A fine day to all of you from LeConte Lodge. The weather today closely resembles yesterday, chapters of sun with clouds also streaming over the summit. Just after lunch, one can look up and see the sun while being enveloped at eye level by the clouds.
The high (65) and low (49) have begun to feel like a prelude to summer. We have been lucky thus far to receive a real winter and spring season. I have no doubt we'll get a full dose of summer, though thank goodness the full brunt of a Tennessee scorcher gets sanded down above 6,000 feet. I do hope for an extended autumn, as it's my favorite time of all.
This morning's sunrise looked plenty nice from my vantage point in the kitchen. It wasn't particularly ostentatious, certainly not the most striking I've seen this year. No, this morning's sunrise was workmanlike. You could look out and know that our guests who had risen early and hiked to Myrtle Point in the predawn hours were being rewarded for their effort. The colors were muted and reminded me of a layer cake or sand art that you made as a kid at camp. The birds were singing and the day still stood pregnant with possibility.
I mentioned the other day that I take over breakfast cooking duties when Chris is on days off. Caroline is our assistant cook and takes over lunch and supper preparation in Allyson's absence. We enjoy some fine eats up here, just like our guests (though our menu varies quite a bit).
Caroline has been taking good care of us while Allyson's gone--no weak trembles to be found. On Sunday the LeConte crew tradition is to have the best meal of the week for lunch and then we're on our own for supper (that tends to be a popular night for making mountain popcorn after our guest dinner service). That's fair because the Sunday lunch takes longer for the cook to prepare.
Caroline studied in Greece for a while, and imagined up the following menu for our Sunday feast. We enjoyed Greek salad, tzatziki, bread, spinach pie, skordalia, chicken kabobs followed by brown butter tart with blueberry topping for dessert. It was so terrible we all had seconds. Happy trails.
Our crew and crew guests sitting down for Snday lunch, weekly the most anticipated meal on the mountain. Caroline (in white), who prepared the feast sits nearest the camera. Moving clockwise, Julia (in green) and her dad, former crew member Al Bedinger, who came up to visit. Continuing clockwise are crew members Bethany, Matt, Brad and Austin.
Good afternoon to all of you. Most of Monday has been sunny, but as of early afternoon a cloud has taken up residence on the top of Tennessee. Last night and most of today we've been above the cloud deck in the valley. We could see the far range of the Cumberlands on the horizon, but Pigeon Forge was invisible, smothered in clouds in our own shadow.
We ended up receiving 0.24 inches of rain up top Sunday, less than I anticipated based on the weekend forecast. However. things are greening up nicely as the deer pictured above surely appreciate. They were taking their supper a couple hours after we rang the dinner bell for our guests. Again, there wasn't much variation in the temperature with a high of 58 and low of 51.
When I hiked down the night of the April full moon to begin my off days, I was treated to a majestic sight on my drive home. I hiked down in the dark, but the full moon wasn't quite ready to make an appearance yet, so I didn't see it illuminate the Alum Cave Bluff Trail scenery (a spectacular sight if you're hiking in the dark on purpose).
However, by the time I was in my car and climbing the Gatlinburg bypass, the moon was just about to rise behind Mt. LeConte, backlighting the mountain with a purple glow. That unearthly glow embracing LeConte's summit that night trumped the neon-fueled light emanating from Gatlinburg by a far sight. It was almost like the mountain was showing off for its urban neighbor below: "Go ahead and put up all the colored lights on every shop you want. Try to top this. Here stands LeConte, mighty and majestic."
Thanks for reading. Have a fine day. Happy trails.
Good afternoon. We've gotten a mixed bag of weather the last couple days. We ended up picking up 0.51 inches of rain Saturday, mostly sprinkles with a few heavy showers. The same seems to be holding true Sunday with a few rumbles of thunder rolling through. We even enjoyed a brief appearance by the sun before lunch. Saturday's high was 52 with a low of 49, only a three-degree swing all day.
I was listening to some music while making breakfast this morning and these songs played in alphabetical order: "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and "Blue Skies." I always listen to the NOAA weather forecast about 5 a.m., but Willie Nelson provided a pretty accurate forecast for the first half of Sunday, too.
I read recently that Knoxville just finished hosting its International Biscuit Festival this weekend. I'd like to catch that event sometime. I did hear from former LeConte crew member Al Bedinger that Ann Farrar, who's no stranger to LeConte and is married to former crew member Dick Ketelle, is a past winner in the standard biscuit category.
The humble biscuit is a big part of breakfast here at LeConte Lodge. Depending on the number of guests and crew on the mountain, 45-75 biscuits are made fresh from scratch every morning in a kitchen without electricity. Most days Chris makes breakfast. General manager Tim Line makes breakfast when he's helping out at the lodge. When Chris is on days off, breakfast duties fall on the assistant manager's shoulders. In recent history, that list includes Henry Neel, Meredith Freeland and me. I've sampled biscuits from all of them and can attest to their skill.
Everyone likes to make fluffy pancakes and lumpless grits, but assistant managers take pride in their biscuit acumen. Biscuits take more time start to finish than any other item on the guest menu--breakfast or supper. When I'm making breakfast, I get up at 4:45 a.m., and am in the kitchen by 5 a.m.
Just about everyone on the mountain uses the same recipe (Henry used to vary it just a bit), but all the biscuits turn out a little different by the end of the process. That reminds me of the explanation for why they made double batches of solid rocket fuel (the two white rockets bracketing both sides of the shuttle orbiter) for the space shuttle missions. You can take the same recipe, but there's always a little variation when you have two cooks. And if you're headed to space you don't want one solid rocket booster more stout than the other. Thus, NASA's contractors "doubled the recipe" to get our astronauts into space with identically powered solid rocket boosters and fuel made from the same batch.
After you cover LeConte biscuit making theory and space science in one entry, there's nothing left to say. I hope everyone had a fine weekend. Happy trails.
Hello to all of you. Happy Armed Forces Day to those of you in the service. We'd be glad to see you up this way when you get some leave.
It started raining about 2:30 a.m. and we've had intermittent showers since. While the rain hasn't been constant, the cloud enveloping us has. Friday's high notched 64 degrees with a low of 48. We received 0.19 inches of rain overnight with more expected. That marked our first measurable rain on LeConte since last Saturday, a veritable drought on this green mountain.
I promised you a couple of Cookie Bowling stories in yesterday's update. For those of you who didn't read yesterday, Cookie grew up on LeConte helping her family, the Huffs, run the lodge. She came up for a visit a couple of days ago and was generous in her accounts of life on the mountain. We discussed secret LeConte Lodge hot chocolate recipes from across the ages (the secret ingredient is elevation).
Cookie recalled a scary injury while working on the mountain. As a girl, she enjoyed catching white-faced bumblebees (they don't sting). Cookie kept her pet bumblebees in glass jars. To make certain her pets could breathe she needed to poke holes in the metal lid of the jars. Cookie accomplished this task with an ice pick, which worked well except for the time she pierced her hand rather than the lid.
Cookie also related her favorite LeConte bear story. Cookie, her mother Pauline and her brother Philip were running the lodge while her father Jack was working down below in Gatlinburg. One night to Pauline's horror she discovered that the bear door wasn't closed and one of the bruins had slipped in and was pillaging her kitchen.
We have an old-school phone in the dining room. It's the real deal, not a prop--even though it doesn't work now. However, it wasn't connecting fast enough for Pauline's liking as the bear rifled through the kitchen. She cranked and cranked until she finally reached her husband Jack in Gatlinburg. She told him about her predicament and, being powerless to resolve the situation as he was off the mountain, Jack told her to "run it off" and then hung up the phone.
Armed with a flashlight, Pauline took a couple of trays and pretended she was playing the cymbals. The racket spooked the bear into heading out of the kitchen for more peaceful environs. Pauline, Philip and Cookie stayed up the rest of the night in the kitchen with lanterns blazing.
Thanks to Cookie for sharing her stories. We've had several dayhikers stop by today, but I think the weather might put a damper on the weekend crowd. We'd still be glad to have you hike up, just make sure you plan for plenty of water on the trail this weekend. Happy trails.
Good afternoon to all of you. I hope you all have exciting weekend plans in store. It seems like a journey to LeConte is in the datebook for many folks. We've been plenty busy lately, which keeps the paychecks coming.
We had light sprinkles of rain this morning, but not enough to amount to anything yet. The sun has made its appearance occasionally through the cloud cover. The forecast is for increasing chances of rain later today with the possibility of a soggy Saturday. We shall see.
Last night we were pleased to welcome Cookie Bowling's group, mostly from the greater Gatlinburg metroplex. It's one of the few nights of the season in which a single group occupies the lodge. Being a history buff, I particularly enjoy when Cookie comes up and shares her LeConte stories, which are particularly good because she springs from the First Family of LeConte Lodge--the Huffs. While Paul Adams also played an integral role in the early history of the camp on top of LeConte, the Huffs are recognized as the founders of LeConte Lodge.
Cookie dropped by the dining room yesterday afternoon to share some tales about her youth spent on the mountain. Cookie made her first trip up LeConte at three months. She worked at the lodge until she was 15 years old--heading up to open the season in April and shutting down in November.
Helping cook was Cookie's favorite job at the lodge (keep in mind she was cooking on a wood-fired stove in those days). Cookie's cole slaw recipe was a perennial favorite. She also didn't mind washing dishes and carrying firewood. She, however, never grew to be a fan of making beds--a sentiment she shares with current general manager Tim Line.
It was a treat to have so many decades of LeConte stories on tap with Cookie and Tim (whose employment with the lodge dates to 1977) both up at the same time.
There are too many stories to include today, so I'll offer you a hint at a Cookie Bowling story to come Saturday on High on LeConte--a kitchen, a bear, a problem. Have a fine afternoon. Happy trails.
Hello to all of you High on LeConte readers. This is Nathan, and I'll be filling in for Allyson during her off days.
First I'll catch you up on our weather and then pass along a story worth reading. Wednesday was a beautiful day start to finish. The high topped out at 66 degrees, the second warmest day of the year. The low registered 47. We've not had any measurable rain since Saturday, but the forecast hints that may be changing soon. Today's weather has been fine with mostly cloudy, filtered sunshine replacing the bluebird skies of Wednesday.
I wanted to pass along a monumental achievement we witnessed Wednesday at LeConte Lodge. Terry Tinnell, with the help of 14 strong friends and a service dog named Cocoa, became the only person we know of who reached LeConte Lodge in a wheelchair. Utilizing the Trillium Gap Trail, Terry celebrated his birthday on top of LeConte last night with a dedicated group of friends and family.
A native of Atlanta, Terry first had the idea of climbing LeConte in his specially modified chair 25 years ago.
"We went through lots of detailed practicing with the equipment and personnel," Terry said. "The only way we got up here was sheer determination. With friends, family and attitude you can accomplish any challenge."
We enjoyed having the Tinnell group as our guests and admire their planning and commitment to each other. They seemed like fine folks who enjoyed their stay at LeConte Lodge. However, we don't recommend just anyone try to summit LeConte in a similar fashion. The success rate for such attempts is abysmal in this inherently dangerous pursuit. LeConte Lodge general manager Tim Line, who has been affiliated with the lodge since 1977, can remember no other happy endings when someone attempted the top in a wheelchair. One other note, Cocoa, an Australian shepherd, works as a service dog. No other pets are allowed on any trail leading to LeConte.
That being said, we appreciate Terry and his friends celebrating his birthday with us on the mountain. Along with our other guests in yet another sellout at LeConte Lodge, they were delightful and good company. Happy trails.
It's going to be a long hard climb, but I think Mr. Snail is going to make it. He seemed pretty determined. I may have thrown him off a little when I picked him up and moved him out of harms way. I hope that doesn't cause him a major delay. He seems to be enjoying the morning just like everyone else. The sky is blue and the temperatures are rising. The high yesterday was 60º with a low somewhere in the mid 40's. The low showed the 24 hour low which would have been after observance yesterday morning. It was reading 32º, but it was not that cold last night. I am happy to have a good day to leave the mountain. I will be heading off the rock for a week. Nathan is going to be around to keep you entertained. I know you all are looking forward to his colorful spin on mountain life. I hope you all have a great weekend. See you next week.
Our poor little spring beauties are so confused. They open up during the day when the sun is warming us up, and then they get slammed with 22 degrees for the second night in a row. I have been searching for our trillium as well. I guess they know it is not time yet. This blackberry winter is reeking havoc on our flowers. I did hear that the sand myrtle shrubs are starting to open up just before the bluffs. I am predicting we see the sand myrtle up top in the next couple of weeks. The sun is shining on us again today. Hopefully it will help warm things up a bit. I am ready to retire my down jacket until fall.
The sun has come back to stay for a little while. It was great seeing that giant orb in the sky. The only downfall is that it still feels like winter. The high yesterday was 42º with a low last night of 22º. Posters asking about temperatures on the mountain, all I can suggest is bring a lot of layers. Make sure you have a hat and gloves for the evening. Hopefully, the temperatures will warm up over the next few days, but one never knows on Mt. LeConte. I will take the sun however I can get it.
The clouds are rolling over the mountain top. Right as I snapped this shot, a big cloud blanketed the crew cabin. It is a chilly morning up here. The low last night was 32º with a high of 49º. The spring beauties that had opened up are now withdrawn and hoping for warmer weather. I guess you could say they are a metaphor for how I feel at the moment. The crew has been amazing at dealing with the weather we have been dealt since day one. Everyone is still getting along and hanging out together.
I would like to say Happy Mother's Day! I hope you all have a wonderful day in the lower elevations. We are hoping for a little sun later on today.
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