southern bushwhacking someday!
|"The flying saucer"|
Read. Plan. Get Out There!