We're enjoying a beautiful Friday on Mt. LeConte, though we do have a few clouds building this afternoon. The forecast calls for warm days with the typical summertime chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Thursday offered up ample sunshine to dry up our puddles with a high of 63 and low of 46. At observation this morning (about 6:45 a.m. when we call in weather conditions on LeConte to the National Park Service), the temperature was 52, the warmest observation temperature since May 2.
We were happy to host the celebration of Walland, Tenn., native Sam McGroom's big accomplishment Thursday night. Sam chose the Trillium Gap Trail leading to Mt. LeConte to complete all of the hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The nickname for membership in such a group is the "900 Club," though with several trails in the park closed the total is probably closer to 800+ miles. At any rate, Sam logged 1,304 miles to meet her goal of covering the park.
"It's a big accomplishment for me," McGroom said. "I wanted to celebrate it at the lodge. I think it's amazing that the weather has been bad all week, and it was beautiful today. I was greatly rewarded."
Sam started her Smokies' quest on Sept. 7, 2010 and wasted little time in making this dream reality. "I would have finished quicker, but we were waiting on our reservation on LeConte," McGroom said.
She says her favorite trail was "the trail I just hiked!" However, she did mention that backpacking Hazel Creek with her son was special. She was quick to thank her family for all their support and effort.
"I've learned so much," McGroom said. "I have had some magical experiences."
Sam could have chosen any trail to place the bookend on her goal, but we're honored you chose LeConte to celebrate your accomplishment.
We were also honored to host John Mason, an Asheville, N.C. native, on his 50th hike to LeConte Thursday. Mason persevered through heart attacks and other serious medical challenges to return to his beloved LeConte Lodge after missing last year. Mason eloquently addressed our guests assembled for dinner, speaking of his friends who had helped him return to celebrate life on LeConte. He came up with his wife and eight close friends from Asheville.
"We had a magnificent LeConte experience once again," Mason said. "You might be strangers when you get to the top, but not after dinner."
Glad to see you back at the top of Tennessee, John. Come on back and see us soon. That goes for the rest of you reading, too. Have a fantastic weekend. Happy trails.