4:30 PM Update:
Newfound Gap Road (US 441) will be temporarily closed starting at 6:00 PM this evening on account of the impending Winter Storm Warning. There are several inches of snow predicted at all elevations. Alum Cave and The Boulevard trails will not be accessible for visitors looking to come to the mountain. Cherokee Orchard remains open, so guests are being advised to utilize the Rainbow Falls Trail at this time. We will continue to update you as we receive new information from the NPS, and regarding the weather and trail conditions.
Our first full day of business is in the books! A great crowd and great weather. Yesterday's high temperature was 47 degrees, and our low this morning was 34. The mid 30's are where we reside for the moment, waiting for the sun to gain some height and warm things up. A few brief showers gave us 0.25" of rainfall. Today ought to be a wonderful first day of Spring. Tomorrow though...
The topic of discussion is certainly going to be the incoming weather. Beginning late tonight, temperatures are expected to plummet and a Winter Storm Warning goes into effect. The low elevations are calling for anywhere between 4-8" of snow, and the higher peaks could see 10" or more. It's possible that the NPS will close Newfound Gap Road (US 441) sometime tonight before the storm arrives, but we'll wait to confirm that once it actually happens.
In the likelihood that these snow amounts come to fruition and US 441 closes, we are encouraging Wednesday's guests to consider ascending the mountain via Rainbow Falls Trail. Depending on the timing and amounts of snow early Wednesday, it's possible Cherokee Orchard Road could still be accessible for guests to make their way to the trail. Unless conditions call for something different, we will look to remain open for business on Wednesday. If Cherokee Orchard Road closes before the morning, we'll notify you of what to expect. If the road closes after guests have already gotten on the trail, we will of course provide updates and work with the NPS to determine the best means for guests to hike down and reclaim their vehicles after their stay.
With the falling temperatures and snow amounts, please evaluate your gear for ascending the mountain. These types of hiking conditions are not to be taken lightly. Waterproof boots, pants, and jackets are essential, as are warm layers for hiking and dry layers to change into when you arrive. Tall gaiters are great for creating waterproof continuity from your boots to your pants. Traction devices and trekking poles will greatly assist with stability and sure footing while navigating the snow and ice. Avoid cotton at all costs because of its high moisture retention. If your layers get wet and don't dry out, it can quickly lead to hypothermia in such cold temps. Whatever your average hiking pace may be, consider allowing yourself extra time to make the climb, as moving through snow can take more time and more energy. And just because it's cold and you may not feel thirsty, it's still crucial one stays hydrated.
Again, our plan at this time is to remain open, so please take all necessary precautions before starting up the trail. Our reservations office is open from 8-5 weekdays to assist with your planning and to answer any last minute questions you might have.
Have a great first day of Spring!
The snow has receded and the rain has washed it away. The sun rises, marking a new day and a new season on Mount LeConte. Camp sits quietly in the breeze, awaiting the first guests of the year to initiate a hum of excitement that will last now until Thanksgiving. Rocking chairs on porches stand stationary as stone, guitars rest in a corner absent of sound, and every path between cabins is an open highway. About the only activity gracing this mountain top emanates from last minute touch ups by the crew, smells of lunch wafting up from the kitchen, the bubbling of fresh coffee and hot chocolate stimulating the senses, and the chirping of juncos reminding you of spring's imminent arrival. It's Opening Day at LeConte Lodge, and everything has come to life.
Where will your boots lead you this season? What traditions will you revisit and pass along? What new faces will you meet and what friends will you make around a table of soup and cornbread? What lasting memories will take hold of your spirit and rock you to the core, leaving you longing for more as you regrettably descend the mountain?
This mountain always has and always will maintain control of its own magic. It always has and always will find new and invigorating ways to awe and inspire those who seek the summit. The trees and the cliffs, they continue to stand the test of time, reminding us of what came first and what will remain long after. LeConte is love, it is raw beauty, it is a fearsome force, and it is our escape from a different world.
So where does the lodge fit in? We serve as the mechanism for your escape, waiting here to greet you like an old friend with warm beverages in hand. The experience above 6,000' can be foreign for many, especially in this day in age, and so our mission is to make our guests as comfortable as possible in a land different from their own. The beef and gravy, the shirts, the cozy blankets, they are all staples within this operation, but the true experience is about bringing people together in nature. Strangers flock to this mountain to test themselves, to learn more about their surroundings, to share in the wonder with family and friends. So here we are waiting, as a crew, ready to bring you closer to the answers that only Mount LeConte can provide.
The doors are open, the beds are made, and the food is prepping. Our crew, bringing boatloads of service industry experience to this business, are eager and excited to meet you. They've been working diligently to get this place ready to entertain. We'll have some new writers and photographers bringing their talents to this blog in the coming days. We'll be introducing you to them all shortly. So come on up and see us if you can. For those of you who are able to follow along through this blog, we'll strive to bring justice to the sights, sounds, and smells of this wonderful place by sharing it with you.
Thank you for coming along for the ride. Thank you for choosing LeConte Lodge as your mountain getaway or afternoon reprieve this year. We so look forward to hosting you. Happy Opening Day, now let's make some memories!
Sincerely Yours in Lodging,
It has been a busy few days to say the least. Airlift operations consumed camp for Thursday's entirety and we were able to complete our resupply before dusk. Yesterday and today have been spent by the crew getting this place ready to open. Moving, reorganizing, cleaning, stocking, displaying, all done ten fold. The weather has been quite favorable in recent days thanks to a welcome warming trend. Our day time highs have been in the 40's and our lows barely tab the freezing mark. A brief shower this morning dropped 0.1" of rainfall on the mountain. Our remaining snow depth is about 4" with a great deal of melt soggying up the footpaths.
Now that we have our supplies, it takes a team effort to get all of our newest merchandise stocked and displayed. So what better time to unveil the famous LeConte Lodge "I Hiked It" T-Shirt for the 2018 season! This year's design was conceptualized by General Manager, John Northrup, brought to life by our long time and incredibly talented artist, Lisa Line, and eventually fine tuned by our friends from American Graffitee of Knoxville, TN.
It offers a new spin while also bringing back a few old school themes from shirts past. On the left chest, we've taken a break from our traditional Dining Hall logo and incorporated an immaculately drawn kerosene lantern with name and elevation. The grand design bounces to the back this year, as the map of the mountain makes its return, last used in 2009. Instead of the map flying solo, it's been partially framed by a previously used font, a spruce tree, and a hiker admiring the view from Cliff Tops. As you can see from the samples above, the shirt color you prefer may offer up a different color font, map, or tree. Great variety for all to choose from!
The rest of the merchandise lineup has several of our visitor's favorites back for another year, but not without a few new faces on scene. This year's ornament features a hiker relaxing on a porch with a delicious cup of hot chocolate. There's a new color in the wicking shirts and caps. Plus, check out that new tie-dye llama sticker!
When we open our doors on Monday, March 19th, all of these items and more will be available for purchase on the mountain. So come on up and add to your collection of awesome LeConte Lodge swag!
Have a great weekend.
It was another chilly day on the mountain, but the skies finally cleared in the afternoon as the blissful blues above took control. Atmospheric conditions in conjunction with road openings allowed us to get in several hours of much needed flying time. Today should be a gorgeous day in its entirety, and so we are optimistic about being able to complete Airlift operations some time today. If a summit to the mountain is in your plans, please remember that the lodge premises will not be accessible like it is the rest of the year. While we fly, lodge grounds are closed off for safety reasons. Brief openings will occur when we will be able to allow visitors access to restrooms and water spigots. Otherwise, onlookers will have to marvel at the helicopter from a safe distance outside of camp.
Yesterday's high temperature was a icy 17 degrees, with the morning's low dropping to 5. It's significantly colder beneath that helicopter rotor wash! The snow really came on strong bringing our total depth to 12". Skies should remain clear today and temps are expected to warm up. As the snow melts, trails are sure to turn slippery and slushy. Newfound Gap Road (US 441) remains open to all traffic.
During the "hurry up and wait" period between shoveling and flying yesterday afternoon, several of our crew members took advantage of the fresh powder with makeshift sleds. One person's shining moment was captured on camera for all to enjoy!
Have a great day.
Hwy 441, Newfound Gap Road is getting ready to open. Hope to start flying as soon as crew can get to staging area.
Lodge still having trouble logging into blog, but they can post on the LeConte Lodge Facebook page.
The Lodge is having trouble signing into the blog today so this posting is from the office. As of about 9:30 am, they had 10 plus inches of snow and it is 5 degrees. Hwy 441, Newfound Gap Road is still closed due to snow and ice. If you plan on hiking today, remember no day-hiker services will be available. The Lodge will try to logon later with snow pictures and other updates.
The road is open! The NPS was able swing the gate open at noon, but visitors will still need to use caution as they navigate US 441. Another Winter Weather Advisory goes into effect this evening, so it's entirely possible the road may be closed again. Our snow depth remains at 8" as nothing new really happened overnight. Our high temp was 35 and our low this morning dipped to 9 degrees. We're in the teens for the moment dancing in and out of the clouds.
The clouds hung around all night so we never saw a break, and the winds picked up quite a bit. Drifts refilled our previously cleared paths, and the ice cold gusts require one to layer up like a puffy marshmallow. No bother. Our shoveling squad made short work of scraping out numerous hamster paths between buildings, landing zones, propane fields, and everything in between.
The blindingly white beauty of the freshly fallen snow really mesmerizes the beholder. Walking among the trees, you feel the stillness creep into your very being, as thought gets lost in space and time. You refrain from breaking trail so as not to disturb nature's perfection, but the sheer joy of it grabs hold and so you trudge through it both elated and exhausted. As gaps in the clouds pass over camp, the royal blue of the sky behind the bright white of the frosted forest catches your gaze. Attempts to describe it would be unjust, and if the cold air hasn't taken your breath away, the view surely will. The magic of the mountain speaks for itself, no human intervention required.
If we end up being able to fly this afternoon, we will of course let you all know. Until then, enjoy your start to the week and be safe if you're in our beautiful park.
3:00 PM Update:
The snow seems to be letting up, and the clouds are slowly glowing brighter, but not before bringing our total snow accumulation up to 8". Temps have dipped into the mid-teens this afternoon. Perhaps the skies will break open just in time for a stellar sunset! There's another chance for snow showers late this evening before hopefully clearing up tomorrow. Fingers crossed for flying. Newfound Gap Road remains closed, but Rainbow Falls is accessible out of Cherokee Orchard. We'll keep you posted on the conditions up top and any changes regarding the major roadways.
The mountain top is once again glazed over in fresh powder. In the middle of the night, scattered rain showers eventually went silent giving way to lightly falling snow. At measurement a fresh 2" of snow had already come down, bringing our current total to 4". The liquid precip accounted for 0.45". Once the rain shifted to snow temperatures steadily dipped into the low 20's. This is likely where we'll hover much of the day. Tuesday evening into Wednesday appears to be coldest it will get this week. At this time, US 441 remains temporarily closed and our helicopter remains grounded.
Our team continues to make the best of the situation, cleaning and tidying up where we can. There comes a point where there's nothing left to do but sit back and admire the beauty of nature around you. The wind is calm, so stepping outside and away from the noise gives one the impression of standing in a snow globe, the softly falling flakes barely breaking the hush of the air. The fresh powder covers up any imperfections, creating uniformity from cabins to red spruces. Peering into the fog as the landscape blurs into white leads the mind to wander. Winter in these mountains can be both beautiful and treacherous. Best to safely enjoy the former and stay clear of the latter.
We hope to kickoff our annual resupply Airlift in the next day or two. We'll see if all of the contributing factors in that decision align for us. Once flying begins, there will be temporary closures of the lodge grounds. We will be posting signs and caution tape around the perimeter of camp with staff to inform and direct visitors about the closure. Accessing water spigots and restrooms will be limited to when it is deemed safe for visitors to enter camp. While the helicopter is in the air, keeping hikers away from the action at a certain distance is the best way to ensure their safety. Please respect these closures and the dedicated folks staffing the entrances. Places like Cliff Tops, High Top, and Myrtle Point will of course remain accessible to hikers.
Thank you and have a great afternoon.
The NPS will be closing Newfound Gap Road (US 441) at 6:30 PM this evening in advance of the Winter Weather Advisory. The mixture of rain and snow with cooling temperatures will create hazardous conditions along roadways and area trails. Several inches of snow are expected along the higher elevations this evening and into Monday. Please use caution.
Things up top have been thawing over the last twelve hours, and so our winter wonderland has quickly turned into a slushy slip and slide situation. Yesterday's high temp ended up at 34 degrees, with a low of 26. Any rainfall we've seen since late last night and through this morning has been light and intermittent. The rain is expected to persist through the rest of the day before changing over to snow this evening. Conditions on the roads and trails may become hazardous in a hurry come Monday morning. When the accumulation is all said and done we may have gained a few more inches of the fluffy stuff.
Sloppy outside conditions or not, there is always plenty to accomplish inside during the preseason. Our folks have been chugging along with the moving and stacking, washing and scrubbing. Before long the place will look and smell squeaky clean, ready to entertain the first of the season's guests.
Everyone is getting excited about the impending Airlift. Our helicopter should be rolling into town before long, then it's just a matter of waiting for the weather to break in our favor for some productive hours of airtime. When we know we're about to take flight, it'll mean access to the lodge will change slightly. More on that tomorrow. In the meantime, have yourself a pleasant Sunday wherever you may be!
Click. Click. WHOOSH. The first burner's flames are lit to begin the first round of coffee percolation. The early risers are up, either preparing breakfast for present company or pumping water from the spring. The shimmering city lights below and the star speckled sky above twinkle in perfect harmony as the morning glow bids adieu to the twilight. The spectacle is short lived this day, as the clouds roll in and the flurries return in a frenzy. There is much to be done in the coming days, tasks that are certainly made more interesting given current environmental conditions. Winter can kick and scream, pound and pour, whip, whirl and whine all it wants.
Spring is coming...and the Lodge is waking up.
Good Morning All,
Here we go again. After a mild February, winter has returned in earnest just in time for our preseason preparations. This morning's temperature observation also marks the high for the period, coming in at 28 degrees. Our low from yesterday came at breakfast, dipping down to a biting 6 degrees. Despite no new precipitation on Friday, the snow is back, and the flakes are expected to last a few hours today. US 441 is currently open to all traffic, but that could change at any time if the park deems the highway unfit for safe passage. We'll do our best to keep you up to speed on the situation.
Trails are snowy and icy, so traction devices are highly recommended, as are warm, waterproof layers. Cotton is not. There is breathtaking beauty in the winter scenes of the mountains, but such conditions are equally treacherous. Please use caution if playing in the high elevation forests is on the weekend docket.
Special shout out to this season's winter caretaker, Seth Orme. We greatly appreciate all of his efforts in keeping an eye on the place, in addition to keeping the magic of the mountain alive and well through vivid photography and powerful prose. We all look forward to hearing of his upcoming adventures off of the mountain. And a big thank you to all of you, the readers, in your commitment to keeping up with all of the lodge action as it happens throughout the year.
Have a great start to the weekend.
It’s currently 13 degrees and crystal clear up top. There is currently 5” inches of snow on the ground.
24 hour temperature range: High 13 Low 6
*US Hwy 441/Newfound Gap Rd from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC is open.
Stay up to date on road conditions here:
Tripod in one hand - coffee in the other, I followed fox prints toward sunrise. It was going to be a snow covered bluebird morning. Quite a fitting end to the season I thought as I trudged through the purple hued snow. As always, the sun wasn’t going to wait, regardless of how significant the morning was to me. Buzzing, I took another sip of coffee and continued moving at a brisk pace. I would make it - I had to make it…
What to make of these 3 1/2 months living on Mt. Le Conte. The cold, the beauty, the indifference of mother nature. Each day living on Le Conte brought a contrast that can only be found in the wilds. From witnessing a sunrise that numbs the mind and soothes the soul - to struggling to breath as you carry 14 gallons of water from a frozen solid spring you had to smash free with a sledge hammer. Just using the restroom required an adventurous hike through camp. Ever felt a - 8 degree draft while sitting on the pot? Don't get me started.
…Stepping to the edge of Apollo Overlook, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath as the first rays of sunshine kissed my cheeks. The image in front of me danced around in my mind. I finally grasped what my eyes were seeing, permanently storing the image in the deep catalogs of my mind. I took one last sip of coffee and made for Myrtle Point.
What I didn’t expect to experience on the mountain was the incredible community that cherishes this geological formation. I’ve never seen such a dedicated following for a mountain. The love for Mt. Le Conte was palpable, day in and day out. From swapping stories with caretaker’s past to hearing the scream of someone’s first sunset on Cliff Tops - Mt. Le Conte excelled at finding a place to rest in many a travelers heart.
An untouched Myrtle Point lay before me. Even my neighbor, the fox, did me the courtesy of leaving it free of footprints. Standing there as the sun illuminated the eastern flank of Clingmans Dome, I couldn’t help but to think about the future - the changing of the season…
Well, Seth - now what? I’ve heard this question asked many times. I’ve even asked myself a few times. For the last three years, I’ve invested my summers in the wilds of America. I hiked the Appalachian Trail, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, biked 4,700 miles across the country - I invested in memories and experiences to pass down to my grandchildren. I intend to continue these investments, but this year will be a different plan of action.
Walking down the lodge steps, I noticed the lack of boards on the dinning room doors. Change was coming, fast. The new crew was enjoying breakfast in Pigeon Forge and would be hiking their way up this afternoon. With their arrival, my winter season would officially be over.
My whole life lay tucked away in my red backpack. Again, I would be transitioning with the seasons. “So it goes,” I thought as I lugged the overstuffed pack on my back.
Waving farewell - I descend toward a different story…another dream.
Until next winter...
Onward and Upward,
Seth “Cap” Orme
P.s - Thank you all so much for commenting on my posts and sharing your loving words this winter! My internet was limited to a small 5 gigabyte booster - so responding to all the comments wasn’t always feasible. Regardless, I read them all and truly appreciate your kindness. I’m glad I could share my love for the outdoors with you all!
P.s.s - I’ll be doing a plethora of things this summer. One of them is to continue writing and taking photos. I will have a proper platform to share new adventures with those who would like to follow. You can follow me on facebook or instagram ( @_orme ) or shoot me an email if you’d like to be updated when I begin sharing other adventures ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
See you all next winter!
“The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is” - Jim Carrey
Welcome to the official blog of LeConte Lodge. We hope you find the information provided here both helpful and enjoyable. Thank you for visiting the site, and we hope to see you on the mountain!