At the top, we chipper and ready to head off. Since the bulk of the elevation is taken care of on the drive up to the trail-head, the trail actually descends to the bald. This makes hikers experience the climb on the way back.
The views from the bald weren't that that remarkable, in comparison from those seen from the parking area, but we certainly enjoyed the hike down. Of course there were far less people at the bald, where we sat to enjoy our lunch.
While there, we encountered a park ranger and all proceeded to "Delmar" him. To Delmar: A verb meaning to talk to anyone or anything.
My dad is constantly fussing on Jay and me about our need to get pictures of ourselves on rocks or ledges. The picture above is his imitation.
We grabbed some pictures then started the hike back up. I tried to stay towards the back of the group because I knew some of the members of our party would have a bit of difficulty making the climb. And no, I don't mean the 8X year old man.
Forgetting the half mile was a part of the Appalachian Trail, and some of the steepest climbs in the park. We eventually made it to another trail junction, and realized we had yet another 0.3 miles before connecting into the Clingman's Dome path. Thankfully, this trail pretty much followed the ridge-line and didn't include much elevation gain.
At the viewing tower, we attempt to gain our bearings. Depending on the clarity of the moment (which at that elevation can change at any time), the posted/labeled pictures help.
At one point, the family started Delmaring the dude in the red shorts (above picture). He had ran the Andrew's Bald trail - passed us going down as we were traveling up. He managed to make the tower around the same time as us.
We imposed on the kindness of strangers, and managed to get a picture of the whole group together.
The paved path isn't as easy as one would think. Losing 300 feet of elevation in only a half mile makes for slow going downhill, unless one is so inclined to roll like a snowball down to the bottom.
Everything about this hike was perfect - the clouds, temperature, and most of all the company. Not a bad way for an octogenarian to spend his birthday!