Clingmans Dome, 6,643ft
Dates climbed: 1996; March 1999; June 14, 2006
ur quest for the state high points began in 1996 with Clingmans Dome. For this reason it holds an extra special place in my state high points collection. Since then we’ve summitted it two other times.
It also has what I believe to be the coolest state high point name. It’s too cool for a “mount” or “peak” or “hill”—only “dome” is worthy of it. The coolness of its name is potentially rivaled only by Delaware’s “Ebright Azimuth.”
1st Ascent: 1996. Unfortunately the records for this early ascent are scarce. I remember there being a lot of snow though.
2nd Ascent: March 1999. Sometime in middle school we started backpacking the Smokies with our dad. With the money we had earned from digging and selling Ginseng in Kentucky we were able to purchase some nice backpacking equipment which we put to the test in the Smokies.
A critical turning point in our backpacking career came when we visited the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico in 2000. We went on a 60 mile trek and learned the essentials of what gear and food to take, how to pack, and how to be bear-safe. After being empowered by Philmont we started visiting the Smokies twice a year for four-day treks with our Dad and Jacob: once during Spring Break and once during Fall Break.
In the Smokies we learned how to deal with rain. We became pros with navigating creek crossings.
During one four-day hike I remember we got about six inches of rain and at one stream crossing we actually had to throw logs into the creek to build our own bridge. A few miles later we had to take a different trail because the creek crossing we were planning on taking had turned into a raging muddy river. Hiking in the Smokies toughened us up.
Back to Clingmans Dome. We climbed to the summit for the second time in March 1999 during a Spring Break hike with our Dad and Jacob. It was nice because it was still early enough in the season that the road was closed, which meant that we had the summit all to ourselves and wouldn’t have to deal with all the tourists.
Afterwards we hiked a few miles down the road and descended on a trail into the valley. That night an epic rainstorm struck. By the morning the creek we had planned to ford turned into the Amazon River and entire trees floated by. Luckily we found another trail and made it back to the car after some hitchhiking.
3rd Ascent: We climbed Clingmans Dome for the third time while we were hiking the Appalachian Trail. Up to that point we had enjoyed relative solitude on the 150 miles of trail we had hiked since Springer Mountain in Georgia. But as we emerged from the “Green Tunnel” into the visitor’s complex at Clingmans Dome we were astounded by the number of people. We hadn’t seen that many people for a couple of weeks. While walking to the summit on the asphalt road we even had to wait behind a couple of wheelchairs and senior citizens in high heels. That was probably the most crowded section of the A.T.