When we left Cades Cove, we headed back to New Found Gap Road, which would take us back to the entrance of the Smoky Mountains. This time it was nice and sunny out for our drive back. We could see more of the scenery and actually saw a beaver on the side of the road. More people were out now. We passed the Laurel Falls Trailhead, but there were no empty parking spaces left. I would try again later on. The Sugarlands Visitor Center was coming up soon. My daughter had her Junior Ranger book ready, so we set out. Our first stop was to Clingman’s Dome.
|Looking out at the top of Clingman's Dome|
Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains (6,643 Feet High) it is the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. The trail up is very steep, but is paved. At only .5 miles, the trail is still rated moderate.We pulled into the parking lot and grabbed our backpacks and camera to start the hike up. There have been bear sightings here, so I was sure to have my bear spray on me just in case. My daughter insisted on bringing the walking stick, I was like “It is only .5 miles, but go ahead.” So we started out, it was cold, 60 degrees, and yes that is cold to us Floridians. You could also tell the people from Florida, because we were the only ones with jackets on.
Ok they said this trail was steep and they were not kidding. I had to keep resting and yes, I used the walking stick, I could not catch my breath and I love walking at home. Maybe it was the altitude, since I am used to flat land. My daughter had no problem, specially when she was like “What, we have to stop again?’ In my head I thought “GGGGRRRRRR.” Well, we finally made it to the top. It was foggy today and could not see much, but I hear on a clear day, that you are able to see eleven states!
Going back down the trail was not hard at all and we took off our jackets, it was now hot. Before we could get back down the trail, it started to rain, I was so proud of myself that I was prepared with rain coats in our backpacks. On the way down, you pass the entrance to get on the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail is 2,181 miles long and runs from Maine all the way down to Georgia.I had to get my picture by the Appalachian Trail sign, so I could say I was on it, even though it was for five minutes. It was still raining by the time we got to the Clingmans Dome gift shop. We got back in the car and continued our travel.
It had stopped raining, but was cloudy still. We arrived at Mingus Mill. We got out and explored the area. This is also a checklist on the Junior Ranger Booklet. We went in the mill and a nice gentleman inside explained how the mill worked and signed the Junior Ranger booklet. We went to explore some trails in the area and it started to rain again.
We went back to the car and traveled to Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The Oconaluftee Visitor Center has a Mountain Farm Museum on it. The rain had stopped and the sun was out in full swing. The humidity was intense and we still had on our jeans. There was a river next to the visitor center and some people brought their own inner tubes and were tubing in the river.
My daughter completed all her tasks to become a Junior Ranger so she turned in her book at the Ranger desk in the visitor center. She had to take an oath and then received a Junior Ranger pin and certificate.
Next we headed into Cherokee, NC to eat. Cherokee is just as congested at Gatlinburg. We found Hardees and ate there. After we were finished eating, we continued our drive back to Gatlinburg. This time we stopped at New Found Gap. We took our picture next to the North Carolina/Tennessee Border.
It was cold and foggy again up at this elevation. It was also very windy and you could tell a storm was blowing in, so we decided to continue on.
I do have a short video of how the weather was at New Found Gap. Remember this was during the month of July and at New Found Gap it was in the 60's.
By the time we got back to the Sugarland Visitor Center, it was sunny out again, so I decided to drive over to Laurel Falls one more time, to see if I could find parking. To my disappointment, still no parking. We then went back to the Lodge, for some swimming and relaxation.
We did this road trip in 2011.