February 28th, 2018
It’s currently 32 degrees up top. Fog, high winds and cold rain best represent the mountain right now. We've only received trace amounts of precipitation so far. Yesterday’s high was 48 degrees with, an overnight low of 30 degrees.
It looks like we’re on the edge of rain and snow. Today should be interesting.
Howling wind paired with tapping rain lulled me back to sleep. I wasn’t ready to get up yet. My final, less pleasant, alarm sounded. Crawling down from the loft, I dressed and made for the kitchen. Hot tea in hand - I called in the weather. The conditions seemed great for snow, but ice and spitting rain was all that fell.
Staring out the window, I thought of the challenging mountain environment. Thirty degree temperatures with wind and rain make for some of the most dangerous conditions in this area. I thought of the extra gear I would bring, if I decided to wander. I continued staring out the window…
The prospect of hot tea and a book seemed far more appetizing.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” -Oscar Wilde
February 27th, 2018
It’s currently 41 degrees and crystal clear up top. Yesterday’s high was 39 degrees, with an overnight low of 24. We received .1” of precipitation.
I sprung out of bed. The sight of stars filled me with sunrise excitement. It had been weeks since I had seen a clear sunrise - I wouldn’t dare miss this one. Flying out of the kitchen, I made my way toward Myrtle Point. The chickadee’s chirped around me as I galloped toward the east-side of Mt. Le Conte. Arriving at the point, the skyline greeted me with a warm pre-dawn glow. I watched. I waited. The sun popped up just after 7:00AM. The scene was as glorious as any I’d seen. More than happy with the show, I wandered back toward the lodge - thinking…
What adventure’s would this clear day bring?
“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” - Bertrand Russell
February 26th, 2018
It’s currently 36 degrees and foggy up top. We received .45” of an inch of precipitation. Yesterday’s high was 46 degrees, with the low being 36 degrees.
Cooler temperatures and light precipitation may create a great recipe for snow. Fingers crossed.
The tap of rain made it challenging to rise out of bed. Finally dressed, I eased into the kitchen and lit the kettle. Tea was soon steeping. I called in the weather, grabbed my mug and wandered around in the fog and rain, taking note of the cooler temperatures. If the temperatures kept falling, the whole mountain would become an ice block. I laughed at the thought.
Back in the kitchen, I relit the kettle for a second round of tea. How many bouts with the kettle would this moody Monday bring? Book in hand, I intended to find out.
"A cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle."
February 25th, 2018
It’s currently 43 degrees - socked in and raining. Yesterday’s high was 49 degrees, with an overnight low of 43 degrees. We received .55” inches of precipitation.
Please plan ahead if you’re planning to venture out. The combination of cool temperatures, wind and rain make for exceptionally tough conditions. I’ve run into a number of folks the last few days who were less than prepared for the conditions. Please, use good judgment out there.
My legs moved swiftly beneath me. The serene and challenging Boulevard Trail kept me focused. The dark mass of clouds towering over Clingmans Dome reminded me to keep moving. Weather was coming. Looking back at my running partner, a wordless conversation ensued. Tired, sore, and happy - we both knew that one last hard climb lay between us and the lodge. The conversation ended in with a smile, followed by a mutual glance at the pending storm. We picked up the pace. The wind followed suit.
I woke to the mesmerizing sound of rain on cedar shingles. My preliminary alarm had woken me. Remaining still, I mentally prepared for the day. My annoying alarm followed thirty-minutes later. I popped up and got dressed. Minutes later…
I trudged into the wind and rain.
All was silent as before — All silent save the dripping rain.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
February 24th, 2018
It’s currently 46 degrees and socked in up top. Yesterday’s high was 59 degrees, with an overnight low of 44.
Yesterday’s blue skies faded with the setting sun. Clouds crept in. The landscape became more reminiscent of a Grimm’s Fairytale. Fog drifted eerily through the trees. The menacing wind howled relentlessly in the distance. On a quest, I continued to wander around the foreboding mountain.
Back at the lodge, I slowly lowered thin disks of Naan bread into the hot bacon grease. The delicate savory bread never failed to quench my afternoon hunger. I added a scoop of peach preserves to the soft dough and folded it into a thin turn-over. The creation sizzled in the well loved cast iron. I waited…
Oblivious of the flavor discovery waiting within the cooling pastry.
“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.” - Zhuang Zhou
February 23rd, 2018
It’s currently 47 degrees and partly cloudy. The morning fog began to recede after the sun rose. Yesterday’s high was 59 degrees, with an overnight low of 44.
The trails have been ice free for quite some time now; that being said, the upper section of Alum Cave Trail is slick in spots from wet rock.
The clouds would likely descend upon the mountain - right when the sunset show was supposed to start. It was going to be a repeat of the last five days. I walked outside to confirm my presumption. The light was incredible. The blanket was high and tattered. Grabbing the camera gear, I bet against myself and made for Cliff Tops.
The heavens broke through the clouds. Standing alone on the windless ledge, I was paralyzed by the beauty. My camera sounded like a typewriter. Click, click, click. I paused. Becoming more deliberate, I watched the colors change - being more intentional with each press of the shutter. Pausing again, I stepped away from the camera and took a deep breath. The mountains were engulfed in light. A strong sense of freedom came over me…
Sunset always seemed to have that effect.
So it goes,
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” - Lao Tzu
February 22nd, 2018
It’s currently 47 degrees and partly cloudy up top. High winds continue to pummel Mt. Le Conte. Yesterday’s high was 53 degrees with an overnight low 46.
Clouds rolled over the mountaintops. Le Conte’s high point was coated in black clouds. Dubious of my sunrise prospects, I made a last minute decision to saunter towards the exposed sky toward Cliff Tops. Braving the wind, I gazed up at the strawberry skies as they hovered above the blueberry earth below.
Walking back towards the lodge, I thought about photo compositions and where I might capture them. Yesterday’s discoveries left me even more excited for snow and clear skies….
Would I see snow before my departure?
“If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent.” – Isaac Newton
February 21st, 2018
It’s currently 48 degrees and partly cloudy up top. Yesterday’s high was 53 degrees, with a low of 43 degrees.
After posting yesterday’s blog, the clouds parted and sun warmed the mountain. By evening, the clouds rolled back in, cloaking the mountain.
A Summit Effort
I moved gently down the mountain. Jogging lightly, I thought of the effort I planned to put myself through. The goal was to run from the Alum Cave Trailhead to the summit of Mt. Le Conte. The warm weather and ice free trails made for a great opportunity to attempt a fast climb. My personal goal was make it up the mountain quicker than my time from the beginning of the season. Continuing the descent, I soaked up the sun’s warm rays. At the trailhead, I peeled off as many layers as I modestly could. It would be a hot climb. Feeling solid, I started my old Casio and began the ascent.
Legs humming beneath me, I focused on my breathing. I couldn’t help but revel in the beauty of the trail. The mountain looked so different from the weeks prior. My eyes continued to wander. The trail steepened. My focus came back to the task at hand - breath management. The trails namesake came into view. Twenty minutes had elapsed. I ran the climb, ignoring my body’s request for air.
The Pulpit appeared in front of me. Relieved, I knew I could use the flat section to catch my breath and make up a little time. Monotony Ridge lay waiting on the other end. Moving fast, I managed across the wet rock as quickly and as safely as I could. The long climb started sooner than I expected, but I knew this section well. I settled into a pace I could maintain for the entirety of the monotonous climb. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Focused, I continued upward…onward.
With Monotony Ridge in the rearview, I ignored my sluggish legs and made for a much desired landmark, the horse gate. Though the gate no longer stands, the checkpoint remains a beacon in many a hiker’s mind. The landmark marks the end of the climbing along the Alum Cave Trail. In control of my breath, I rounded the bend and sprinted down the trail…
I climbed the steps to the first bridge, after the junction with the Rainbow Falls Trail. My watch read 49:26. I’d bested my November attempt by 5 minutes. Satisfied, I walked a few steps. My original goal came back to the forefront. THE SUMMIT!
A few minutes later…
I smiled, gasping for air, atop the high point.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
February 20th, 2018
It’s currently 43 degrees and socked in up top. High winds prevailed through the night. Yesterday’s high was 45 degrees, with an overnight low of 42 degrees.
The small hand on the kitchen clock edged closer to 6 o’clock. Sunset would be soon. A stubborn Mt. Le Conte remained hidden under a thick blanket of clouds. Equally as stubborn - I began gearing up for sunset. I arrived at the rocky outcrop just in time to see the sky unzip. The thick layer covering Le Conte gave way to another sheet of clouds high in the atmosphere - the sun peaked out. The clouds sped across the sky, continuing their migration north. Happy - I captured the scene. The curtain dropped as soon as the show had begun.
I woke to the wind knocking at my door. Rested, I soon answered. I wouldn’t be seeing the sun this morning, but the moody theme around the lodge was always a unique experience. I grabbed my coffee and made for the door. Outside, the warm wind encouraged the trees to wave. Acknowledging the salutation, I began thinking of spring. Soon the mountain would transform in a big way. The world I’ve known all winter would be budding with flowers and teeming with wildlife. Excited about the prospect of a warming landscape, I had a deeper desire in the back of my mind…
I secretly hoped for one more BIG snow.
“Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.” - T.S. Eliot
February 19th, 2018
Good morning, 10:55AM
It’s currently 44 degrees and socked in up top. Yesterday’s high was 51 degrees, with a low of 25. We received trace amounts of precipitation.
The bright sun warmed my face. Stepping onto the brght ledge, I gazed at the perennial beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Leaving inspiration point, I continued toward bluffs. Four days off the mountain had me feeling particularly excited to be back in these woods. I continued my ascent toward Mt. Le Conte.
Back up top - I made for sunset. The world was still shining, but its warmth was beginning to sneak away. Arriving at the Cliff Tops, a lukewarm wind shoved me backward. Smiling - I found a protected seat just below the myrtle to watch the show. Clouds built in the distance. It would be interesting to see how the weather might change in the coming hours. Still lost in thought, I captured photos as the sky continued to scale through the palette of colors.
...I was happy to back up top.
“The hues of the opal, the light of the diamond, are not to be seen if the eye is too near.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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