Scene from Clingmans Dome Observation Tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as I waited for sunrise on this very cold, snowy and foggy morning. The atmospheric conditions made the scene take on somewhat of a surreal look. There were wind gusts of about 40 or 50 m.p.h. I estimate, although I am not a weatherman. This blew tripods around up on the observation deck and make me wish I had been smart enough to have worn gloves. When I got back to the parking lot, a ranger was asking everyone to go down to the base of the 7-mile long Clingmans Dome Road, since they were going to close the gate and bring a snowplow up. That was at about 8:45 a.m., so I was very glad that I had arrived at the tower as early as I did -- about one hour before sunrise -- or I may have missed the great experience I had that day with the strange weather and nice photo opportunities. I had been visiting with a professional photographer on the tower, and when I later saw him at Newfound Gap, he told me that he and his fiancé saw a bear on their way to Newfound Gap. So, although I did not see a bear on my trip, I at least met someone who did! There are reportedly about 1,500-1,600 bears in the park, which is about two per square mile.
Great Smoky Mountain National ParkTennesseeSteve Lange, from