Just passed over clingman’s dome today – highest point on the AT and third highest peak east of the Mississipi @ 6600 feet. It was wildly windy and rainy. There is an amazing observation tower that involves walking up a long spiral ramp, which I did. See the view I had.
Also of note is the fact that many majestic hemlock trees and Fraser fir trees have died in recent years in Georgia and NC as the result of an introduced insect pest. This has dramatically changed the nature of the forest by taking out large stands of conifers which provided shade and a “dark forest” environment.
Now many many large trees are dying and falling across the trail. See this huge root system of a Fraser fir tree at 6000 feet that succumbed and tipped over. I saw hundreds of these today. Now the forest is becoming increasingly deciduous with less shade (especially now in winter).
Something very sad about the whole thing. Seems like the east coast gets more than its share of tree tragedies – chestnut, elm, hemlock, fir. At least one knowledgeable man I met felt that the real culprit was coal burning electric plants producing pollutants toxic to trees and the insects just finished the job on highly stressed trees. I think there is some hope that these coal plants are now burning cleaner. All for now…Junco