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The two RV Gypsies at Clingman's Dome
in Great Smoky Mountain National Park
August 27, 2020

and Flashbacks to 1978 and 2004 at the bottom of this page

history bookClingmans Dome or Clingman's Dome is a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, in the southeastern United States. At an elevation of 6,643 feet, it is the highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the highest point in the state of Tennessee, and the highest point along the 2,192-mile Appalachian Trail. It is also the third highest point in mainland Eastern North America, after the nearby Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mount Craig (6,647).

Clingman's Dome has two sub peaks: 6,560-foot Mount Buckley to the west and 6,400-foot Mount Love to the east. The mountain is located entirely within the Tennessee River watershed.

Clingmans Dome is protected as part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A paved road connects it to U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road). The 45-foot concrete observation tower, built in 1959 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, offers a panoramic view of the mountains, depending on the weather.

The Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest which covers Clingmans Dome occurs only at the highest elevations in the southeastern United States, and has more in common with forests at northern latitudes than with the forests in the adjacent valleys.

Clingmans Dome stands prominently above the surrounding terrain, rising nearly 5,000 feet from base to summit. The forest on and around Clingmans Dome has experienced a large die-off of Fraser fir caused by the non-native insect, balsam woolly adelgid.

Above quote from

road to Clingman's Dome
road to Clingman's Dome

Below: Trails near the parking lot that are not meant for hiking due to their roughness.

Trails near the parking lot
Trails near the parking lot
Trails near the parking lot
sign - Mountains, Refuge and Healing

Below: Lots of people on the rocks at the bottom of the hill in 2020 - and a FLASHBACK to 1978 with Renee Duquette on the same rocks. Nobody else was around in 1978.

Lots of people on the rocks
Renee Duquette on the rocksFlash Back sign
rock divider bar

Below: Lee Duquette, August 27, 2020 by some big boulders.

Lee Duquette
Lee Duquette

A half-mile paved trail leads from the parking lot to the 45-foot observation tower at the top of the mountain. At the beginning of the short, very steep trail a 12 percent grade, there is a small visitor information center and park store staffed by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, garbage cans, and numerous benches to the side of the path. (This did not exist in 1978, the first time Karen and Lee were here (with their children and Karen's Aunt Hazel Brink).

Clingmans Dome trail sign

Below: Do NOT be fooled by the sign above saying it is a 1/2 mile trail. That might be straight up as the crow flies perhaps, but the curves in the trail definitely made it more than a 1/2 mile trail hike. And the extreme steepness (a 12 percent grade) made it a really tough trail to walk. The two RV Gypsies and their two children, and Karen's Aunt Hazel walked this trail in 1978 with no problem. But now in 2020, Karen found it quite exhausting and apparently so did almost everyone else over the age of 25 - because they were all complaining and breathing heavily. Actually some young children were laying on the ground saying, "I'm tired". And they were begging their parents to carry them.

Lee Duquette is in the picture below and that is when he turned around. But by doing so, he got to see a bonus that Karen Duquette did not get to see. - Check out the Sun Halo a bit lower down this page.

Lee Duquette made it only a short distance

After Karen Duquette took a few rest stops, she finally made it to the top. She forgot to bring water with her.


Below: Clingmans Dome Observation Tower was built in 1959. The 45-foot tall concrete observation tower features a circular observation platform accessed by a spiral ramp. The ramp is 375 feet in length, and rises at a 12 percent grade, in synch with the Clingmans Dome Trail. The platform, 28 feet in diameter, allows spectators a 360-degree panorama of the surrounding terrain.

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

Karen Duquette tried to take a video as she walked around the circular tower, but had to aim the camera to the sky often to get around all of the people. She will try to post this video later.

the 12 percent grade spiral ramp.
the 12 percent grade spiral ramp
the 12 percent grade spiral ramp

Below: Karen Duquette at the top
of the Clingmans Dome tower. 2020

Looking down from the tower
at people below.

Karen Duquette
people below the tower

Below: A glimpse of the often hostile environment of highland Appalachia, passing through the spruce-fir forest and its accompanying blow downs and dead Fraser Firs.

hostile environment of highland Appalachia
hostile environment of highland Appalachia

Cantilevered signs point out the various peaks, ridges, cities, and other features visible in the distance. Depending on the haze, visibility ranges from 20 miles on hazy days to 100 miles on very clear days. It was not a very clear day on this date

sign about the old wooden tower

Back down at the bottom of the tower, Karen Duquette took a few pictures looking up at the tower before descending back down the trail to the parking lot.

Clingman's Dome
Clingman's Dome
Clingman's Dome

Then Karen Duquette began the trip down the hill, which was a bit easier than on the way up. Just as people laughed at her when she was on her way up, she laughed at the other people on their way up as she was on her way down. And when they asked Karen if they were almost there, she just laughed, which was the same response she got from people on the way down when she was on the way up.

Appalachian Trail and signs

Appalachian Trail and signs
Appalachian Trail and signs
Appalachian Trail and signs

Meanwhile, while Lee Duquette was in the parking lot, he looked up at the sky and saw a Sun Halo.

The dictionary definition of a Sunbow (plural sunbows): A bow or arc of prismatic colors like a rainbow, caused by refraction through a spray of water from a cataract, waterfall, fountain, etc., rather than through droplets of rain. When there are high cirrus clouds in the atmosphere, (as on this date), ice crystals form in the cirrus clouds high in the atmosphere forming a Sun Halo. So this was really a Sun Halo.

Sun Halo.
Flash Back signclock running backwards

Below: FLASHBACK to September 9, 2004 - Karen Duquette at the top of the tower and on the path back down to where Lee Duquette was waiting for her. He did not want to go up the tower, even back in 2004.

Karen Duquette at the top of the tower  2004
Karen Duquette leaving Clingman's Dome tower

Below: FLASHBACK TO LEE ON THE TRAIL IN 2004 Notice that there were only a few other people on the trail, unlike in 2020, when the trail was very full of people everywhere.

Lee Duquette in 1978
the trail in 1978

Below: Karen Duquette, her children Renee and Brian, and her cherished Aunt Hazel Brink at the bottom of the tower in 1978. That sign was no longer there in 2020.

Hazel Brink at Climgman's Dome  
map of mountains seen from Clingman's Dome
view from Clingman's Dome
view from Clingman's Dome

look below

go to the next adventure of the two RV GypsiesAfter Clingmans Dome 2020 in Tennessee, the two RV Gypsies took a day trip to nearby Cherokee, North Carolina.


back button If you came here from the full 2020 Tennessee menu, return there now to view TN in the order of your choice.