However, things changed rapidly this morning as the temperature dropped about 15 degrees in three hours. After lunch the thermometer reads 25 degrees. We've seen sporadic snow showers and ice pellets since about 10 a.m. with a light snow accumulation of less than an inch. It's still lightly snowing as of this afternoon, but the forecast calls for the fairly quick-moving system to exit the Smokies by Wednesday. I do expect it will be a cold Tuesday night atop LeConte. Hikers should be prepared for slick conditions on all the trails leading to the summit for the next couple of days.
In other trail news, llama wrangler Chrissy saw a yearling bear about two miles up the Trillium Gap Trail on Monday. The bear caused no difficulty and ran away as a wild critter should. Perhaps he was afraid that Chrissy would also strap a pack of clean linens to his back and put him to work. That does serve as a reminder that regardless of the time of year all hikers should be careful not to leave any food behind (even apple cores and banana peels).
As I was doing my morning chores I saw an unhappy junco and robin hopping around all stiff-legged. They were puffed up to ward off the dropping temperatures and the ice pellets bouncing off their wings. Having gotten used to some recent warm days on the mountain, those fluffy birds seemed to be fussing at the weather: "I didn't sign up for this."
In some other park news, crew members Pat and Jeanie told me they saw some impressive wildflowers around the Porter's Creek area in Greenbrier. On Highway 441, I saw a nice stand of white trillium between the hairpin curve just above the Chimneys Picnic Area on my way up to work last week. As of right now, the predominant color on top of LeConte is also white, albeit a thin coat I hope melts Wednesday.
April 15 is also Tax Day (hope all of you have that squared away), which is the cause of much consternation for many. Just to add some perspective and reduce blood pressure, I'm typing in a federally protected area accessed by some of the prettiest trails in one of the prettiest states in one of the prettiest nations in the world. Also, while I was in Uganda this winter (more stories about that in days to come), I received two marriage proposals--one of them from a family of a woman I never met. The reason: not that I'm a likely candidate to model for a cologne advertisement, but solely because I am American. And people across the world know that in America you have a chance--even on Tax Day. That's just a little perspective on what can be a frustrating day.
Finally, yesterday some of you asked about this perhaps being my last season on LeConte. There's no great drama or conspiracy there. I've been saving for seven years to take a trip around the world (I hope to finish all the continents I've missed and see some of them on the back of a horse), and I'm about 80 percent toward my saving goal. If I can meet my target this year, I'll try to take that trip in 2015 because sometimes life doesn't afford you a second chance to do something like that. In 2010, I gave my word I would work one season on LeConte. I don't often repeat adventure jobs (except for wrangling in Colorado and wrangling/guiding in Yellowstone--two years each). This is my fourth year on LeConte, which should tell you plenty about what a special place this is and what fine people I've met.