I saw a little wedge of blue sky while making my rounds this morning. It was quickly hidden by clouds. I now have a positive outlook with the knowledge that the blue sky is oh so close. The wind is whipping through the trees this morning. We had a wet day yesterday. The high was 61º with .13" of rain. The low last night was 47. If the forecast is correct, we should have a nice day up top. Chris and I will be heading down this evening for the rest of our April days off. We are excited to attend an Indian wedding of two wonderful friends. That will make for a new experience to add to my life list. We will be back on Tuesday. I know Nathan will do an excellent job of entertaining you all. He certainly keeps us entertained up top. We do love us some Nathan story times.
It may not be the best picture, but it means spring is on the mountain. I love watching the spring beauties pop up around camp. It won't be long until the threat of snow is in a our past, for a few months anyway. The crew has already had the pleasure of watching a few deer around camp. I am sure it is only a matter of time before our first bear sighting. I love this time of year when I get to witness the mountain shift from a cold grey winter to a vibrant green spring. The temperatures felt like spring again yesterday. The high was 61º with a low of 49º. The clouds cleared out again for another great day to be on the mountain. We are currently socked in and waiting to see if we get a repeat of the past two days.
As for trail conditions, I have heard that all trails are clear. Now, this is the news I received before the big storm last week. There may be some trees down but nothing that is not passable.
Yesterday shaped up quite nice. The sun burned off the clouds and made for a picture perfect day. The high was 61º with a low of 49º. I keep looking at the blanket of clouds laying on top of us now wondering if they are going to stick around all day or if we are going to get a repeat performance. I could use a "do over". When you are crew on the mountain, you quickly learn to take advantage of every gorgeous day that comes your way. Needless to say, I did not do that yesterday.
As most of you have heard, Hwy 441 is open over the mountain. You can now reach Alum Cave trail head from Cherokee. I believe the contractors finished a month ahead of schedule. They should be enjoying a nice little bonus coming their way.
It is a cold, wet morning on the mountain. It started raining yesterday evening and has been spitting on us all night. We have received around .33" over night and it is still coming down. The high yesterday was 45 with a low of 39. We are currently socked in on the top so I thought I would share another story from around the world.
Cooking for so many people on a day to day basis is my job. So, of course, I was curious how our cook would feed us on Mt. Kilimanjaro. The porters thought I was crazy when I started taking pictures of "the groceries". I was curious how and what they were going to feed us. As you can see there was a lot of fresh fruit and veggies. We ate well for the first few day. As the fresh stuff ran out, we were eating more rice and pasta. Since we were on the mountain for 8 days, they actually had new porters bring in groceries on our 5th day. I guess there is a shorter trail that led to our camp for that evening. With the rules and regulations on how much weight a porter can carry, these buckets had to weigh in at 33 lbs or less. They were extremely diligent in weighing all of the gear and supplies. It was impressive to taste the feast our cook would prepare for us. Climbing a mountain like Kilimanjaro, nourishment is extremely important. He would cook us things like spaghetti, chicken and rice, and local Tanzanian fare. I felt like I was on Mt. LeConte. I always went to bed happy and full. I was grateful for the big commercial stove I have to cook on at the lodge. The chef on our trip was using compressed gas canisters and camp stoves. Like our staff on the mountain, these men work so hard to make their clients happy. They were successful.
What an extraordinary day for a hike up my favorite mountain. Yesterday was that perfect mix of vivid blue skies and perfect temperatures. The temperature was warm enough for short short sleeve shirts, but cool enough to experience that mountain breeze keeping your core temperature just right. Chris and noticed an influx of day hikers on Alum Cave trail. I believe the trail is seeing more use this spring due to the closure of Chimney Tops trail.
It was a treat waking up to a beautiful sunrise this morning. Alabama was fun but I got to experience the song of the tornado siren. We were there for the storms that passed through my parents "neck of the woods". I told my mother it had been so long since I had experienced one that she was going to have to let us know when it was time to take shelter. We don't hear to many sirens on the mountain. And yes, tornadoes can make their way through the mountains. Luckily, we have not had to experience one on Mt. LeConte.
The temperatures are a little chilly up top. The high yesterday was 49º with a low of 29º. You want to make sure you bring plenty of layers of you are heading up for a night. You will enjoy the warm the sunshine during the day and the cold breezes at night.
I wish you all an enjoyable weekend from the top of Tennessee. Friday graced us with cooler temperatures (high 47, low 29) and lovely conditions. We received 0.03 inches of rain early Friday morning as the storm exited the Smokies, but the rest of the day rang clear. The brisk night temperatures made for a stellar display in the night sky as the twinkling lights of Pigeon Forge merged into the stars. As of early afternoon, Saturday boasts impressive visibility into the valley.
We are covered up with happy hikers with a bevy of interesting stories. Not long ago, Allyson justly mentioned how fortunate we are to meet some fascinating people here at LeConte Lodge. We do have the best guests in the Smokies.
This morning I was honored to welcome Ray and Faye Kiser of Morganton, N.C., to LeConte Lodge. They are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with a day hike to Mt. LeConte. They've been hiking our fair mountain for quite a while and rate Alum Cave Bluff Trail as their favorite. It's "about the prettiest one you can do," Ray said.
Just recently, we were pleased to welcome everyone from chess prodigies to Appalachian Trail through hikers to LeConte. Two separate families joined us as part of their trip to compete in the youth chess championships in Nashville. I won't give away their names, as their competitors may try to copy their high altitude chess training regimen complete with kerosene lamps.
I talked to two hikers who utilized the Boulevard Trail this morning. They still report patchy ice and a few slick spots, but it appears conditions are beginning to improve.
Allyson and Chris have returned from a well-deserved set of days off. Thus, I'll be handing the High on LeConte reins over to Allyson for a while. I thank you for reading and your kind comments. I hope to see all of you in person on LeConte soon. Happy trails.
Hello from the top of LeConte. We rode out a rough evening but are enjoying cooler but fine weather this afternoon. At least we got our bad weather at night when all of our guests were checked in safely at the lodge and not still on the trail. Most of the morning we've been overlooking the clouds blanketing the valley, which is always an impressive sight.
The high Thursday reached 59 with the low bottoming out at 44. Most notably, we received 2.18 inches of rain. The first sprinkles painted the ground around supper, a peaceful prelude for the night to come. By "mountain midnight," a crew designation for 10 p.m., we were treated to a lightning show as the storm hovered close to LeConte Lodge. Even then we had enough rain to prime "LeConte Falls," our nickname for when heavy rains cause water to cascade down the steps to the dining hall (but not inside thank goodness).
The lightning was relatively short lived, piercing your eyelids with flashes of illumination after the kerosene lamps had been blown out. However, the rain and wind continued through the night. Most storms on the mountain soothe you to sleep with the pitter-patter percussion of rain on the roof. This one was different for me. While not nearly the worst I've seen in three seasons on LeConte, this storm stole slumber. The wind howled and whistled all night. But just as it has since the 1920s, our LeConte fort held up fine.
The llamas made a fine recovery after getting a late start because a tree fell across the road even before they hit the trail. Llama wranglers Chrissy and Alan reported that the rest of Trillium Gap Trail was a river, but otherwise in fine shape. I haven't received any other trail reports. Perhaps a nice weekend will make the slick spots on the Boulevard a little more palatable.
Speaking of trees falling, you veterans of the Alum Cave Bluff Trail will notice some giants of the canopy gone horizontal next time you hike. When we reported for duty and hiked up on March 15, I hated to see some of the venerable sentinels of the forest laid low by a tough, wet winter. You'll notice most of the downfall particularly between the bluff and the lower section of wooden steps (including the "flat" section just past the halfway point). It's a natural part of the cycle, I guess, but those once proud specimens now have a more humble job--nursing the soil for the seedlings they've been lording over.
With a favorable forecast, we're expecting lots of folks on the mountain this weekend. Come on up and see us. Have a fine day. Happy trails.
Good afternoon to all of you. We're still enjoying a nice afternoon on top of LeConte, though the forecast calls for changes. Our high Wednesday notched 67 degrees, supplanting Tuesday's 65 as the warmest day of 2013. The low registered 45.
The wind picked up last night and breathed life into all the tree limbs on LeConte. The boughs of the magnificent spruce tree overhanging my cabin slow danced with the wood shingles on my roof, sounding much like a turkey call. Alas, I was the only turkey being called. Although last night was a new moon night atop the Smokies, that same spruce filters the full moon glow over the summit of LeConte through my bedroom window. Last night's new moon allowed for a lovely dark canvas to stargaze over the Tennessee Valley. Skywatching is always one of my favorite things to do on the mountain.
If the forecast holds true, skywatching may get more interesting this evening with a fast-moving storm front moving through. If you're hiking in the next couple of days, I'd expect the trails to be muddy and carrying plenty of water to the valley. However, as of early afternoon Thursday, the morning clouds have lifted and given way to mostly sunny skies and comfortable temperatures in the 50s.
In trail news, the National Park Service trail crew hit it hard yesterday and completed clearing Bullhead Trail of blowdowns. We can now recommend Bullhead as a sound option to arrive at the lodge (or use for the return descent on a day hike up Rainbow Falls Trail). As I mentioned yesterday, hiking Trillium Gap Trail should become easier Friday when the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail reopens. We had some guests who arrived via the Boulevard Trail Wednesday but reported it tough going and still slippery in some troublesome spots. I like the Boulevard Trail, but I'd opt for any of the other main trails to LeConte at this point.
Thanks for reading. Have a fine day. Happy trails.
This might be the last of the shaggy llamas for a while. Alan and Chrissy tell me that if weather conditions cooperate the llamas will be getting their summer shearing in the next few days. As it warms up, their winter coats make it tougher for them to cool off when hiking. We have to get the boys looking sharp for prom season.
Good afternoon to everyone. This is Nathan, assistant manager of LeConte Lodge, and I'll be filling in updates on High on LeConte for a few days until Allyson returns from her days off.
First for the weather, I don't think we've had a nicer three-day stretch since we posted our 2013 calendar. On Tuesday, the mountain basked in glorious sunshine with a high of 65 (the warmest day of the year) and a comfortable low of 45 (making for some fine sleeping weather). Today is every bit as pretty. Crew members fortunate enough to have the afternoon shift off won't be found in camp. If I were a betting man, I expect to see some sunburned faces from an afternoon hiking when the crew returns for supper service. I was visiting with a day hiker today who found it hard to believe the weather had been so tough for our opening not long ago at all. In that spirit, I'm posting a throwback photo from March 27 below capturing a drastically different mountain following our last storm.
I'm happy to report that the trail crew from the National Park Service began working on clearing the Bullhead Trail today. Our most accurate reports rate Bullhead a mess of blowdowns, but the good folks from the trail crew are on the job (though it may not be completed in just one day). If you see any trail crew or volunteers out working on trails make sure to thank them. That's a tough, thankless job up here in the thin air. Additionally, the park service is expected to open Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail on Friday, which will make hiking up Trillium Gap Trail to the lodge a more pleasant option. Llama wranglers Alan and Chrissy have been using Trillium Gap Trail to pack supplies and report it is in excellent shape for hikers.
Although Allyson updates in the morning, I almost always have to update the site during the afternoon between chores as I am responsible for combining many of Chris' and Allyson's duties when they are off the mountain. And taking care of our guests at LeConte Lodge always takes first priority. Throughout the season I hope to meet many High on LeConte readers and hear your stories firsthand about your passion for our lovely mountain. As we move along the season I'll try to pass along a few stories from the lodge and beyond and introduce you to some of the souls who venture High on LeConte. Thanks for reading and happy trails.
Yesterday's sky was a canvas painted with pinks, purples, and oranges. It was a breathtaking end to a perfect day. The high reached 57º. After spending the first few weeks in the teens, that temperature filled us with warmth and thoughts of summer. Just to let you know how crazy the temperatures can be, the low was 34º. It was pretty cold last night. This is why it is so important to bring plenty of layers with you when you come up to stay for the night. Today is looking like another gorgeous day up top. Chris and I will hiking down this evening. I am excited to head to Alabama to wish my dad a wonderful 80th birthday. We will be back on Saturday. I know you will enjoy Nathan's knee slapping anecdotes . Happy Hiking and see you on Saturday.
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!