Day 18: A note on Ecology

Publish date: May 2, 2019

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of two national parks the AT passes through. It climbs from 1727’ to highest point along the AT at 6643’, Clingman’s Dome. And it has some of the most interesting terrain yet. Across the elevation, I noticed a few obviously different microclimates. Turns out, according to the NPS, there are 5 types of forests in the park. At the bottom of the mountains, on the shady sides, we see Hemlock forests, which suffer from an infestation of a non-native pest. On the dry sides we see Pine-Oak forests, which is the part that requires controlled forest fires. Cove Hardwood forests populate the other bits of lower elevation, and are super lush and biodiverse.

Next up is the Northern Hardwood Forest, which is what you would see in New England, and produces those brilliant fall colors. At the highest elevation, near Clingman’s Dome, the trail passes through a mossy, Disney-esque Spruce Fir forest. It’s motivating, to have the scenery change up like that.