We had a disappointed little bear when he figured out we did not leave food out for him to eat. This is our first persistent bear of the season. He looks to be a yearling. I am guessing around 75 lbs. It is that time of the year when they start passing through camp trying to find food and a place to call home. He is going to be unhappy with the accommodations we have to offer on LeConte. They are not very bear friendly. Between starting this blog early this morning and sitting to finish now, we have caught the little guy in our bear trap the Park Service gave us. He is currently deciding that his room at LeConte is a little cramped. He will soon find out the services we have to offer. A Park Service biologist is on his way up the mountain to give this bear a not so friendly welcome. We hope the bear has such a traumatic experience he will tell his friends that LeConte Lodge is not the most hospitable lodge around. I will keep you posted on the events of the day. We hope to give him a not so friendly send off and hope this bear stays wild.
I hope you aren't tired of flower pictures yet. This time of the year, the mountain is exploding in color. I saw my first grass- of -parnassus the other day. I love these flowers. It is a bit early for them to be blooming already. This heat has confused every living thing. I am really confused as well, it is nice and hot during the day and the lows at night are in the low 40s. We hit 43 last night. Don't forget to bring a jacket if you are hiking up in the near future. There is definitely a chill in the air.
I called this photo "Date Night". I thought it was sweet they were sharing a Cone flower. Don't worry about all of the bee pictures I have been posting. They are so caught up in the enormous amount of flowers, they don't even know you are there. We enjoyed another beautiful day up top. The high was 72. I had all of my windows open last night only to awake to a really cold room. It dropped down to 42 last night. That was a bit of a shock to the system. This day is starting out just as beautiful. It is a great day to celebrate a birthday, which is what Nathan is doing. So, Happy Birthday Nathan. We will have homemade peach ice cream and chocolate cake to celebrate his special day. Chrissy woke up early this morning and made breakfast for the guests so Nathan could enjoy sleeping in.
The bees had a busy day on the mountain. So many flowers, so little time. I love this time of year up top. The flowers add a beautiful splash of color to our favorite mountain top. We had a beautiful morning followed by brief afternoon rain showers. The rain cooled things off nicely.
The crew anxiously awaited the beginning of the opening ceremonies for the Olympics. We had a full charge on our car battery and were able to watch most of the ceremony. Unfortunately, my eye lids did not have a full charge. My bed won out in the end. All in all, it was another great day to be on top of the mountain.
I finally made it up the mountain yesterday. After asking for no rain for so long, the one day I would have liked some rain, the sun kept shining. It made for a hot day hiking up. If you are out hiking in this heat, make sure you have plenty of water. I was excited to see the purple gentian and one grass of parnasis was blooming on the top section of Alum Cave. These flowers are usually not in bloom until the later part of August. I did hear one day hiker say they saw a bear on the lower section of Alum Cave trail. I, however, did not see it. It feels good to be back on the top in the nice 70 degree weather. The high yesterday 73 degrees with a low of 58.
Good afternoon to all of you High on LeConte readers. Allyson returns to the mountain today, so this will be my last update for a week or so. I'll give the weather update followed by a story about one of the oldest artifacts found near the summit of Mt. LeConte--the Walker Stone (which was carved 132 years ago Friday).
Wednesday proved a pretty nice day at the top of Tennessee with a high of 69, low of 58 and no rain. Wednesday marked the first day without rain on Mt. LeConte since July 5. To date, only July 1, 3, 5 and 25 have been completely rain-free this month. Unofficially, we've accumulated 12.75 inches of rain so far in July. I'd like to fly some of it to some other folks across the country who need rain so desperately. However, I don't expect I can tote it in my carry-on bag. Around mid-morning on Thursday the clouds broke, and we've enjoyed plenty of sunshine since.
The Walker Stone is an interesting piece of Mt. LeConte history. William J. McCoy Jr. wrote a fine story about the early history of LeConte camp and lodge and the discovery of the Walker Stone, titled "The Walker Stone and Mt. LeConte." His story is available in the LeConte Lodge dining room in a spiral-bound book alongside a replica of the Walker Stone. It's an easy read over a cup of hot chocolate.
I'll give you the highlights of the story. About a week ago I wrote about the importance of the LeConte spring in the lodge's location. In the 1940s, while clearing out the LeConte spring area, a rock was found with some words and a drawing etched upon it. The date July 27, 1880 was carved into the top of the rock, followed by the names J.N. Walker, L.L. Houser and T.F. Walker. Underneath the names, a rough carving of a man with a rifle to his shoulder, a deer and part of a hunting dog can be seen.
Perhaps deer traversing LeConte used the spring for water and that's why that location was used for the hunt. While no historical record of early visits to the mountain exists (during that time period) and 1880 was a little before my time, I can tell you that we have a healthy deer population on top of LeConte at present. Climbing LeConte to hunt deer (and especially hauling the meat down) seems like a tough meal, but East Tennessee following the Civil War and Reconstruction was no picnic. I guess you fed your family any way you could manage.
To our knowledge, no other such event in LeConte's history was similarly chronicled. In 1990 the Walker Stone was brought to the University of Tennessee for cleaning, photography and to make a cast. Who knows how long the Walker Stone had been on LeConte before the hunters picked it up and made their carving? At any rate, it surely hadn't moved much since 1880 before its big trip to Knoxville (and I get anxious if I am on the mountain longer than a month without a break). In addition, park archivists studied and documented the Walker Stone. The original Walker Stone is locked up for safe keeping.
One final note, I don't know how many years it takes for something to be viewed as an historical artifact and not defacement. We have plenty of documentation about the current uses for Mt. LeConte, so please don't carve your name on anything in the park as the fine will lighten your wallet considerably.
Hello to all of you. I think we'll have High on LeConte updates covered for the foreseeable future as either Allyson or I will be on the mountain for a while. It's rather gray up on LeConte on Wednesday. We've not had any rain thus far after registering just a trace on Tuesday. Tuesday's high reached 70 with a mild low of 59.
The biggest crew news of the last couple of weeks was the much anticipated progressive dinner, scheduled annually around the midseason point--held on July 17. At the progressive dinner, every crew member prepares a dish and we all visit the crew cabins as we partake. I think it's one of the best three meals the crew shares on the mountain together.
Our dishes included tomato basil asiago topping on a garlic baguette, avocado chicken salad with dressing, homemade blue cheese biscuits with homemade Cajun butter, citrus vinaigrette salad, watermelon soup with feta cheese, meatball pastry pockets and brownies with homemade vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce. It was all wonderful, and we were plenty glad we didn't have to hike out on a hard rescue after that fine meal.
I just hiked up late last night and will tell you that the temperature down in the valley is too hot for decent people (and me). Please keep yourself well hydrated on your hike up to see us and make sure you refill your water up at the lodge (the blue-handled spigot outside the office offers treated, potable water). Our llamas don't like the hot weather either. They're ready for the crisp, clear days of autumn, and I'll vote with them on that item.
I noticed on my hike up the Alum Cave Bluff Trail that the blackberries are on their way. There are a few ripe ones between Arch Rock and the bluff, but most of them are still green. The crop looks like it might be a solid improvement over last year. The ripe blackberries I saw weren't quite ready for the county fair, but they weren't dry buckshot either. I'm sure the bruins will enjoy them. Speaking of bears eating, you should always give them plenty of space. Treat them like if you saw a petulant celebrity in a restaurant--just stay away.
I was in an outdoor store down below and heard a couple of interesting things from folks doing some boot shopping. I heard one person say that "these kind of hurt my feet, but aren't they adorable?" I hope she didn't buy them because I know how that movie ends. The best thing I heard was another woman trying on boots when she said, "These boots are so stiff that I could kick a rhino in the head and kill it."
Have a good day. Happy trails.
Good Saturday afternoon to all of you from (nearly) the top of Tennessee. For those of you who have read High on LeConte often in July, the weather roundup might sound familiar. We received 0.09 inches of rain Friday with a high of 67 and low of 55.
The optimistic reader will say that a low of 55 degrees and occasional overnight rain makes for perfect sleeping weather--and that's exactly right. The pessimistic reader may say that 16 consecutive days of measurable rain (although July 17 was just 0.01 inches) is enough to turn a man into a salamander--and that's exactly right. The only days this July in which we've recorded no rain at LeConte Lodge are July 1, 3 and 5. Saturday, July 21 will not be added to that trio as we've already received a couple of showers.
Truth be known, the weather really hasn't been unpleasant. We're getting a pretty good variety of weather with occasional glimpses of the sun. The sight of some of the towering clouds we've seen, edges gilded with reflected sunlight, has been nothing short of majestic--especially at sunset. Plus, very few of the rains have been heavy enough to rank as frog stranglers. I think the bears are hoping that a wet July might rescue the blackberry crop from a dry late June. We won't know that answer until August.
On Friday, I talked about the importance of the LeConte spring and how it was rediscovered in July 1925, paving the way for the formation of LeConte Lodge. There were two more critical events in LeConte history that happened that July 1925.
On July 11, 1925, the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association (I'll give you three guesses where this group's members thought the premier national park in the East should be located) authorized Paul Adams (a towering figure in LeConte history who may be discussed more in months to come) to establish a more permanent camp on LeConte.
Five days later on July 16, 1925, the camp at LeConte welcomed its first paying guests. No, the guests weren't among the bushel of Sevier County Partons, Reagans or Ogles. The first paying guests hailed from the Windy City. O.M. Shantz of Chicago, Ill., brought a party of 12 up to spend the night. The Shantz dozen rang up a massive $36 lodging charge at $3 a head. Stop on by the dining room between noon and 4 p.m., and we'd be glad to sell you a bottomless cup of lemonade, coffee or hot chocolate for $3 in 2012. Overnight lodging and meals will set you back a little more than $3 now.
Thanks for your kind words and for reading High on LeConte. Because of a unique work schedule in July, Allyson and I will both be off the mountain for the next few days. Thus, there will likely not be another High on LeConte update until about Wednesday. Until then, the forecast for the next few days sounds like typical summer fare--warm with a chance of showers every day. Come see us, but make sure you pack your raingear and plenty of water (you can refill your water bottles for free at the blue-handled spigot outside the office).
Hello to everyone. Thanks for reading. I'll get the weather report out of the way first today before continuing on to explain why July (specifically July 1925) rates as one of the most historic and important times in LeConte Lodge history.
It seems we've had a little bit of most kinds of summer weather the last 24 hours. After quite a wet month, I thought we might escape Thursday without any measurable precipitation. We even experienced some bouts of filtered sunshine. However, as dark fell over the Tennessee Valley and distant lightning outlined the clouds, we received Thursday's first rain about 11 p.m. We ended up tallying 0.33 inches of rain between 11 p.m. and our weather observation at 6:45 a.m. Friday. Thursday's high reached 70 with a mild low of 55 degrees. We've already seen a hodgepodge of weather -- rain, wind, clouds and sun -- as of Friday at lunch.
During my reading on the history of Mt. LeConte I was struck by how often July pops up as an important time. Certainly the mountain is accessible in July, compared to the tough conditions in winter. In fact, I've heard that July is the only month in which it's never snowed on Mt. LeConte. With only 11 days left in July this year, I think we're safe again in 2012. At any rate, July takes on an outsized importance in the history of Mt. LeConte.
Today I'm going to write about the first of three crucial elements of LeConte history all shoehorned into July 1925. President Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge called 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., home, but he wouldn't sign the bill that provided the first step in the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (and Shenandoah, as well) until May 1926. However, the groundwork and lobbying for choosing the Smokies as the location of the grand national park of the East was well underway.
I know the above photo of the spring isn't nearly as pretty as the photos Allyson takes every day. However, the water flowing all year long from that dedicated spring is the primary reason LeConte Lodge was built in its present location. Without that humble but trustworthy spring, LeConte Lodge would not exist and you wouldn't be reading this weblog today.
There had been an earlier attempt to start a rudimentary camp nearer Cliff Tops, but the water supply was fussy as campers waited for water to drip from the rocks. The old timers down below told of a LeConte basin spring located between the peaks of High Top and Cliff Tops that ran clear and cold all year long. However, the old timers who used to hunt on LeConte could no longer make the ascent and the youngsters couldn't sniff out the location of the spring in the thick vegetation. Perhaps some of them figured it was just a wild-haired fountain of youth fable conjured up by the codgers.
Finally, in July 1925 the LeConte basin spring was rediscovered--just as the graybeards had explained. Located just about 100 feet down the Trillium Gap Trail, the spring still keeps the lodge running. I've often said that the water on LeConte and in Antarctica is the best I've ever tasted. I always pack an extra bottle of LeConte water for my trips down the mountain so I can enjoy it below. The water we give away to our guests is treated and tested daily (though the water emanating direct from the spring in the photo above is obviously not treated). I can testify that our treated LeConte spring water makes an impressive pot of sweet mint tea (I grew my mint below and packed it up, please don't pick any vegetation in the park). The Park Service also recommends you boil all water from any spring in the Smokies for your safety.
Unless something changes I'll try to tell you all about two other important developments in July 1925 in Saturday's update. Happy trails.
Good afternoon to all of you. This is Nathan back patching in on High on LeConte as Allyson takes some days off. It's been a while since I've written, so I'll try to knock the rust off for a special story about a LeConte legend, Margaret Stevenson.
On Wednesday, about 55 members of "Margaret Stevenson's Wednesday Hikers" group assembled at the lodge to celebrate the memory of their namesake on what would have been her 100th birthday (plus one day, as Margaret's birthday was Tuesday, but the group she founded always hikes on Wednesday). Margaret's grandson was in attendance. Stories proved the currency of the day while the Wednesday Hikers enjoyed some cake in honor of Margaret before heading down each of the six major trails descending from LeConte.
We're glad there are thousands of accomplished hikers who hold a special place in their heart for Mt. LeConte. However, there are few real LeConte legends, and Margaret Stevenson ranks as a charter member. Margaret made 718 hikes to LeConte Lodge--all after her 48th birthday. Her route to our beloved mountain was circuitous, she was born in China but eventually made her way to Maryville, Tenn.
According to stories told at the gathering, Margaret suffered all manner of ailments until she decided at age 45 that it was time to transform her existence. She traded her bed for hiking boots and ended up hiking the equivalent mileage of 5.5 times around the world before she passed away in 2006 at age 94. She possessed a photographic memory and kept a journal of all of her LeConte trips, beginning on Oct. 13, 1960 and making the bookend 718th trip to the lodge on May 21, 1997.
One year Margaret hiked 3,000 miles while only driving her Pinto 600 miles. It was said that everyone wanted to buy that car, as it was well serviced and Margaret preferred walking to driving anyway. Margaret became the first female member of the "900 Club," accomplished when someone hikes every mile of trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Wednesday Hikers group she nurtured boasts about 80 members of the "900 Club."
The following things were shared about Margaret on Wednesday in the LeConte Lodge dining room. She was called "a fine example of how to live your life" and "extremely positive." Another offered that "if this gal was not a role model, I don't know what a role model is." It was also said that everyone wanted Margaret on their Trivial Pursuit team because she knew everything. People related that the way she welcomed people and introduced them to hiking rated even more impressive than her lofty mileage counts.
We were proud to host the Wednesday Hikers as they honored Margaret, who helped make a special mountain even more special during her 718 visits.
As for the weather, LeConte has been mighty soggy lately. We have been getting periodic peaks at the sun, but most of our time is spent in the clouds. We received 0.18 inches of rain on Wednesday with a high of 65 and low of 52. The forecast calls for more showers and thunderstorms over the next couple of days, though it hasn't rained as of Thursday at 2 p.m.
The LeConte Lodge dining room was packed with Margaret Stevenson's Wednesday Hikers to honor their group's founder and inspiration. About 55 members of the hiking group braved threatening weather and all six major trails to LeConte to assemble Wednesday on what would have been the day after her 100th birthday.