morning we were up at 5:50 again in search of a spectacular sunrise.
I thought it would be great to watch the sunrise from the Balds
near Rocky Top a few miles farther up the trail. Ate a Kit Kat candy
bar for breakfast this morning so I would not have to wake all the
rest with my supersonic jet engine Svea 123 stove used to boil water
and cook most of our meals. This stove is very reliable, somewhat
heavy, being made out of solid brass, and makes a loud blast furnace
sound when burning at full throttle. It is really nothing more than
a portable, pressurized Bunsen burner. At that time of the morning
it would have very rudely awakened every hiker in the park and put
more fear in their minds than the bear from the previous night.
The sun was mostly up when we topped out on the mountain nearest
the shelter; however, the views from around the Rocky Top and Thunderhead
area that morning were numerous and spectacular in the morning light.
There were no clouds in the sky, what clouds there were filled the
valleys below giving us that "on top of the world" feeling
as we traversed the ridge high above the rest of humanity. It was
a bit chilly at 40 degrees this morning at six o'clock, but later
warmed up. Spotted another deer in velvet along the trail.
After twelve miles of hiking, we stopped at Siler's Bald shelter
for lunch, then moved on toward Clingman's Dome. The weather held,
and we had many fine views on the trail as we marched toward the
highest point on the Appalachian Trail on Clingman's Dome. Clingman's
Dome is almost the highest point in the Smokies, but at 6630 feet
above sea level, is beat out by Mt. Mitchell, supposedly a few feet
taller. There is a futuristic-looking observation tower on the top
of Clingman's Dome that has a spiraling concrete walkway that takes
you to the top for a true 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains.
There are plaques facing each of the cardinal points of the compass
plus those in between with pictures of the views from that point,
all with each mountain peak labeled for your convenience. The view
was grand, but in some ways not as impressive as others. There were
good views from the top, but I felt somewhat of a letdown. Other
views we have had were better, this was just a 360 degree panorama.
Sure you might be able to see farther, but the mountains don't look
as cool as other places. I think it has to do with the fact that
the surrounding mountains appear smaller from so high up.
We pushed on past the summit to Mount Collins Shelter for the night.
This shelter is between ¼ and ½ mile off the Appalachian
Trail, but the location is remote, with a feeling of wilderness
complete with the smell of Christmas from the numerous Balsam Fir
trees that grow in the area.
We met a thru-hiker at the shelter named Wade
Skelton, who had begun hiking again at Clingman's Dome after
an off-trail stay somewhere. There is public access by car to Clingman's
Dome for those not willing to hike the thousands of feet up to see
the view. There were many little red squirrels around the shelter
darting here and there looking for food and a chance to steal ours.
Once the day is done and you settle into a shelter, the boredom
sometimes sets in. Jim could not find anything to do but think about
eating. I suggested he build a fire since it was cold and he
did not want to go to bed yet. If thru-hikers would hike during
the time that they get bored sitting around doing nothing, their
adventure would surely take a lot less time. The day usually seems
to be rush to the shelter and then sit and be bored. A strange life.
The draw of a shelter can be a powerful addiction
Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983