A few months ago, I struggled with this trail—the Forney Ridge Trail—as we hiked to Andrews Bald, but this was a different day!

One hiker wrote that we all have good and bad days on “the trail.” Some days we don’t have as much energy and others we have lots! He had a bad day in the rain on the section that runs from Clingmans Dome to Newfound Gap—some 17 miles. He said it was among the hardest he had experienced, and he has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (AT)! I have hiked sections of the AT between these two points, but the part I did was not that difficult.

There are major climbs and the woods are dense, especially around Mt. Love and Mt Collins, but the trail is beautiful. It is almost enchanting!

On this day, I felt better than great as we hiked from the parking lot at Clingmans Dome along the Forney Trail to the AT and then on to the summit. What I found was that this side of the mountain has a rugged beauty that really takes your breath away. The AT that runs out to Clingmans is beautiful but you don’t have as many views—you are mostly trail running or fast walking.

Here’s another view of the steps down from the parking lot to where you can go left to Andrews Bald or right to the AT and on to Mt. Buckley and Clingmans Dome. These are easy downs and amazing.

Once we step onto the Forney Ridge Trail, you immediately begin to climb and you also face a lot of rocky areas. But these are nothing compared to the hike out to Andrews Bald where the rocks are the size of small cars in places! I’ve posted a few more photos than normal on this blog because I want to take you with me to a place of peace, hope, and life. So, hike on!

This trail hugs the mountainside and gently gains in elevation. It is nothing difficult and most people can hike it easily. But you’ll have to wait until next year. Clingmans Dome closes each year on December 1. Now, if the road to Gatlinburg is open, you can still hike in from Newfound Gap. It’s just a long way.

I will say that I will never walk up that silly paved pathway again unless I’m super old! It is packed with people—always. This trail is really easier and we saw very few people. So, it was a peaceful solace after all that noise that has been taking place in America.

We had views like this one on and off as we hiked to Mount Buckley—another well over 6k peak.

I think is is one of our most awe struck moments. We had climbed to the top of Clingmans Dome several times but not on this trail. It was just beautiful! Have I mentioned to you yet that you need to get out and hike?!! Get out of the house and go! Carry that blasted mask with you but don’t do the isolation thing. Way too many people are missing out on life. You can see that we were alone on this trail.  Now, at the top, it was a different story.

Mount Buckley (6,530) has the distinction of being the closest named peak to Clingmans Dome. It is the highest point in Tennessee! I did not know that, and it’s located on the same ridgeline within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That’s a grand association!

But despite all of this, Mount Buckley is typically unnoticed. Those who hike the Appalachian Trail between Clingmans Dome and Silers Bald usually blow right over its summit. Still plenty of people stop here for a moment. We did and I set up the Sony on a tree and used the timer to take this photo.

At the top of Mt. Buckley . . . and here’s the tree I used as a tripod!

By this time, the sun was beginning to set. I absolutely hate Daylight Savings time. We had to move quickly to get to the AT and then on to Clingmans Dome before it was too late.

One of my favorite things is to hike on a ridgeline. You just know you are on the top, and you are moving along through the trees, past slanted rocks like this, and on to your destination.

Fir tree tunnels! And to think, I once worked in the city and sat at a desk and worried about all the details of life. No, I don’t do that anymore.

Can you feel the quiet in this photo? Nothing difficult here—just Keens against the rock and moving forward.

Once you break out of the forest, you are on the top of Clingmans Dome and suddenly there are stunning views.

More of those amazing views—views that are closed now due to winter. We always seem to close this park down the day before or on the last day before they swing the gates into place and lock them.

I won’t show you the hundreds of people, who had collected at the top to climb the lookout tower, but let me say that if you think America is hiding inside, think again. People from all over the country and around the world were here. So, no, we are not closed!