TN-Clingman’s Dome

Summit Date
July 27, 2002, around 7:45 am

Party
Ryan Cragun

Trip Report
Beautiful! The hike to this summit and the summit itself were the most beautiful I have been to yet. The valleys just below King’s Peak in Utah were gorgeous, but this peak and the hike to it were amazing.

I left my home in Cincinnati at around 2:00 am so I could be here just as the sun was coming up because I had 4 other highpoints I wanted to hit that day. I arrived at the parking area around 7:30 am. There were probably another 20 vehicles or so parked there but I couldn’t see many people. The view from the parking area alone was quite magnificent. You could see for quite a ways and it was just hill and valley for as far as you could see. Of course, there was still quite a bit of fog covering the surrounding area, but on Clingman’s I was above it so I was looking down into beautiful, mist-covered mountains and valleys.

I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed up the paved trail. Though it would be difficult and would require someone in very good condition to push them, an individual in a wheelchair could go all the way to the summit. The trail was very well-maintained with benches every couple hundred yards for people to rest on. But, best of all, the hike was pretty. There was no trash. The surrounding area looked pristine and untouched. Periodically I passed into areas where the trees broke and the vista opened up again. I passed just a couple people as I headed up the trail.

About 2/3 of the way up the trail, I heard some rustling off to the side of the trail. I looked to where I thought it was coming from and a deer jumped out of the brush right onto the trail about 100 feet in front of me. It looked at me as I scrambled to turn on my camera and then jumped into the brush on the other side. It stayed close to the trail and met up with a friend. I snapped a few pictures of the one that I had seen cross the path but couldn’t get a good picture of the two together. This little run in with nature just made the hike more enjoyable and more serene.

As I rounded the last corner before the tower, there was a slight mist and the sun was poking its rays through the trees onto the trail. Again, beauty at its utmost. I was overcome with how pretty this area was. I snapped a few more pictures then headed up the ramp.

The view from the tower was nice, but the early morning fog was still sitting in the surrounding valleys, so I wasn’t able to see everything. But, I did spent a good 5-10 minutes up there snapping pictures and just enjoying the view. There wasn’t anyone else around. Though it isn’t an extremely high summit, I felt like I was on top of the world. Once I had taken all of the pictures I wanted, I headed down the ramp and a jeep pulled up just as I was getting to the bottom. I’m guessing he was with the forest service or something along those lines.

I headed back down the trail and passed a few more people this time. A man about my age was coming up with his dog and a couple groups of people in their forties or so were also headed up. Total time up was about 15 minutes. It took about 10 minutes to come down. I snapped a few more pictures at the bottom and hopped back into the super Civic. I was off to Georgia.

Panorama

Directions
Here’s a map from Knoxville, TN:

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SC-Sassafrass Mountain

Summit Date
July 27, 2002, around 3:00 pm

Party
Ryan Cragun

Trip Report
This summit was in the middle of nowhere. The closest thing to it was Rocky Bottom, a camp for the blind. Other than that, not much for miles. It also isn’t much of a draw for tourists. I saw one car from when I passed the camp on the way up to when I passed it on the way down. At the parking area, there was no one and nothing, just a sign marking the area. I parked, grabbed the photo equipment and headed up the road.

The road forks as you are approaching the summit. I thought the right branch looked higher, so I followed it. It is actually a small loop, so it doesn’t really matter which one you take, but the summit marker is just past the fork on the left side, not the right. However, I didn’t mind walking the extra hundred feet because I actually crossed back into North Carolina. That is how far the summit is to North Carolina, about 100 feet. I actually snapped a picture of a marker that showed where the state line was. And, just over the state line, there are several noticeable places that are higher than Sassafrass Mountain in South Carolina. Anyway, I walked back around the road and finally found the marker. It isn’t very noticeable because it is just the USGS marker set in concrete. There is no monument or anything, though there are some phone towers just below it and on the opposite side of the road.

There was no one around. No one! I snapped a few pictures, relished the isolation for a few minutes, and headed back down the trail. My car looked peaceful in this abandoned parking area, so I snapped a few pictures of my Honda (best car ever) and hopped in. Off to Mount Mitchell, NC.

Panorama

Directions
Here’s a map from Columbia, SC:

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NC-Mount Mitchell

Summit Date

July 27, 2002, around 5:00 pm

Party

Ryan Cragun

Trip Report

Can you say busy? Touristy? Wow! I haven’t seen this many people near a state high point yet. There must have been anywhere from 300 to 700 people spread out from the parking area to the tower on the summit. I had no idea this place was going to be as busy as it was.

I was coming from Sassafrass Mountain, SC, and the drive in was a little harrowing. The road is pretty high and often follows ridges that drop sharply on either side. If I hadn’t already been awake for 15 hours, I might not have minded, but the caffeine was making me a little jittery and my vision would occasionally skip. I wouldn’t recommend driving this road when you’re tired. It winds all over the place and is barely big enough for two cars, let alone all of the campers and buses that I passed.

Anyway, I finally reached the parking, which, next to Brasstown Bald, was the biggest parking area I had seen for a highpoint. And, in contrast to Brasstown Bald, it was nearly full. There were people everywhere. I passed people biking up and down the road, young kids, older people, you name it, they were on the summit.

I grabbed my photo stuff and headed up. I definitely looked out of place. I looked like a serious hiker when compared with all of the people wearing swimwear and sandals that were up on the tower. I was wearing cargo shorts and hiking boots. I just didn’t fit in. On top of that, I had a tripod. What was I thinking? Anyway, I hiked the two-tenths of a mile to the tower, climbed it and snapped some shots. The place was so busy, it wasn’t a matter of getting a good shot but just finding a place to set up a tripod where it wouldn’t get kicked over.

After snapping some shots from the tower, I dropped down to the sign marking the summit and set up the tripod again. A couple in their early twenties had just snapped some pictures and they seemed to be watching me. I think they were confused by what they saw. They were probably going to offer to take a picture for me, but then they saw that I was using the timer function on my camera (no more remote, it doesn’t work that well) and even commented that I knew what I was doing. I snapped a few more pictures and took off.

I’m not sure this could be considered my least favorite highpoint, Panorama Point has that honor for other reasons. But, this highpoint just didn’t give one a sense of accomplishment. The place looked trampled to death. If there are that many people there every day, I can understand why. The tower was pretty beat up and dirty. The place just didn’t look like it was cared for very well (except the roads, they were nice). Whether or not it is cared for may not be the problem, it may just be that it is overrun with people. Anyway, I would go back to Clingman’s Dome, but I wouldn’t really care to come back to Mount Mitchell. I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it, but it wouldn’t be worth a second visit.

Panorama

Directions

Here’s a map from Charlotte, NC:

MO-Taum Sauk

Summit Date

July 18, 2002, around 12:00 pm

Party

Ryan Cragun

Trip Report

This was an interesting summit. This was my 2nd day on my way home from UT. I had been to Nebraska’s and Kansas’ highpoints the previous day. The directions I had were very good; I drove directly to the summit. On the way to the summit, I passed the entrance road to the Highpoint club, thinking I should stop there on my way back. I stopped by the tower first and climbed it in a very slight drizzle. It was pretty overcast and was drizzling slightly the whole time I was on Taum Sauk. I then drove over to the summit parking area and walked the path to the highpoint rock and marker. I didn’t bother to sign the register because it was ant infested. I took a few pictures and headed out.

Driving down the mountain from the summit, I decided that I should stop by the Highpointer’s Club. I figured that I might not be back here for a long time, so I may as well. I was very hesitant to stop by because I am not a member, even though I am working on visiting all of the state high points. I walked down the drive to Jakk’s house because the road would have been a bit difficult to maneuver in my Honda Civic with its low bottom. I met Jakk and his brother and they invited me in to chat for a few minutes. I sat down and Jakk gave me a certificate of summit completion for Taum Sauk.

missouri certificate

Since I haven’t been involved with the Highpoint club, I wasn’t really aware of who Jakk Longacre is. As we got to talking, he told me that he was the founder of the Highpointer’s Club and was the 7th person to complete all 50 highpoints. He also showed me all of the highpoint guidebooks, definitely something I am going to have to invest in if I’m going to get serious about this. I saw several pictures of him in some of the guidebooks and he informed me that there is mention of him in all of the books.

We talked for a while and he explained why he moved to Missouri and we talked for a bit about his cancer. He really is a guru. His comments and insights were great. I hope he beats the cancer and continues to support those that are following in his footsteps. He gave me an Apex and Zenith Highpointer’s Club newsletter that was sent to him to give me an idea of what is in the newsletter. What a wonderful guy! Taum Sauk was great, despite the rain.

Panorama

A slightly different panorama from a nearby tower:

Directions

Here is a map to Taum Sauk from St. Louis:

KS-Mount Sunflower

Summit Date

July 17, 2002, around 5:30 pm

Party

Ryan Cragun

Trip Report

I made it to this highpoint after Nebraska’s Panorama Point. My map program had given me a couple of routes to get there, but I ended up taking another one altogether. That route is illustrated below. Unlike Nebraska’s high point, this highpoint is well marked with signs along the route. It is also hard to miss the giant sunflower sculpture in the middle of a barely noticeable hill. The marker is in the middle of a field and one can drive right up to the highpoint. Even though I was still a bit upset about my horrible experience in Nebraska, I took the time to film a groundhog playing near the monument. The view is pretty nice, though you can’t really see forever because everything is so flat. I visited Missouri’s highpoint, Taum Sauk, the next day.

Panorama

Directions