The mountain was busy yesterday. Dayhikers trying to get to the top before the bad weather moves in for the weekend. The crew went different directions to explore their back yard. Chris took this picture of Alan from Myrtle Point. Alan scurried down a man way just off the point. The picture captures the emerald green of spring in the lower elevations. The high yesterday was 50 with a low of 40. I awoke with a headache this morning. I can usually bet that a low pressure system has moved in when this occurs. Sure enough, the clouds are hanging low and the threat of rain is looming. It is going to be a great day for hot cocoa and a good book. I am predicting not much foot traffic for the day.
Yesterday turned out to be an eventful day. We awoke to such an awe inspiring vision of the clouds drifting below us. The morning started out with our usual breakfast service and seeing the guests off. As we sat down for lunch we received word that one of our guests from the previous night had fallen on Alum Cave trail and possibly broken her ankle. After talking to the park service, we rallied our troops along with all the needed medical supplies and sent them on their way. The woman was approximately one mile down the trail. The crew took the litter down trail to bring the woman to the top of camp so a horse could carry her back down the mountain. Our staff returned with patient in tow around 5 pm just in time to get dinner going for the guests. Chris and I consider ourselves so lucky to work with such an amazing staff who thinks nothing of spending their afternoon off to help someone get the help they need. We learned that she reached the trail head a little after sunset. As far as we know, the patient sought medical treatment and is returning home.
While the craziness was happening, I spoke with a couple who hiked up for lunch on the mountain. They were very helpful in telling me where the patient was located on the trail. Come to find out from some fellow day hikers, the guy had proposed to his girlfriend on Cliff Tops just minutes before coming down into the dining room for lunch. I asked them to send me the pictures so I could share their story to make for a happy ending to such an eventful day.
Congratulations Jackie Wallace and Kevin Regg!
"The past is behind us, learn from it.
The future is ahead of us, prepare for it.
The present is hear, live it. " - Thomas S. Monson
It is a new day on the mountain. The sun has risen and we have a beautiful inversion to make as feel as though we are living on our own island in the sky. The grass is twinkling with dew drops, the birds are singing, and the crew is working hard at getting the tang poured in every juice glass. I know a lot of folks that look forward to that tang to help wash down the pancakes. The temperatures stayed pretty cool all day yesterday. We never reached the upper 40s. Last night was in the low 40s. As long as the clouds stay below us, today is looking like a keeper.
I was so fortunate to get out in the east side of the park this last weekend. I did a little backpacking. It was good for the soul. There are so many flowers blooming. I saw violets, several different types of trillium, showy orchis, and my first lady slipper of the season. It was a splendid weekend to be out and about enjoying what I like to call my "backyard". The locals were saying they have already seen lighting bugs. Summer is going to approach faster then we know.
Ahh, it feels great to be home. Chris and I had a nice commute back to work yesterday. We managed to beat the rain. We noticed the sand myrtle blooming at Inspiration Point, a nice patch of trillium half way up the trail, and thousands of bluets covering the forest floor. The rain finally made its way to our mountain hideaway. The rain gauge showed an inch and a half over the last 24 hour period. The high yesterday was 60 with a low of 43. Today is starting out with raindrops on the roof and the lamps lit in the dining hall.
I know you all enjoyed Nathan's posts. He has a way with words. Now you know our secret to entertainment on the mountain. With all of his experiences, he makes for a fantastic story teller. He keeps the crew in stitches, during our crew meals, with his tales of horse wrangling, space camp, and living at one of the most remote locations on earth. I have already worked one season with Nathan and I feel as though I have only scratched the service to his vault of life's musings.
Good day from LeConte Lodge. This will be my last High on LeConte update until late April as Allyson and Chris should return from off days tonight. They had been working hard for a six-week streak on the mountain without any downtime, which is probably the longest stretch anyone will stay up this year. Imagine yourself not touching a light switch or using any mode of transportation other than your feet for six weeks--doesn't happen very often in 2012. At any rate, thanks for reading and for the kind comments. I hope to see you all up on the mountain soon.
The llamas came up to visit Monday after an eventful weekend. They had their winter coats shaved in favor of a summer haircut. You should have seen the looks they got when they walked into the salon on a busy Saturday morning (sometimes I lie). While it's always cooler on top of LeConte, the llamas spend almost all of their time in the valley and their winter coats are uncomfortably hot. If you study the above photo of Eddie, you can see the trim line on his neck near his halter. You don't have to shave the llamas' heads, which is good as they don't like people messing with their heads at all.
Eddie's a special LeConte llama, and that's saying something. He's the veteran of the group and can be trusted to lead his team up and down Trillium Gap Trail. Mitch, our llama wrangler, tells me that Eddie has been a loyal LeConte employee for 17 years AND that he's in the best shape of any llama on the farm. Eddie is Chris' favorite llama. Chris thinks he looks like James Cagney. Eddie does have a bit of a gangster snarl. Good work Eddie.
Monday's weather was partly cloudy with a pleasant high of 60 and overnight low of 46. We did finally receive measurable precipitation, but not much--a scant .03 of an inch of rain overnight. It's mostly cloudy as of midday Tuesday with an increased chance of showers this afternoon and evening.
We were honored to have James Stanley and Tom Hickey come up to visit Monday. Both men are members of the vaunted 900-Mile Club, meaning they have hiked every inch of trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, both men are well on their way to completing the roughly 900 miles a second time--the ultimate Smoky encore. Mr. Stanley bought one of our moisture-wicking performance shirts and swears by their comfort for hiking--he should know. Mr. Hickey told me that if he had to pick only one trail in the park to hike he'd choose Alum Cave Bluff Trail. It's easy to see why it's so popular, as Alum rates the prettiest commute to work I've ever had.
I'll leave you with a view of our impressive sunrise this morning. It took my attention away from making my biscuits. It appears that the folks down in the valley were socked in under the clouds, but we enjoyed a nice opening stanza to Tuesday on LeConte. Enjoy your day. Happy trails.
Since it's Tax Day I figured I may go a little heavy on calming photos Monday. Living on LeConte forces you to meet your commitment to the government ahead of time, so Tax Day is just another day. I don't imagine that my accountant received any other payments delivered by llama, though. If it makes you feel better, know that some of your tax dollars will end up helping the Great Smoky Mountains National Park--one of the greatest jewels of the nation.
The clouds are beginning to build a little, perhaps heralding some wet weather to come. I always like to get the rain at night when it sounds so good on the roof. Plus, most of the day hikers and our guests are off the trail at night, so the rain doesn't bother them. However, it's hard to boss around the weather, and I won't attempt it today.
Sunday's high pushed all the way to 63, while the overnight low retreated to a mild 46. The winds picked up overnight and have been blowing sporadically. Some hikers mentioned they really felt the gusts coming around some of the exposed points on Alum Cave Bluff Trail. It's not "Oh my, Toto blew away" bad, but just keep the wind and possible wet weather in mind as you pack for your hike.
Crew members John and Walt, no strangers to logging high mileage on their afternoon breaks, have good things to report about wildflowers on the Bullhead and Boulevard Trails. Carolina spring beauties and trout lilies can be seen on both trails, though it sounds like the trout lilies may be a little farther along on Bullhead.
Hello to all of you from LeConte Lodge. I hope you've enjoyed a fine weekend. We certainly have authored a good weekend at the top of Tennessee (I know Clingman's Dome and Mt. Guyot top LeConte by a few feet, but we're the highest residents of the Volunteer State). I wrote in an earlier post that we're fortunate to have enjoyable guests. We're also lucky to have good neighbors.
I stepped out of my cabin the other day and was surprised to see this deer looking at me. There are three of them that frequent the lodge grounds--one doe and her two "youngins." They're great neighbors, and we're glad to have them around. I think they must have been holed up or headed down below during last week's cold snap, but they've returned High on LeConte. The above fellow is a young buck. You may not be able to tell in the photo, but he has two bumps growing on top of his head--an antler starter set. In another couple of years he'll be a heartbreaker.
We're sitting under sunny skies yet again on Sunday. The high Saturday was 60 with an overnight low of 37. We do get good weather up here, but it's rare to have a stretch this long without any measurable precipitation (we get plenty more rain and snow than the good folks in the valley). Other than a few snow flurries on Tuesday, the last precipitation we received was Thursday, April 5. That's good for generating our solar power, but a little rain may help us green up for spring faster.
Upon returning home, one of our guests told us that during his descent he met a whopping 210 people on the Alum Cave Bluff Trail between LeConte Lodge and the parking lot on Saturday morning. That's more like a holiday or mid-October number, certainly a robust number for mid-April.
Things at the lodge are moving along as they should. I heard some guests engaged in a spirited card game of spades at one of the picnic tables under Saturday's sun. Crew member Austin decided that "his gills were drying out," so he headed down the Alum Cave Bluff Trail after lunch for a swim in one of the deeper pools before returning for supper. I don't imagine he had to elbow anyone out of the way for a spot at a high-mountain swimming hole in April, but he returned no worse for the wear.
Speaking of good neighbors, we were glad to see Dave, a 2011 LeConte Lodge crew member, come up for a visit. He did good work for us last year, and we welcome him back as a LeConte celebrity (his boys should be impressed with that).
Arizona may have its Superstition Mountains, but we call the Smokies home--and we're lucky on LeConte. Friday the 13th brought no fear to our intrepid crew members Bonnie and Austin. After Renee prepared a delicious crew lunch of filet of Transylvanian black cat for good luck, Bonnie boldly walked under ladders and Austin broke every mirror he could find. Disclaimer: No Transylvanian black cats, ladders, mirrors or crew members were harmed in the production of this update.
Friday proved another fine day. Our guests were nice folks; not a one of them showed up dressed in a hockey mask like Jason from the Friday the 13th horror movies from the 1980s (and neverending sequels). Even if the slasher Jason had shown up and acted right, we'd probably serve him, but you wouldn't want to share a supper table with him--interesting but not much of a conversationalist. If he got unruly, I like our crew's chances, especially on a day as nice as April, Friday the 13th, 2012. Sunshine ruled the top of Tennessee with a high of 50 and much milder low of 35.
We've had nice visibility down into the valley the past couple of nights. Peering down into Pigeon Forge (LeConte is too steep to see Gatlinburg from the lodge), we noticed a parade of red brake lights heading away from the mountain. One of our guests informed us that there was a Rod Run assembled in town. You'll be happy to know the good folks of the Rod Run have been fine citizens of the national park and kept their cars off the trails to LeConte, which would have certainly resulted in an insurance claim for the ages and a hefty fine from the rangers. We do welcome all hiking members of the Rod Run to come up and visit us. We'd be glad to have you.
Enjoy your Saturday. Happy trails.
The LeConte Seventh Cavalry (seven llamas, that is) arrived safe and sound at the lodge after ably completing another mission at altitude. The other two llamas are members of a secret operations detail and can't be photographed for reasons of national security (or perhaps they just wouldn't fit in the frame). The mission parameters can't be discussed in detail, but our weekend guests will be sleeping on clean sheets and eating fresh eggs for breakfast. You'll notice stealthy Huey, the third llama from the left, slyly stealing pancakes while Earl, the second llama from the left, poses for his photo. Vanity will get you every time.
We appreciate their service to LeConte Lodge. Only the best of the best become LeConte llamas.
We're enjoying another wonderful Friday on Mt. LeConte. Thursday's high reached 44, while the morning low bottomed out at 25, quite an improvement from midweek. We've already surpassed Thursday's high by lunchtime on Friday.
Last night's sunset proved impressive. No one asked for a refund, though one of our guests reckoned that a few clouds might have added to the wow factor. He has a point, though commanding the clouds is a rung or 73 up the ladder from LeConte Lodge assistant manager.
We are incredibly fortunate to have such fine guests visit us. Our youngest last night, a 22-month-old boy certainly has his bear growl down pat. We should have kept the youngster on staff to scare away the real thing when they arrive atop LeConte, which could be soon.
Another day hiker on his first trip up to the lodge wandered around craning his neck up at the roof and skylights of the dining room. He looked a lot like a tourist gazing up at skyscrapers in New York City. He said, "This is great up here." He may have authored the truest statement of the day.
Friday morning the sky was crisscrossed with jet contrails against a blue canvas. When I'm on LeConte with plenty of elbow room and breathing fir-scented air, and I see a jet fly by I feel sorry for all those folks cramped into tiny seats with tray tables whacking their knees. I hope they have a good adventure lined up for them when they return to terra firma. If not, then they're welcome to find one on Mt. LeConte.
I expect the mountain to be hopping with people this weekend. Come see us. Happy trails.
Good day to everyone. We're basking in a beauty of a Thursday afternoon at LeConte Lodge. I'm surprised there haven't been more day hikers out and about. The visibility rates excellent, and you can see as far as your eye is good. For me, that stretches to the Cumberland Mountains on the lodge side of the mountain and the observation tower on top of Clingman's Dome on LeConte's backside. The azure skies cloak the top of Tennessee in a glorious fashion.
By midmorning we had already bettered our Wednesday high of 34. The overnight low plummeted to 16 degrees. We haven't seen such a cold night since March 6, which was a huge airlift day for us prior to opening (and Alamo Day for all you history buffs and Col. David Crockett fans).
I know I'm preaching to the choir, but I did want to pass along a couple of things that will help protect our fine mountain. Perhaps you all can help us by passing along the good word. As you can see in the photo to the left, I was dismayed to find a fire ring off the trail to the backcountry shelter. I understand it wasn't a huge bonfire. But when you live in a windy environment in wood cabins a long way away from the fire department, it doesn't take a big fire to complicate your day. No campfires are permitted on Mt. LeConte, including the shelter area. For years people degraded the resource by chopping down trees (which already have a tough life gracing the top of our rugged mountain) for firewood, prompting a total fire ban on LeConte. Nor is anyone allowed to chop down deadwood on LeConte. Gravity and nature will do their work on their time schedule. Though most of the below tree stumps are not recent casualties, they serve as a row of tombstones and a reminder to fiercely protect what enriches LeConte. While some trees fell naturally, a short walk through the shelter area reveals too many stumps decapitated by human hands.
Keep LeConte special and have a fine day.
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2020 Mt. LeConte Weather Data (Year-to-Date)