I think I’ve said before that we love the high elevation spruce fir forest in the Smokies. Any of the trails accessible from Clingmans Dome Road are among our favorites. The Appalachian Trail runs along the crest, but the numerous other trails that junction with the AT or with the road are also nice hikes. Of course, all of these trails except for the AT are heading downhill which means (unless you’ve run a shuttle) the last half of your hike is an uphill climb. Some things are just worth it.
We didn’t do that, however. We started at the top and hiked down about three miles then turned around and hiked back up to the car.
The parking area on Clingmans Dome Road is at the Fork Ridge trailhead. The parking area is really a couple of small pull outs which will accommodate about 6 cars. There is a signpost almost directly across the street from the Fork Ridge Trail which directs you to the Appalachian Trail. This short access trail goes right up to the AT where we turned left, or Southbound. Sugarland Mountain Trail intersects the AT in two-tenths of a mile.
We had gotten an early start so were ready to start hiking by 8:30. We were surprised to feel the nip in the air when we got out of the car at 6000 ft. We could actually see our breath! What a relief from the oppressive heat down below. I love the early morning in the Smokies with the sun beams shining through the trees and the fog.
It was a treat to see trail blazes along the short distance we hiked on the AT. The Appalachian Trail is the only trail inside the Park which is blazed. It was comforting seeing those white rectangles guiding our way.
|British Soldier moss. I think it's really a lichen, not a moss.|
Another tenth of a mile down the trail brought us to another side trail to a piped spring. This is the water source for the shelter and it was flowing nicely after last night’s thunderstorms. A tenth of a mile doesn’t sound like far, but carrying a couple quarts of water uphill can make it seem like a long way.
We continued our journey downhill. Instead of hiking distance today we were hiking time. After our long hike on Monday, we wanted something much shorter today. We had determined that we would hike for two hours then turn around.
On our way back, we took the short side trail to Mt Collins Shelter. This shelter, like the others in the Park, has been renovated. The overnight guests had vacated the place and we had it all to ourselves. We took a long lunch break here before hiking the last half mile to the car.
|We found a large patch of these pink turtleheads|
That’s all for today. Thanks for tagging along.