People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Nelson Mandela
It's an impressively stormy day up top. The high yesterday reached 52 degrees. The low only reached 46 degrees. It was 51 degrees and drizzling at 7am observation. The mountain received .81" of rain yesterday, starting in the afternoon and continuing overnight. I went up & down Alum yesterday and found the trails were in great shape. They'll be a bit wet today, but there's no ice. I was able to hike in sneakers the whole way.
The advancing rainstorm yesterday gave my hike a sense of urgency. Although I generally mosey along at a pace that could hardly be described as strenuous, it's a fun diversion to race myself up the mountain every once in a while. I never deliberately do it, but not getting drenched is as good a motivation as any. I read in the Hiking Trails to Mt. LeConte pamphlet that the record ascent is 45 minutes... which is truly humbling. If you acknowledge that a bit of vanity is involved with any 'race' and get over that, it produces a totally different kind of hike. You're more inwardly focused, noticing how your footfalls drop, how deep and efficient your breaths are, how to make your posture more ideal to avoid aches and pains. With that kind of focus, laser mode, whatever you want to call it, your brain definitely approaches a different plane. Time zips by and before you know it, you are where you began.
Top photo: Mist near Apollo Overlook. Above: High Point.
In other news, the Mt. LeConte shelter has been closed by the Park Service until further notice. This is due to an aggressive bear who was able to get food from hikers last Saturday night and is still active on the mountain. The hope is that once the mountain ash berries and temperatures drop, he'll den up for the season. This is a prudent decision made in the best interest of the bear. The less access he has to human food, the better for his long term health. Thank you for understanding.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Shakespeare
It's another blustery day at LeConte Lodge. The high yesterday reached 47 degrees. The low dipped down to 40 degrees. It's currently 46 degrees and cloudy. The trails should be in near summer conditions. I tramped all around the mountain yesterday evening and saw ice in only the most shadowy and solitary crevices.
There's plenty of rain in the forecast for the coming days and the low pressure system creeping in on us was responsible for some eerie weather up top yesterday. This is weather with character. At about 4pm, the clouds started to lose their stronghold on the sky up top. The sun still refused to burst through, but it's reflection on the ever changing congregation of clouds was enthralling. It left the entire side of camp in a gilded light. I was reading on my front porch and couldn't help but drop my book and watch for a spell. Sky on fire. I hiked out to sunset, but the most spectacular of the show had passed. C'est la vie. It was great while it lasted.
Get out of Salton City.… You should pick up hitch hikers, for they are generally good people.… And you must do it economy style, no motels, do your own cooking, as a general rule spend as little as possible and you will enjoy it much more immensely. Christopher McCandless
It's another misty morning atop LeConte. The high yesterday reached 41 degrees and the low was 34 degrees. It was 40 degrees and cloudy at 7am observation, although the mist appears slightly less dense than the past few days. I'd bet it burns off by this afternoon. With the recent warm temperatures, the snow up top has all but disappeared. The trails should be in good shape, at least by winter standards.
I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon wandering around the mountain 'looking for wild animals', as my friend Teddy would say. I was especially eager to see if anything wandered around camp during primetime for the crepuscular creatures, like bobcats and bears. I didn't see much beyond a few boomers and birds, but it's always good practice. One always gets more than they bargained for with such a micro adventure. I never went more than a quarter of a mile beyond camp, but there is so much reality crammed into these forests. Your ears gain a heightened level of sensitivity, your mind is trained on the present moment and your woods sixth sense can feel the compelling elements of life around you as you walk. This newfound sense of acuity is it's own gift.
It is not really the wilderness unless there's something out there that might kill you and eat you. Doug Peacock
It's another misty morning up top. The high yesterday reached 35 degrees. The low was a balmy 31 degrees. It was 34 degrees and cloudy at 7am observation. There is still some patchy snow left up top, which is slowly but steadily melting away. I would bet that it will be gone by tomorrow afternoon. The trails should be pretty manageable. There will likely be some slick spots near the top, so Microspikes would still be helpful, but not quite as necessary as a few days ago.
I spent the day yesterday taking care of camp chores and reading essays. It's finally starting to feel like I've settled in up here. It's almost like getting gear together for a backpacking trip. You think of all the contingencies, what you have, what you need, what you want, all the little comforts that are particular for you and arrange accordingly. Once you have it all laid out, it really hits you - you're here, you'll be there, and it becomes 'real' in a way that it wasn't when you were preoccupied with logistics. There's all kinds of little adjustments that make a place 'your own', but I finally feel like I've crested that plateau and things are just the way I like them. Now that my cabinkeeping is in order, I can focus on more important matters - seeing, feeling & reading. See y'all on the trails!
Instead, you exist in a kind of mobile Zen mode, your brain like a balloon tethered with string, accompanying but not actually part of the body below. Walking for hours and miles becomes as automatic, as unremarkable, as breathing. At the end of the day you don't think, "Hey, I did sixteen miles today," any more than you think, "Hey, I took eight thousand breaths today." It's just what you do. Bill Bryson
It's a misty morning up top. The high yesterday reached 41 degrees. The low was 28 degrees. It was 31 degrees and cloudy at 7am observation. The mountain received a lot of sunshine yesterday, but temperatures up top were still pretty cold, so we didn't have much melt. There's still about an inch of snow up here. The ice on Alum is manageable without Microspikes, save for a few tricky sections. I would imagine that it will continue to get easier and easier as we have some warm weather forecasted for the next few weeks.
It's finally beginning to feel like the Great Smoky Mountains up here. Some light mist rolled in late last evening, settled in and now we are living the cloud. I was a little worried that we'd have California type weather all season after our early snowfall, but it appears that the Smokies' inimitable variety hasn't left LeConte. I am thrilled to rediscover the mountain today, as it is an entirely new place in this kind of atmosphere. There's an air of mystery with this kind of fog in winter weather, especially on a slow Monday afternoon. It really changes the character of the mountain, or at least your perception of it. Enjoy the mystery, folks.
Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously. Hunter S. Thompson
It is... you guessed it, another gorgeous, clear day up top. The high yesterday reached 34 degrees. The low was 28 degrees. It was 28 degrees and clear at 7am observation. The mountain received more abundant sunshine yesterday, so the snow total is down to about an inch. However, the trails are still pretty treacherous. The snowfall pattern was a bit unusual and temperatures have been just about as cold down in the valley as up top, so the ice on the trail is consistent throughout. I would recommend Microspikes for the majority of the trail, certainly from Alum Cave up. See y'all on the trails!
A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. Mark Twain
It's yet another gorgeous, clear day up top. The high yesterday reached 46 degrees. The low was 28 degrees. It was 34 degrees and clear at 7am observation. The mountain received heavy sunshine all day, which led to about 3 inches of melt. The current snowfall up top is hovering around 2 inches. I am sure the trails are still in pretty rough shape with the thaw and refreezing cycle. Please be sure to pack Microspikes or some sort of traction devices. Enjoy the day!
Top photo: Sunrise this morning. Above: Mountain man TV.
I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity. Einstein
It is another beautiful morning up top. There was a fiesta of colours as I awoke to report the weather this morning - pinks and purples were gently shading the horizon line as I walked to the kitchen, some of Nature's fine watercolour strokes. The air is crisp and I expect to see lots of folks up top burning off yesterday's indulgences!
Top photo: Approaching Cliff Tops. Above: View from Cliff Tops.
The high yesterday reached 34 degrees. The low was 16 degrees. It was 28 degrees and clear at 7am observation. We had abundant sunshine yesterday afternoon and an inch of melt, bringing our snowfall total down to 5 inches up top. I would imagine that the trails are still in pretty rough shape, as there were hardly any visitors up top yesterday with 441 closed until mid-afternoon. It sounds like 441 will be open today and the Park's road crews are currently working on Cherokee Orchard Road as I post this. Rainbow Falls trail is open again - reports of a bridge being out were unfounded. Keep in mind that the sun is setting around 5:21, so if you aren't up top by 3pm, I would advise turning around unless you like stumbling around in the woods after dark.
I had a lovely hike out to watch the sun set yesterday evening at Cliff Tops. In past seasons, I've returned like an eager puppy, in a rush to drop my bags and see High Point, Myrtle, and all my favorite secret spots on the mountain. That kind of enthusiasm is fun, but it's been rewarding to slowly let the mountain reacquaint herself with me again. There is a new gift awaiting me every day. Heading out to Cliff Tops through one of my favorite sections of pines with the low slanted evening light was phenomenal. The sky was glowing golden and the snow reflected it in a subtly different shading, the contrast was sublime. It felt like a very clear sign that I'd made the right decision to come back for another winter. I have not yet had my fill.
The ancient values of dignity, beauty and poetry which sustain it are of Nature's inspiration; they are born of the mystery and beauty of the world. Henry Beston
First off, Happy Thanksgiving! I could go on and on about how much that I have to be grateful for this year, but the present reality of fresh snow atop my winter abode is at the top of my list. I am soaking in this beauty. It felt a bit like a fairy tale waking up this morning. It has been a quick turnaround for me, I hardly feel like I've had a chance to breathe with my arrival up top coinciding with end of the season madness. There is still a lot for me left to do to settle into my winter home, but the familiar view of High Point with the sun gently glowing up the dawnsky was so uplifting. It sent the message clear through my skull - it is really happening.
Top photo: Alum Cave in the timeless, snowy light. Above: I have a soft spot for cairns of all shapes and sizes. I thought this little toadstool cairn was charming.
There's all kinds of news on trail conditions. Rainbow Falls trail is currently CLOSED. It appears that a bridge washed out further below. They'll be sending in a crew as soon as possible to assess the damage. As of this posting, 441 is still closed. I hear them chattering on the radios, working hard to make sure all the roads are safe before they open up. Check the Park Service website or twitter feed for updates on road conditions.
Much thanks to Tim, Chris, Allyson & the rest of the crew. They were welcoming as could be and I really look forward to seeing them this winter. Be safe out there, everyone!
The high yesterday only reached 16 degrees. It was 16 degrees and clear at 7am observation. The low yesterday was 4 degrees. The mountain received 4.5 inches of new snow, bringing our total up to 6 inches. There are slightly deeper drifts up top and some buried ice below the fresh stuff. I came up Alum yesterday evening and could definitely feel my energy sapping with the drifts causing my feet to drag like chains. Please use caution if you intend to hike in the Park today.
It's good to be back, Lloyd.
Warm greetings from your cold winter caretaker! It's about 13 degrees out right now. The overnight high was 39 degrees and the low was 13 degrees. The lodge received 3.45 (!!!) inches of rain yesterday and 1.5 inches of snow. Imagine what havoc that much snow would've wreaked, if only it were a bit colder!
Fortunately for the crew, they will have a much more manageable hike off the mountain this morning. The snow is fresh and provides decent traction, but I am sure there are icy spots lurking beneath. I would definitely recommend some sort of traction devices, preferrably Microspikes.
Top photo: Our beloved lodge this morning, just before the boards go up for the winter. Above: Snowglow view up the main staircase.
As you may have heard, the Lodge is CLOSED for the winter. There are no day hiker services available. No coffee, no hot chocolate, no warming up next to the fire, no overnight stays... just about all you can do is admire the beauty the winter months brings and relish in the joys of your self-sufficiency.
Much thanks to my friend Barbara Allen for giving me a ride to the trailhead yesterday. I am thrilled to start this winter season with a bit of snow! I am hopeful that this is a good omen for a brutal winter season.
The gentle white of the new snow is giving off a fine, ambient glow in the dining room. I am writing this entry while watching the crew make all the preparations to close up for the winter: cleaning up from breakfast, folding blankets, wiping down floors, collecting kerosene lamps, moving rocking chairs... It's all over. As of this posting, 441 is still closed. The water rushing down Rainbow yesterday afternoon was serious enough to turn away a few overnight guests, so please be careful.