The drive up to the trail head, atop Clingman’s Dome, was a beautiful one Monday morning. The first part gently curves and follows alongside the Little River with the second half affording some breathtaking views of the smokies. Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in TN. While the two previous days brought much needed rain, they also brought crystal clear skies, which is a blessing here in July. It was in the upper 40’s when we started our hike. Although quite refreshing this time of the year, I must admit it raised goose pimples on me for the first mile of the hike 🙂 Because of the very recent rain, the beginning of the trail was a stream bed making it a nice challenge to navigate, and created wonderful sound effects with the running water. We were treated to a flock of Cedar Waxwings right away, with their sweet high pitched chirping. It was one magnificent view after another, as we walked along listening to the calls of the upper elevation feathered residents. The song of the Winter Wren is absolutely incredible and a must for everyone to hear. Fortunately at one point we were able to see one of these little beauties belt out it’s amazing song. And to think we were just getting started. . . this is why I love the woods. We came upon a wonderful secluded rock giving the most incredible view as we sat there enjoying our traditional peanut butter and raisin sandwiches. Slate-colored Juncos serenaded us with sweet songs, short and to the point, while we sat there eating and admiring the amazing, never ending view.
After lunch we walked on looking forward to the next natural delights awaiting us. Coming around a bend we saw the first Turk’s Cap Lily blooming, and what a delight indeed, as a Swallowtail Butterfly had rested on it and was enjoying it’s sweet nectar. Of course as we’re photographing, the thought of a future miniature painting comes to both of our ever creating minds. We watched him carelessly feed for a few minutes then continued on, stopping occasionally to admire some of the beautiful moss and different bird sightings along the way. At this elevation in the smokies, it resembles a Canadian Boreal Forest, so there is totally different vegetation with an abundance of moss and ferns. When in these areas, I can always imagine a forest dwelling species of dinosaur enjoying living there, but alas am quite thankful at that point one does
not 🙂 After walking a bit more we came upon a large section covered entirely with blackberry bushes. This will be a very active spot for the Black Bears in August when the berries ripen.
Since we were actually walking along the ridge tops we enjoyed a cool breeze most the entire time, making it quite pleasant. We were hiking on the Appalachian Trail the entire time, so we met a few couples along the way that were either thru hikers or on a several day backpacking journey which made for some interesting conversations. We passed two different shelters for camping on this section of the trail. When we made it to the bald @ 5 1/2 miles later, it was completely grown up. Oh well, you can’t win them all. So we took our photo standing on a small rock with a state boundary marker in it, for posterity’s sake 🙂 The walk back was a bit warmer but still quite pleasant, offering new views coming from the other direction. The occasional song of the Winter Wren was such pleasant music to our ears and one can’t help but smile when listening to it.
When we emerged from the trail about seven hours later, it was a quick snap back to reality as the neatly paved path leading up to Clingman’s Dome was filled with visitors walking and resting, trying to make their way up the mountain to be treated with the view from the dome on top. We must have looked a bit worn, as the visitors looked at us in passing as if thinking that this must be a rough path to make that active couple look like that. So our journey ended with smiles on our faces as we were laughing out loud just at the very prospect of this thought 🙂 After the pleasant drive home, Wes treated us to Pizza Hut for dinner, and was that pizza ever delicious as we had obviously worked up a healthy appetite!
Overall, it was another incredible day and hike for the memory banks. As I always say, “One can never go wrong, spending the day in the woods” Until next time ~ Rachelle 🙂