Scouting a Hike with new Friends of the Smokies Staff

I’ve always said that every hike is different, even if the trails are the same.

A couple of days ago, I scouted a hike for the September 9 Friends of the Smokies hike with Anna Lee Zanetti, the new Development & Outreach Associate in the North Carolina office. Friends had decided that it was time to move up from interns, as good as they were, to permanent staff. So, welcome, Anna Lee.

Anna Lee comes with great qualifications and most important to me, she is eager to hike. Yippee! Here she is on top of Clingmans Dome at the western end of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

We scouted a hike that shows off so many important aspects of the park. We started on the Clingmans Dome road and walked westbound on the MST, which is also southbound on the Appalachian Trail.

This section, among the spruce-fir forest, is the only piece of trail where the MST and A.T. are concurrent. We met a couple of A.T. southbounders and even a flip-flopper. The guy had started in Hot Springs, walked to Katahdin, Maine. Then he got himself back to Hot Springs and is walking south to Springer, GA. I made sure that he knew that he was also on the MST.

At the Clingmans Dome tower, Anna Lee and I hunkered down and had our lunch. The assortment of people who had come up from the parking lot were not prepared for the wind and fog.

Here’s an Eastern View from Clingmans Dome but we couldn’t see the ocean. Hah! Hah! or even Mt. Mitchell. I don’t think this will win a prize in the MST photo contest. I’ve got to try harder.

Once back in the parking lot, we walked out to Andrews Bald on Forney Ridge Trail. This was the first trail that was rehabilitated with money from Trails Forever, funded by Friends of the Smokies. The view at Andrews Bald was magnificent. See the top picture.

Getting a Ride back to our cars

Our car was about 3.5 miles down the road from Clingmans Dome. We could have taken two cars but it was an long, long way to drive from Asheville. So I suggested to Anna Lee that we could probably get a ride back to our car. She was a little skeptical.

“Or worse come to worse, we could walk back another 3.6 miles” I said.

When we got to Andrews Bald, I looked around for a likely driver to give us a ride. A couple from northern Michigan was enjoying the view and I went to chat with them.

The view, Friends of the Smokies, wasn’t the Forney Ridge trail beautiful? And oh, any chance we could get a ride from you back to our car?

Of course, they said.

They got back to the parking lot only a few minutes after us, found their car, and picked us up at the trail sign. It was so easy that it didn’t even challenge my skills at getting a ride.

Anna Lee and I will lead the hike on Tuesday September 9. We will have enough cars so I won’t have to get rides for everyone. But if you want to really challenge me…

To register for this or any upcoming Classic Hike of the Smokies, contact AnnaLee@friendsofthesmokies.org or 828-452-0720.

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