On the Trail with Rock Stars – A.T., MST and Forney Ridge

Yesterday’s hike with was difficult to scout, difficult to set up but the payoff was great.

Several years ago, Holly D., NC director of Friends of the Smokies, wanted a hike on Forney Ridge Trail off Clingmans Dome to show off the beautiful rock work, funded by Friends Trails Forever program. The trail goes from the Clingmans Dome parking lot to Andrews Bald. But 3.4 miles (round-trip) was not going to get me (or most hikers) to drive almost two hours to Clingmans Dome from Asheville.

So I devised a hike that would take us from the Fork Ridge Trail on the Clingmans Dome Road on the A.T. and Mountains-to-Sea Trail to Clingmans Done Tower and then continue onto Andrews Bald. We had to have cars at the Dome and at the trailhead; something that some hikers couldn’t picture.

“Don’t worry about it,” I kept saying. “It will work out.”

Twenty-two hikers started on the A.T./MST section. We met Brian, a backcountry ranger, who asked if we were camping. Now, seeing a backcountry ranger on the MST is rarer than seeing a bear. I think it’s my first sighting.

The trail is rough here and it took us until lunchtime to get to the tower where we had lunch. After lunch, we walked down the paved trail to the Forney Ridge Trail. Who should we see but Leanna Joyner, from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy? She was in full hiking gear, on her way to check out a relo on the A.T.

Tobias Miller, a rock star, met us at the trailhead. Tobias is one of the park folks responsible for the beautiful rehab work on the Forney Ridge trail.

He’s the head of maintenance in the park and so much more. He talked to us about the work involved in making this trail as walkable as it is.

Holly joined us at Andrews Bald and reiterated how important the Trails Forever fund is for the park. The current rehab project is the Chimney Tops Trail, which we hope to walk next year.

Thank you, Anna Lee, for so ably sweeping the hike. And thanks to J.P. for also sweeping, so Anna Lee could talk to others on the trail.

I’m on the road right now for my current project (the Southeastern National Park units). But sign up with Anna Lee for the October 14 hike in Cataloochee. I promise that the hike setup won’t be as challenging.

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

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