In late July of 2003, my hiking partner and I drove to Tennessee to hike in the Great Smokey Mountain National Forest. After entering the park, we drove on the Clingman’s Dome Road to the parking lot near the summit of well, you guessed it…Clingman’s Dome.
After getting our gear in order, we chose a more unconventional approach to hiking to the summit. We chose to walk down first, and then walk back up. Near the parking lot area is the trail head for the Forney Creek Trail. After finally spotting it, we made our descent down. The decline was very welcoming since the heat was atrocious. After making a slight bend, we stopped and rested at camp site 68. At the site area, we located a small but very refreshing waterfall. After hydrating ourselves and grabbing a small snack, we continued with our trek.
After a few meters from site 68, we located a sleeping bag, backpack, and other items loosely strewn around the trail. I feared that a bear may have attacked someone but, after a close investigation I determined that it must have rained and the hiker ditched the items due to its increasing weight (they were soaked with water).
As we reached camp site 69, we met up with a Boy Scout troop that was camping for the night. I spoke with their troop leader who seemed very nice. After a short rest and discussion about the trail condition, we continued on our way. Finally we arrived at the intersection of Forney Creek Trail and Jonas Creek Trail. There you will find camp site 70. Be mindful that if you chose to sleep there as we did, you will have to deal with the odor of horse feces. At this point the trail turns into a horse/human trail.
After walking a few more meters on the trail, we turned around at the Springhouse Ranch intersection. By that time the sun was starting to go down therefore, we turned around and made our way back to camp site 70 to spend the night. After pitching the tent and building a small fire, we went to sleep for the night.
In the morning we awoke to the realization that we had to climb back up. After a long trek back up, we made it back to the parking lot area. We then finished the summit by walking an additional mile to the summit. It was a very hot and beautiful day on the mountain. The view was spectacular.
Note: Along the climb you will find an abundance of water sources. Many you will have to cross. Be prepared for the realization you may get we. I did.