I had heard that temperatures can be extreme when comparing the lowlands of the Smokies to the top of Clingman’s Dome and on our second full day we experienced just that. Deciding to be there for sunrise meant we had to leave early the next morning since it’s over an hour away from where we were staying. The weather forecast for the morning was clear … cold but clear. I think wake-up time was around 4:30. This would be where we’d get our layered distant mountain shots at an elevation of 6,643 ft. After several miles on Newfound Gap Road we noticed a few flakes and rounding a corner in the semi-dark we could see that there was a frosty coating on the peaks. We made a right onto Clingman’s Dome Road and enjoyed the spring surprise when the jeep went out of control. We swerved one way, then the other (and back again) before we were thrown into some spruce trees on the side of the road, barely missing a cement culvert to our left. We were tilted to the side and the front end was covered with branches. My friend, behind the wheel and quite frightened yelled, ‘what are we going to do!?!’ Quick thinking as I am, I reached for my phone and called 411 … I know, it’s 911! Reception was good on top of the mountain and I was connected with the police who said they would alert the park rangers. Just then two park road crew guys stopped and said they’d get us out of there. They braced the car because of the tilt and had my friend put it in 4-wheel drive and back up. We felt like the luckiest people alive to learn the only damage was some cracks in the bumper cover. We waited on the side of the road until the salt truck came through and then followed them down and they closed the road. We jokingly apologized to some other photographers, taking full blame for closing Clingman’s Dome Road that Monday. Sadly, we never did get back up to the Dome but now that gives me a good reason to go back!
(Scroll down to the previous 2 posts to see how different the scenery looked the day before!)