CLINGMANS DOME

What do you do when your tent has been pitched at Elkmont campground and you’ve got a couple of hours of daylight left? You drive to Clingmans Dome! This entire weekend was about spontaneous plan adjustments and Clingmans was no different. We originally intended on driving up and hiking around midnight to stargaze (I had seen some pretty milky way pictures from here). However, according to my weather app it was going to be a cloudy night, and therefore little to no stars to see.

When we arrived at the parking lot around 6:30pm there were only a handful of spots left. The sun was still peaking through the clouds and it was way colder up there than I anticipated. Thank God for parkas! There were plenty of tripods and cameras set up at the lot and for a moment I wondered if it was even worth going up to the top. Maybe these photographers knew something I didn’t.

This is where my FOMO kicked in and I started taking some pictures of the sky. It was nothing to be impressed by though. I also had no idea what the sky was about to do. So we stopped at the restrooms real quick and headed to the trailhead.

At the base of the trail there are signs leading you in the right direction. I quickly found out why they do not allow strollers, wheelchairs or bikes on this paved trail. It’s only half a mile long, but it’s a steep 13% gradient! You’ll gain 332 ft. and break a sweat immediately. They have benches along the way and if you prepare with enough time you can get to the top at your own pace. The hike is a straight shot up. You’ll make a slight right near the end and the entire tower and walkway open up in front of you.

We did not have the luxury of taking our time and did it in one shot without stopping. Tony’s legs are way longer than mine and I tried keeping up with him. When I tell you my lungs were on fire. I mean, seriously. ON FIRE! It took us 16 minutes to get to the base of the tower.

The tower at Clingmans Dome provides panoramic views of the mountains below. You can see Tony (furthest right) at the top of the observation tower. It was really cold up there. About 20 degrees colder than lower laying areas. But the views are unlike any other we’d seen in the park so far.

Now, let’s talk about sunset. HOLY CRAP am I happy we did that instead of trying to stargaze with a poor chance of being able to see anything. The sky was so beautiful that it made me forget that we broke into a sweat climbing that steep incline. I completely forgot my lungs were on fire. I have to get the words out of my brain to describe what I saw this weekend! The best way to do it is to dig deep into my past undergrad memories and pull out every descriptor I’ve ever used in a college essay as follows:

The sky began its show by turning into soft shades of blue and barely-there pink. They were the kinds of shades found in freshly made cotton candy. So fluffy and perfect. As the shades deepened I could almost taste the sweetness of the colors moving through the sky. While at the top of the trail the sky decided rather haphazardly to turn parts of it’s cotton candy colored clouds into flames with help from the sun. It displayed bright reds and oranges burning through the clouds. The display of balanced colors between soft and sweet and brilliantly ferocious was the show of a lifetime. The sky gave us so much to see, so much to feel and demanded nothing in return…

Excuse my brain, it can be cheesy sometimes. But it’s as genuine a telling of what we saw as told by me. I’m sure the sensation of bliss and happiness was also amplified by the fact that I was with my husband and we were enjoying each others’ company. But look at these pictures!!! How could I not be?

I promise you these are not filtered in any way shape or form. No photoshop, no special lenses, no filters, just sheer beauty captured by a lucky amateur photographer dangling a Nikon from my neck.

My legs are still super sore by the way. My shins hurt real bad too lol, but it was totally worth it and I would 1000% do it again.

Here’s a video of us recorded on my iPhone 8 Plus on our way down to show you real time sky colors. Don’t mind us, we were rushing back to the car because it was getting colder by the minute.

“She knew she loved him when home went from being a place to being a person.”

E. Leventhal
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RIVERSIDE WALK

GPS: 37.285134, -112.947601

TIME: 1h

LENGTH: 2 MILES RT

DATE: APRIL 24, 2019

After hiking Angels Landing Wednesday morning, I wanted to continue exploring without completely exhausting my last bit of energy. I had a list on my phone of easy hikes that had been posted to Zion’s website HERE. So we opted for a stroll in Riverside walk. We took the shuttle to the last stop called Temple of Sinawava.

I’m a huge fan of trails that form loops vs in and out trails. Riverside Walk is supposed to be in and out, but you can walk the path in and then walk along the Virgin River in the sand for the most part coming out (or in reverse). I was curious to see what it looked like as this trail leads into the narrows. One day I would love to do that hike. It’s on my ever growing list of hikes I wish to complete.

This trail is wheel chair friendly for a pretty decent portion. Once the paved path starts to have too many inclines there’s a sign that identifies the end of the wheelchair friendly portion. The changes in elevation are minimal, but enough to make it difficult for a wheel chair to continue on the path.

There is a warning about the flash floods at the entrance of the trail. When I was there in April the Virgin River was impassable and the Narrows were closed. I had seen many videos prior to visiting Zion of what flash floods are and how quickly they can occur. So when you visit, make sure to do your due diligence and check on the potential of a flash flood during your visit.

Not far from the entrance we were greeted by a waterfall.

Being the ever so curious person I am, I had to check how deep the water was here.

Sometimes I can get caught up in the destination portion of the hike. But knowing this was more about the hike itself, I put my electronics away until I got to the end. As you walk through remember to look up and enjoy the hanging gardens. We even stopped at some point on a large rock to watch the river go by. It was probably the most relaxing thing I did that whole trip.

Nicole took a picture of where we watched the water go by for a bit.

Once we reached the entrance of The Narrows, I was determined to dip my feet into the water. I may have been wearing a tank top and sweating from the heat, but the water was unaware of the warm weather. I stood in the water for about 10 seconds before I had to remove my feet. The water was so cold that I felt pain shoot up into my knees.

I know that doesn’t sound appealing but I took a seat and waited for the feeling to return to my toes. Clearly, I was going to do it again, but this time I knew what to expect.

When I did it again I committed to staying in for at least 30 seconds. I’m not a masochist I promise! I just know my feet had been through many miles already that day. And according to Google:

“Immersing tired joints and muscles in ice water stimulates blood flow and reduces inflammation. It causes the veins to constrict, removes toxins from the blood, and alleviates the delayed on-set of muscles soreness.”

I still had so much hiking to do that trip. Reducing soreness and inflammation was worth 30 second stings of ice cold water. I use ice on my knees and achilles when I’m home, so this was no different for me. Not to mention, the rebel in me wanted to know I stood in the water at the entrance of The Narrows.

Thanks for reading about this very easy, leisurely stroll on Riverside Walk! If you’d like to read about my hike to Angels Landing from earlier that morning, click HERE. Or if you’d like to see what other hikes I’ve completed click HERE.

“Stillness as a technique is still really captivating to me.”

Adam Baldwin