Clingman's Dome in the Evenning Fog

Risk's TrailJournal

Clingman's Dome to Hot Springs, NC

August 21 - 26 2004

A 75 mile section hike


21 August, Saturday Evening

I drove from Dayton to Hot Springs arriving at about 2 Pm, having left at 0700 in the morning. 376 miles.

I checked in to the outfitter and met Daniel who would be driving me at 5PM. The reason for the delay is that The traffic in Gatlinburg can keep one from getting through the town until after supper. 

I noticed a sound in the truck when I was in Hot Springs. I do not know what that was, though it did not sound all that serious.

I parked in the little parking lot that Diane, Will, and I had walked through last year when we walked to the first shelter south of Hot Springs. 

The drive down to Clingman's Dome was nice. Daniels wife and another hiking friend sat in the back seat. 

My driver Daniel and his wife


On arriving at the top of the Dome road, the wind was picking up and there was lots of fog. I said my goodbyes and headed up to the tower, taking a picture of it in the fog, and then found the northbound AT.

I began at 715 PM, and it took 2 hours to hike the 4 miles to the Mt Collins Shelter. It began to get dark after an hour, and I put my headlight on. Unfortunately, the fog was very thick and all the light did was to light up the fog right in front of me. Worse, my glasses were fogged and would not dry because of the fog. 

It took concentration not to begin to panic. I needed to watch very carefully for the path, not step in large puddles, and keep looking for the sign to the shelter.

In the end, finding the sign and then the shelter was not very difficult. There were several people in the shelter, mostly tying to get to sleep. One fellow had his two sons, 10 and 12 on their first AT hike. One of them had waited up all hours the night before to see a bear. No bear. This night one was reading by the light of a candle.

After setting out my bag and pad, I went to sleep. It quickly became obvious that there were a number of mice, so I got back up and put my pack on a mouse hanger.

I slept fitfully on the hard pad, mainly bemoaning my to small pillow of clothing. In the middle of the night, I got quite cold in my Frog Sac and put my long under wear on. I did find it pleasant to hang my feet out the other end of the bag, as this did not make me cold, and it dried my socks quite quickly. Score one for the Frog Sac.   


Let's do some hiking (Kilt in the woods)

Sunday, 22 August

Woke this morning, still in the fog. Breakfast of cold pop tarts and then on my way. 


Low Head Room!

The going was easy to the parking lot at Newfound gap, which I reached at 1030, and ate a snack. Still in fog. 


Newfound Gap in Fog

Next stop was Ice Water Spring hut, which I reached at noon. I had a conversation with Sid (Jeremiah) who did a thru hike back in 2001 and still attempts to get out and hike every weekend he can. 


AT Thruhiker (01) Jeremiah

I filled up with water from the spring by the shelter, knowing it was another 7 miles to Pecks Corner, where I was about to spend the night. 


Finally, Sun!

Somewhere in this distance, my left heel began to bother me. I had rashly decided to wear a pair of Jungle Boots that were just 2 days old, and now a blister was forming. I tried to treat the inside of the boot, the skin on my foot and to wear different socks. No dice. The blister grew to the size of a dime and burst. I am treating it with Bag Balm.


Clouds Below

The really nice views of the afternoon were very special. I took a number of photos of them. The stop at Charlie's Bunion was very nice, with great views. I met a fellow and two girls hiking there for lunch. I understand they will arrive here a little later to spend the night. 


Charlie's Bunion Approach

A look around the Bunion

As always, the mountains offer a little eye candy around every bend. 



The Bunion from across the ravine

Sheer rock faces

Pink seemed to be the color of the month in the Smoky Mountains  


Beautiful flowers dotted the landscape

Cloud trying to come over the hill at Peck's Corner

Cumulus clouds bring rain

There is another section hiker her tonight. His name is Wolf Hawk and he is from Columbus, OH.  One of the quietest hikers I have ever met!


Wolf Hawk at Peck's Corner

Time to get some reading in. I hope the foot does well tomorrow.

After the rain shower

Monday, 23 August


First day of school for William back in Ohio.

The day began after a restless night, turning on my hard pad a couple dozen times.  I was up at first light, ate breakfast and walked into another day of fog. 

Next Morning, the clouds cleared late

The worry of the day was the blister on the back of my right heel, caused by the new boots. I tried one thing and another without success. 

- borrowed a piece of moleskin last night, but it came off by morning. 
- piece of plastic inside sock next to the blister. It moved under my foot after a dozen steps.
- piece of Mylar bag from a Poptart. It also moved.
- piece of Mylar between two layers of socks. Worked for a half hour!
- Piece of Mylar between two layers of the inner sock, folded back under my heel. Worked for a while.. got me to lunch.


Trusty pack and hiking poles

At lunch, in the Tricorner Shelter, I met Ridgerunner Glenn Reynolds. He had a roll of duct tape and helped me to roll a couple feet onto my new poles. With this tape, I was able to tape a piece of plastic to the back of my heel. This made it possible to walk all afternoon, though my feet got awfully tired.  


Trail Runner who asked me for my camping permit

Pictures today: some nice pictures of fog among trees.  


The clouds settle back in among the dead trees at above 5000 feet

Blister, therapy # 4

These boots were not my friends about now!

This evening I am spending the night with several people about my age. -Sharon, Gene, Bill, John.   


Gene and John at Cosby Knob shelter

A couple stayed in a tent inside the shelter. David and Debbie...


Tent in the shelter

There was lots of room, the shelter was very sturdy, and I asked if anyone minded if I get more sleep and snore less.  No one thought finding a way to get me to snore less was a bad idea.  


So, hammock in the shelter - first good night's sleep in 3 days

Tuesday, Aug 24

Began the morning at Cosby Knob. I had to do some work to figure out a way to keep my foot from hurting. But in the end, a piece of plastic wrap from PopTarts between my sock and the skin worked out pretty well. 

Rain brings green

Rain and horses mean mud

Looking forward to some nice views from Mt. Cammerer, I was not disappointed. This 0.6 mile diversion is certainly worth the walk, even when each step hurts a little.  


Mt Cammerer

View North

View South

History marker at Mt Cammerer

The mountain used to be called Sharp Top in 1928

View East over the clouds

View West

When I got to Davenport Gap, I was a little disappointed that Mt Momma's was not right on the trail. Guessing that it was 1.5 miles to the east (but not knowing - this ended up being right), I decided to forgo the treat of a cheeseburger. 

I continued down the trail, stopping at State Line branch to do some cleaning up. Then down to the Waterville Schoolhouse Road, across the Pigeon River (where a number of rafts of people were making their way down the river) and under I-40. If it were not for a brief shower, I would have taken a picture of the rafts in the river...

Entering the trail, I walked about an hour and ran into a sign for a hiker hostel that I had never heard of. Standing Bear Farm, hosted by Curtis Owen and Maria Guzman is a great place to stop. $15 bought me a night over a burbling brook, a shower, laundry and a place to do cooking. Oh, and a phone to send in some of these trip reports.   


Standing Bear Farm, a Hiker's Hostle

My cabin over the creek

Kitchen Pavilion (R) and Laundry/phone (Ahead)

Creek coming under the cabin and porch


My room with the french doors

Giant Ragweed next to my cabin

Wednesday 25 August

After a wonderful night at the Standing Bear Hostel, I had breakfast at the truck stop with Curtis. Back on the trail by 0830. During the night, I had treated the broken blister on my left foot with some of my stove alcohol to kill any bacteria growing in the wet base of the blister. I also massaged it some to get used to pressure on it, and then slept with my feet outside the bottom of the Frog Sac in order to dry the blister.


Two white marks signify a right turn

Today, I just folded the liner sock back with a layer of plastic wrapper between the folds. This worked very well and I was able to walk a full 15 miles to Max Patch and a little beyond. 


Climbing Snowbird Mountain

VORTAC on Snowbird

Other side of Snowbird

Can I hike the 20 miles to Hot Springs tomorrow?  


A perfect spring - directly out of the hill - no house for miles

Groundhog Creek Shelter. - a mouse's dream house

What a relief it is to be hiking outside the Smoky Mountains!  The trails are MUCH easier to walk, with no mud and few rocks in the path.  Good time can be made here!  Also lacking are the "crowded paths" of the national park.  

Climbing Max Patch

I would end up meeting only two day hikers in this full day on the trail, both after I set up for the night.

View 1

View 2

View 3 - to south

View 4 to west

Mark Booth doing survey work atop Max Patch

Fancy GPS antenna and recorder

The Max Patch marker

View 5 East

View 6 North

Cutting Hay on Max Patch

I am lying here in my hammock on the edge of Max Patch, in a little camping spot just inside the woods on the north side of the fields. The sky has been drizzling some this afternoon, and I now hear some thunder inthe distance. I had so hoped for a clear view of the sky tonight to see the stars. Maybe another time.

It looked, according to my map, that there would be no more water after Brown Gap, so I cooked supper there about 3 PM. But it turns out that there is water just north of Max Patch Road. That is a full 3 miles closer to my campsite here, where there is no water source.

It is 650 in the evening. I have set up camp, made a reconnoitering trip about, and now it is time to sit back and get some reading and then to bed. It will only be light for about another hour. I do look forward to a good nights sleep tonight.


Camp 1 - Max Patch

It did not take much wind coming off the Patch at 55 deg to convince me that I would be warmer down lower in the valley system.  I picked up, packed, and walked another hour until dark, finding a great stealth camping spot.    


Warmer camp #2 - an hour further on (stealth campsite)

Thursday, 26 August

This morning I know I have almost 20 miles to walk.  It is just a matter of finding the right way to walk on my foot.   


Fields of flowers

This beautiful little shelter is just Max Patch and has a skylight!  


Roaring Fork Shelter

In places the forest is scarred by recent fire, yet it is recovering.  


Open woods, byproduct of fire a year ago

This dump of a shelter (Walnut Mountain) is just 2 miles past the one above  It is a mouse paradise, not somewhere I would like to stay.  


Walnut Mountain Shelter through the trees

But it does have a new toilet building.  


Brand New Privy!

Maybe I was feeling a little psychedelic when I took the picture.  I was sitting on the ground wonderirng if I was going to finish in time to go home on Thursday night.  


Persistent Toadstool

And for the last few hours, all I could think about was a good meal at the Diner, where I wolfed down baked potato and  Country Style Steak at 445 PM.  


Reward dinner at the Smoky Mountain Diner
My new truck second from right.

I finished in Hot Springs right at 5 PM, hopped in the truck and drove back to Dayton, arriving about 1130 PM.  

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