Sunday, April 28, 2019

Week 28 – Clingmans Dome (#58) and Nettle Creek Bald (#59)

It was April 22, 2019, the day after Easter Sunday.  My hiking companion was Dave KE4EA.  The second visit to Clingman’s Dome has long been anticipated since the last time in late fall had really cold sub-freezing conditions.  Monday promised to be a nice sunny spring day after a weekend of severe weather into Easter weekend.   Nettle Creek Bald was the double-header which was conveniently located on US 441 on the way back home.

We left Travelers Rest at 7:00 AM and arrived at Clingman’s Dome at about 9:30 AM and the temperature was around 43 degrees F.  There was snow in the grassy areas.  It was a bright, clear, spring day.    The views did not disappoint.  Tourists abounded on this beautiful day.

Dave and I set up in a wooded area next to the observation tower.  I made some DX contacts on 20m – Finland OH9XX and Sweden SA4BLM on top of the usual chasers.  I also made a summit to summit contact with K9OZ who was on Winding Stair Mountain W5O/OU-002.

The Appalachian Trail goes through Clingman’s Dome and we found a couple of young hikers thru-hiking the entire 2200 mile trail – Dani and Justin.  I explained to them what I was doing and they were intrigued by the idea.  I also told them that I was writing a book and taking pictures of thru-hikers of the AT that I meet.   Since I was next to the paved ramp to the observation tower, I had plenty of people ask me what I was doing.   With earbuds on, no one could here the dits and dahs of the Morse Code I was sending.

Before leaving, we had to trek up the ice covered paved path to the observation tower.  We had to grab the hand rails and looked for patches to step on with enough footing not to fall.  At the top the views were fantastic.

Soon we made our way to the truck to head on to the Thomas Divide Trail just off NC441 and only a few miles away.  The next summit to climb was Nettle Creek Bald which was about halfway to Newton Bald – on the same trail.

Nettle Creek Bald hike to the summit was a 3.83 km hike (approximately 2.5 miles), and we could see the summit from the trail.  Another interesting view is that we could also see where we came from.   From behind the trees we saw the summit of Clingman’s Dome.  The hike was up and down, not very steep.  The trail itself was well maintained.

Reaching the summit itself was sort of anti-climactic – no summit marker, just the end of the track on my GPS device and visually everything sort of fell away - from the ridge side and from the trail side.  The ridge was very steep on either side.   I was able to make another summit to summit contact – this time with NU7A who was 3500 Camas Mountain W7W/CH-228 in Washington State.  I got chased by EA2LU Jorge from Spain along with the usual chasers who always seem to appear in my logs Paula K9IR, Larry K0RS, Bruce W2SE, Dean K2JB and George KX0R.

Dave and I swept through the bands.  Dave usually has the responsibility of 40m while I swept 20m, 30m and 60m.  Soon it was time to go home.  It had been a good day.  

Dave continued up the ladder in W4C, after having completed 16 summits, he was now at 151 summit points.   I was now at 633 summit points towards the 1000 point goal.   I was still #4 in the standings for 2019 with W1PTS still #1 on the leaderboard with 696 points, followed by KN4LRI at 623 points, KS4FX at 558, and me at 500 points with an 11.11 points per activation average.    W1PTS had just become a Mountain Goat when his previous year’s total was added to his 2019 total.  At the time of this writing, during Week 28, W1PTS was at 1079 points.  I was still at #11 in the all-time W4C standings.

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