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.
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