I pass along warmest regards from LeConte Lodge on a sunny Monday. Today is a news rich day from the top of Tennessee, so I'll plow ahead.
We had two separate black bear sightings on Sunday. Crew member Austin gets credit for the first bear sighting at the lodge in 2012. While enjoying a beautiful LeConte Sunday night from his porch, Austin saw two black bears walking through camp about 10:30 p.m. They ambled through the lower part of camp near the staff housing and left via the Trillium Gap Trail. I think all the snoring scared them off.
In addition, Tom, our backup llama wrangler, reported seeing a black bear sow and two cubs about two miles down the Trillium Gap Trail late Sunday morning. Given Austin's and Tom's descriptions, the two sightings aren't the same bears. Neither bear sighting caused any hardship for either party.
At any rate, because we share the same mountain, we need to be good neighbors to the bears -- for their safety and ours. You should never leave any human food out -- either on the trail or your cabin porch -- not even an empty lemonade cup or banana peel. Bears are wild animals and need to find their own food. If you assist in causing a bear to become habituated to human food, you've signed its death warrant. They're perfectly capable of foraging on their own and have been perfecting it for a long time (that's why you don't see fast food restaurants up here). As long as people act responsibly, we don't really have much bear trouble on LeConte. Share the mountain and give the bears their space.
For the weather report, Monday looks a lot like Saturday and Sunday, except hotter. Sunday's high reached 66, while the overnight low stood at 48. As of Monday midafternoon, it's currently 68, which is plenty warm for April. Keep in mind that it's never hit 80 degrees on the summit of LeConte since temperatures have been recorded and that gives you some perspective on how warm a 68-degree day feels to bookend April.
We were pleased to welcome a day hiker named Phil Large on Monday. Phil accomplished something admirable on his first day of retirement; he climbed LeConte via the Alum Cave Bluff Trail. "You have to do something memorable," Large said. "You don't want to just clean out your closet." Wise words.
I hope everyone is enjoying a fine Sunday. After a bustling Saturday, the mountain seems to be returning to a more leisurely pace on Sunday.Like the old-school carbon copy credit card machine we use in the office, the weather remains nearly a carbon copy of yesterday. As of lunch, most of Sunday has been sunny, though at times a thin veil of cumulus clouds visits us at LeConte Lodge. Even in the clouds, you can look up and see the wisps of clouds playing against a field of blue. Saturday's high pushed to 65, but it felt warmer than that. The overnight low registered 48 degrees.
Several crew members have been stretching their legs as of late on the Boulevard Trail. I was fortunate enough to do so a few days back and counted it an enjoyable afternoon. I ran across a couple of patches of trillium (pictured above) about 2.5-3 miles down the Boulevard. Crew member Walt, a botanist more accomplished than I, tells me that the above is a sweet white trillium--sure looked sweet to me.
A little farther up the mountain I ran across some Carolina rhododendron and sand myrtle giving a preview of their coming attraction. In the photo below, you can see buds just waiting to put on a show. We'll just have to wait a little longer.
In other good news, we enjoyed visits from some day hikers. J.D. Schlandt stopped by to say hello. J.D. has been climbing LeConte with a weighted pack to train for his upcoming trip to Mt. Hood. We hope good days spent on LeConte, one of the finest mountains in the East, will put him in good stead for an ascent of one of the jewels of the West.
In addition, we were glad to see Henry Neel again. Henry ably served as LeConte Lodge assistant manager for many years, finishing up his last season on the mountain in 2010. Henry brought up some local honey and sorghum for the crew, which we'll put to good use on our biscuits (another one of Henry's great talents).
Speaking of talents, Henry also has impeccable timing in the three years I've known him. He walked into the dining room to a sumptuous Sunday dinner feast prepared by Chrissy. Sunday dinner ranks as the most anticipated crew meal of the week, the one time we take time to set the table for ourselves and enjoy a meal without running and gunning. Prospective guests will be glad to know that we set the table for you every meal.
Have a fine day. Happy trails.
Since Allyson and Chris are off the mountain, I'll be patching in for High on LeConte updates for a few days. I'd like to introduce you to Dave Worth in Saturday's post.
It was nice to have a familiar face come by to visit earlier this month. While making his rounds, Dave Worth, one of the backcountry rangers for the National Park Service, stopped by the lodge to say hello. In 2010 and 2011, Dave excelled as the interpretive ranger at Mt. LeConte, teaching a great many eager youngsters about "the Salamander Capital of the World" and answering a bushel of questions about real Smoky bears.
"I'm looking forward to a really exciting season," Worth said. "The backcountry ranger position is well organized, and I'm ready to serve."
A word to the wise, if you plan on sullying the beauty of the backcountry in the Smokies, then don't plan on outrunning him. Dave through hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2008. More recently, in May 2011, he covered all 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail through the Smokies (perhaps the most lung-busting stretch from Georgia to Maine) in a mind-boggling 14 hours, 50 minutes and 22 seconds--one of the greatest feats of endurance in park history. In August 2011, Dave churned through all six trails to Mt. LeConte in 10 hours and 3 minutes.
The moral of the story is -- don't plan on evading Dave Worth unless you plan to be on the medal stand at the upcoming London Olympics.
"I hope to use my experiences in the park to further the goals of my position," Worth said. "It's important to maintain the backcountry and its resources. I want to ensure that all folks visiting the backcountry have a good experience."
It's good to know that Dave will continue to protect the park that all of us at LeConte Lodge cherish. He's a credit to the park service, and we wish him well.
As I write Saturday afternoon, cumulus clouds are dancing across the summit of Mt. LeConte, leaving us alternately soaking up the sun or enveloped in clouds. Friday's high was 57. The overnight low only dropped to 46, leaving the winter weather of earlier this week a distant memory. As of lunch, we've already surpassed Friday's high on a warm Saturday afternoon.
Come up and see us. Happy trails.
We had a brief reprieve during storms yesterday morning. The rain and wind came in pretty hard first thing in the morning. We were treated to hail storms on and off through out the day. The hail we got on the mountain was nothing in comparison to what the residents in Gatlinburg received. I saw pictures all over facebook of baseball size hail. The high yesterday reached 60 degrees. Today is looking promising. The sun has been in out of the clouds and the day has potential. Chris and I be will hiking off the mountain this evening. Time for a little rest and relaxation, and checking on our home in Gatlinburg to make sure there is no hail damage.
Wow, talk about a difference in weather. One day we are hovering in the teens with ice on the trees and the next day the clouds clear out and the temperatures rise to the high 50s. The crew scattered all over the mountain enjoying the views. Chris took a walk to Cliff Tops to enjoy the clear day. Today is a totally different story again. We are socked in and expecting some really bad storms. I guess it is good thing I did my laundry yesterday.
This photograph was taken yesterday morning. Today is quite different. It is currently 38 degrees. The ice has melted from the trees and the ground. The wind is whipping over the mountain and it is threatening more rain. We received a about a quarter inch last night. If I had to guess, I would say most of the ice on the trails has melted. There may be some patches. I would bet the trails are fine with out any type of ice cleat. I do not know this as fact because I have not heard a report from anyone as of yet. I am going on experience alone. If you are hiking up today, take your time and stay safe. See you at the top with a hot cup of good ole' Mt. LeConte hot chocolate.
When you wake up to 18 degrees outside, you really learn to appreciate indoor plumbing. The views have been phenomenal as long as you are wrapped up and staying warm. It is bone chillingly cold up here. There is still ice around camp and on the trails. If you are hiking up, take it slow and come prepared.
It is a cold day on the top. We have a dusting of snow on the ground. All of the buds on the trees are iced over. The low last night was 18 and it is not getting any warmer. One part of being resident manager is making sure the llamas get to the top safely. Chris headed down Trillium trail with 75 pounds worth of sand to distribute over the icy sections up top. The cold weather makes for a hectic day in Chris's life. He has many extra chores to take care of when the weather is freezing cold.
If you are heading up the mountain today, make sure you have plenty of warm layers to put on some sort of ice cleat to keep from slipping on the icy trails. Hike safe and we will be awaiting your arrival with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.
Office is updating the blog, Allyson is out of electricity due to cloud cover. Low of 18 degrees, no snow accumulation but trails are icy.
"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."- John Muir
Have a happy Earth Day!
We are hovering in the low 30s. The weather people are calling for snow in the mountains this evening. I will keep you updated on any accumulation we happen to get. If I listen to my husband, he says it is going to be the blizzard of '93. It is a good thing I don't always listen to him. If you are due to hike up tomorrow, check back for trail conditions in the morning.
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