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Clingmans Dome Tennessee

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Exactly 30 years ago this week during the first week of August of 1992 me and my brother visited the highest point on land in our lives at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was part of a road-trip together that started at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville Alabama (where my brother attended Space Camp). That trip continued into Tennessee. We walked around Nashville for a little while. We spent the night in Knoxville. The next morning we walked around the main tourist district of Gatlinburg. It reeked of smoke. (We later found out that much of a city block was destroyed by an electrical fire almost 3 weeks earlier.) From there we drove U.S. 441 / Newfound Gap Road up into the Great Smoky Mountains.

We stopped at Newfound Gap which straddles the Tennessee / North Carolina state line at an elevation of 5,048 feet. From there we drove the 7-mile road up to Clingmans Dome (which also runs on both sides of the state lines, but mostly the North Carolina side). Once there we parked in the parking lot, and then we walked the steep (12%-grade) half-mile paved trail up to the top of the observation tower. (That was a tough walk going up – much easier coming down.)

The 45-foot concrete tower – built in 1959 – stands at the summit of Clingmans Dome – the highest point in Tennessee (but not North Carolina) at 6,643 feet. It actually stands just across the border in North Carolina. The summit itself is the third-tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River, and it’s the highest point along the Appalachian Trail.

The views can be spectacular from the tower (and even from the parking lot 330 feet lower than the tower) on sunny and clear days. I remember it to be very cool up there on that early August morning – in the low-to-mid-50s – about 25 to 30 degrees cooler than it was in Gatlinburg Tennessee and Cherokee North Carolina at both park ends of U.S. 441. Of course on many days you may not see much of anything – because you’re in the clouds. You’re on top of old Smoky.

WEBCAM (with current weather conditions)

I’m going to make it back to Gatlinburg – and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – and Newfound Gap – and Clingmans Dome – sometime on a future road-trip during my upcoming retirement. And when I do I’ll take pictures. (I don’t believe that any pictures exist from this trip of exactly 30 years ago.)

I mentioned the Appalachian Trail above. Next #TravelThursday I’m staying on the trail to reminisce about my fun (and not-so-fun) experiences on it during the late-1970s as a Boy Scout. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

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Skyline Drive + Blue Ridge Parkway

#TravelThursday continues, and in this edition we visit 574 miles of scenic roadway up in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina.

Several years ago I planned (via Excel spreadsheet) a road-trip that encompassed both Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a very ambitious itinerary that – looking back upon it – is almost undoable. It had me flying-in to Washington Dulles International Airport and renting a car there. I’d get on the I-66 westbound, and I’d take that to Front Royal where I’d spend the night.

On the morning of Day 2 I’d begin my mountain adventure and embark on Skyline Drive – the 105½-mile slow and curvy road that runs near the top of the entire length of Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I’d visit Luray Caverns on this day. It’s 11 miles off Skyline Drive. I remember a long time ago – sometime in the mid-1970s – visiting this place as a little kid with my parents. I need to visit it again to enjoy it as an older adult. The area has grown-up a lot since then, and the caverns are surrounded by other museums and attractions.

I’d spend my 2ND night of this road-trip in Fishersville Virginia – located in-between the south-end of Skyline Drive and the north-end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Days 3, 4, and 5 were quite ambitious in that I would drive the entire length of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway from Virginia into North Carolina (with various attraction and hotel stops along the way). At the end of the 5TH day I’d end-up in Gatlinburg Tennessee on the other side of the Great Smoky Mountains. I suppose I would’ve spent several days and nights in Gatlinburg exploring the area. After that I would’ve turned-in my rental car, and flown back home to sea level in Miami.

So while I extensively planned that road-trip – I never took it. I’ve not lost interest in taking that trip, and I probably will take it in the next several years – early-on in the next chapter of my life – post-retirement. I think I’d eliminate the Gatlinburg Tennessee portion of the future trip, as that’s worthy of its own trip by itself. Me and my little brother visited Gatlinburg for several hours back in August of 1992 – a few weeks after a horrible fire consumed a portion of the downtown attractions district. I remember that it still reeked of smoke some 3 weeks after the fire. I’d really like to spend about 4 days and 3 nights in and around Gatlinburg enjoying all that the area has to offer. I’d really like to visit Gatlinburg with my family (who live in North Texas), but I don’t think that it’s a destination that my brother, sister-in-law, and two nieces would find as much fun as me. They are not “mountain people”. They are “beach people”.

Now the Skyline Drive + Blue Ridge Parkway road-trip – that’s definitely a solo trip. Perhaps I’ll do it in reverse – from south to north – over the course of maybe 10 days instead of 5 – adding more stops for sightseeing, photography, attractions, and good mountain dining and lodging. Of course I’d drive my own car for the road-trip. It’s about 830 miles to drive from my current home in South Florida to the south-end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina. Once I hit Front Royal Virginia (at the north-end of the 574-mile parkway adventure) I’d take more traditional roads back southward, and the Andy Griffith Museum and the Billy Graham Library would be key stops along the way through the foothills of North Carolina.

I think it’s time to start redoing that itinerary (via Excel spreadsheet) so that it’s ready to implement in about 3 to 5 years. I’ll have over 2,500 miles to cover !

Join me next #TravelThursday as we visit another location on the face of this earth.

They keep you safe on your way, and your feet will not stumble. You can go to bed without fear. You will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the LORD is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. (Proverbs 3:23-26 NLT)

All rights reserved (c) 2021 Christopher M. Day, CountUp Ministries