Some states know to to mark their highest point, and some don’t. Unlike South Carolina, Tennessee knows how to make a visitor feel welcome. On Tuesday, August 19, 2008 we successfully reached the highest point of Tennessee, know as Clingman’s Dome. It was 6,643 feet high, and made even higher by a concrete observation platform.
The drive up to the peak was one of the better drives we have taken thus far. The road was a fairly new road, with a smooth surface. The usual winding back and forth for tens of miles made everyone very eager to get to the top. When we finally arrived, it was a very, very popular tourist attraction. There were more cars here than in North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell’s parking lot. I would guess at least 30 cars were parked here, with people of all types there to make the summit.
From the parking lot, there is a paved path up to the observation tower, which is about a half-mile in length. It is a fairly steep grade, making those people who aren’t as physically fit out of breath. They have several benches along the way, but we made it just fine. I had to carry Daddy’s Little Girl for about five minutes, but otherwise everyone made it just fine. I found it really funny to see people with hiking sticks, water bottles, backpacks, and hiking boots. Then there were elderly people, people who were obviously overweight, and even a person in front of me wearing flip-flops. It attracts all types.
When we finally reached the observation tower, it looked like a giant spiral sidewalk. It rose about 50 feet into the air, and took only a couple of minutes to walk up. The view from the top was fantastic. My only complaint was that the view was obscured by clouds or smog. One sign at the top told us the view was decreasing over time due to pollution from coal-fired power plants. The sign at the bottom near the parking lot told us the view was obscured because of the heavy amount of water being carried into the air. Either way, the view was magnificent, but could have been better if there were no clouds or smog.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a sign at the top for a photographic moment. We looked around the base of the tower for a geological marker, but couldn’t find it. We later found it on our way down to the parking lot, near the start of the trail by a large rock outcrop.
I was very impressed by the time and effort that Tennessee put into marking this place. It was obvious that it attracted a lot of visitors each year, and people enjoyed being able to see the view. If other states are like this, I will be very impressed. South Carolina has a long way to go to match this high point.