Smoky Mountains Family Vacation: Clingman's Dome/Appalachian Trail

Smoky Mountains Family Vacation 

Day 3: Clingman's Dome and the Appalachian Trail

A kiss to build a dream on...

I had high hopes of following the guidelines of arrival suggested in the “literature” for Clingman’s Dome.  “Plan to park around 8am.”  No problem.  Right?

Who am I kidding?  You know me.

We, finally, left around 11, and I decided noon would be a good time for everyone else to go have lunch, so we could have the place to ourselves.

No dice.

Given I left my phone in the car, I was at the mercy of this guy πŸ‘†for the entire "Clingman's Dome Camera Roll."

If we hadn’t passed the entrance to Alum Cave and (rather arrogantly, I admit) marveled over the abundance of poor fools who missed out on our much-less-crowded rainy adventure, we might have been discouraged when the cars stopped moving about 3 miles from the entrance to Clingman’s Dome.  Our spirits remained high until, after about a half hour (that seemed like 10) and we had only crept maybe 10 ft.  It was at this point I uttered a prayer, “Please, DEAR GOD, help us find 2 parking spots together!”

By heaven, my eyes were opened, at that exact instance, to exactly two openings on the left-hand side - one beside each of our cars.  Matt, nervously, hesitated at my suggestion that (despite the fact that all the cars in front of us had passed these spots) they were perfectly safe and, in fact, had our names written ALL OVER them.

Besides…if I had to endure one more episode of the Mandolorian on the loudspeaker…

I can not.

Ironically, it was at this same time that groups of departing sight-seers began heckling the cars in line, “You really ought to take these spots.”

Had I buckets of anointing oil, I would have doused my new friends (the last and most convincing kind woman, all the more).  Alas, I will assume my prayers sufficed as blessing enough.

I (unknowingly) left my phone behind and dragged those children the last mile up the road, on foot, to our number 2 goal destination: Clingman’s Dome.

I, personally, am glad I chose this day to wear my dress and leggings.  It’s important to look your best at the height of the world (or state, at least).  Though, I will admit about 10 ft into the beginning of our .5 mile (“easy”) hike to the summit, I determined NEVER AGAIN to trust the trail assessment of a hiking website.

A little ways into the trail = signs for upcoming rest stops for weary travelers.  We were likely too late in the year (and in the day, for that matter) to encounter any thru-hikers), but we appreciated the experience we did get.

Granted…it was a paved 1/2 mile.  So, on paper, the terrain and the distance do equate to make for an “easy” trail.  Future reviewers, though, may be persuaded to include the fact that THE WHOLE HALF MILE WAS A STRAIGHT UP INCLINE!!!!  (And I wouldn’t even be getting “credit” or blog pics…because I left my phone in the blasted car! Ugh. Growl.  Sigh.)

Not to fear - I persevered and (practically) sprinted to the top.  (I am of the rip-off-the-bandaid variety.)  I only made a couple of short stops to catch my breath AND take a photo at the sign marking the Appalachian trail (noting I could stop and enjoy on my much more pleasant DE-cline).

As suspected, our suffering was rewarded with incredible views (and we were reminded, again, at the timeliness of our chosen order - we would NOT have wanted this panorama to be obscured by yesterday’s rain clouds)!

From the top of Clingman's Dome.  That's the Appalachian trail heading off to the right.

Ahhhhhh...this is why we do what we do.  

Every special little moment on this trip re-reminded (is that redundant?) of what it is that makes this life worthwhile.  I think the last 7 years have been slowly stripping my mind of the goal.  What a beautiful creation we are called to (not only steward, but also) enjoy.

I guess I REALLY needed a breath of FRESH air.

I did stop, as we descended, to make my way along a small piece of the Appalachian Trail.  It has been a long-held fascination of mine (since we watched a documentary circa 2010).  I have come to the realization that a thru hike is not likely, in my lifetime, but...I am learning to adjust my expectations (which I may or may not admit, tend to be excessive), and I am contented with the fact that I stepped foot on that same path which other (more adventurous) souls have traversed.

We also rewarded our faithful drivers with a little "sampler" treat.

We rewarded the kids' 2-day hiking efforts with lunch out (our only restaurant the entire trip!), and an evening of shopping in Gatlinburg.  

It was a little (minuscule?) less touristy than Pigeon Forge, and Xander (currently, the only one with money to spare...🀣) found some fun local flavors to enjoy.  

My girls...πŸ’•

The kids and I enjoyed meeting "Snoopy" at the local CBD shop.    

I mean, I wasn't planning on going in, but who could resist this little/big guy?!!!

Matt, Evan and one of Evan's several souvenir's enjoyed the VW Van posing station (pay no attention to the feet beneath the van...)

I finally had to shout, "Could you at least look in my direction?!!"  This is the best he could do.

And we ALL had a lovely time sitting in the shade and listening to the bluegrass band, while resting from a full day of active vacationing.  

I could have stayed awhile, thinking of a certain couple of people and how much they would have enjoyed the music.  Sometimes, it takes hardship and loss to remind you to stop, breath and appreciate...

Check out the link: Seth Mulder and Midnight Run

After a second-in-a-row busy day, we were all happy to return "home" and relax in the luxurious amenities.  After responding to one to many crabby complaints, God knows I needed those quiet moments on the deck watching the sun go down on a lovely, mountainous world.  And it is in the quiet reflection that I silently proclaimed "Tomorrow is a sleep-in day!"

The masses were appeased.