Tidbits for a Foggy Morning
It is a grey morning on top of the mountain. We are socked in and experiencing some decent wind gusts. I thought today would be an excellent morning to remind you of a few tidbits.
First tidbit - If you are looking for cancellation dates, don't forget to check out our Twitter feed. We post open cabins on our feed and they tend to go quickly. You can follow us at https://twitter.com/LeConteLodge. Click on the link and it will take you to our page. This only works if you have a Twitter account. Make sure you sign up for one if you are not already on Twitter.
Second tidbit - Our online store. If you are not able to get up the mountain to purchase your 2014 t-shirt, no worries. We have plenty of cool merchandise for you to purchase from our online store. Check it out at http://www.lecontelodge.com/store/.
These are just a few of the fun items we have listed in our online store.
Third tidbit - Don't forget to purchase your 2015 LeConte Lodge Calendar. You can buy them online or at the lodge.
Well, my infomercial has come to an end. It is time to return to the land of llamas and pancakes. I hope to get a hike in to check out the sand myrtle blooming around the mountain. I will keep you posted. We are gearing up for a busy weekend. Summer is almost upon us, and that brings flowers to the mountain top.
Bird Watching on Mt. LeConte
I am not sure if you can see the hole in the side of the mountain in this picture? It is known as the "eye of the needle". I am so used to taking a break and searching for the peregrine falcons when they used to nest there. You could see them flying around and bringing food back to their chicks. We have not seen them there in a few years. We believe they have moved their nest above the Bluffs. You can usually hear their chicks if you stop and take a rest at the bluffs. Twelve years later and I still stop and watch the falcons in great fascination. I think they are such beautiful birds. Chris and I learned, while traveling in Central America, that you won't always see animals on the ground. If you keep you eyes peeled to the trees, you will discover some exquisite birds. We spent ten weeks hiking through rain forests and beach trails checking out the unique birds that we don't see on top of Mt. Leconte. We may have not seen some of the four legged creatures, but our winged friends put on a show. I often tell people when they visit the mountain, stop and check out the birds. We see some pretty special species around here. Not counting the peregrine, I have seen a bald eagle, cross billed finch, and a black-throated blue warbler. These mountains are host to some magnificent birds. Remember next time you hike up, watch the sky around you. You never know what you might see.
As for today, our skies are a little foggy. We are currently socked in and the current temperature is 47º. The high yesterday was 53º.
A Beautiful Day for a Commute to Work
Well, Chris and I made our way back to work. It was a pleasant trip up Alum.The weather was perfect hiking weather, not too warm but a threat of showers that never materialized. We were greeted along the trail by several different species of wild flowers. The trillium are blooming the whole way up. Bluets were carpeting the hills sides and the Sand Myrtle was in full bloom around Inspiration Point. For those of you who are not familiar, Inspiration Point is the little outcropping of rocks you come to before you take a hard right about 10 minutes below Alum Cave Bluffs. It is usually a good resting point. We were greeted at the bluffs by the screeching of the peregrine falcon that resides above the bluffs. All in all, it was a great commute to work.
Chris and I had a busy time off. We worked at the Gatlinburg Farmers Market and I stuffed my face with yummy fresh strawberries. I think that is one of the first plants I will plant next year when living in the real world. I do miss having fresh produce at my finger tips. With that being said, I am so grateful to those of you who have delivered fresh fruit to us through out the past twelve years. I guess you learn to enjoy the little things when you are up here. Nothing like a freshly picked strawberry that someone took the time to package and hike up just for us. I am sure the love that goes into it makes it taste even sweeter. So, thank you to all of you who have brought us or mailed us care packages. We have enjoyed every bit of them, more than you will ever know.
May 18, 2014
It finally happened. The secret is out. After 89 years of running a successful decoy, a Freedom of Information request has forced us to acknowledge the true purpose of LeConte Lodge. No, we don't exist to host the finest guests in the Smokies at a legendary hike-in lodge atop Mt. LeConte. Truth is we were established in 1925 as the training base for an ultrasecret zombie defense force.
It seems someone read the Department of Defense has prepared a zombie apocalypse contingency plan and demanded to know our level of emergency preparedness at LeConte Lodge. We must comply with the request. The above photo is the only existing likeness of the previously under-the-radar, elite Zombie Smash 6,593 Force. The 6,593 team owns a perfect battle record, preventing zombie attacks on Mt. LeConte since 1925. Now you can rest easy at night, maybe.
In real news, the Park Service confirmed that Rainbow Falls Trail has been reopened. After the fires about 10 days ago, the trail crew had to do some tree work to allow safe passage on the popular route to LeConte Lodge.
The temperature has moderated Sunday to 44 degrees at lunch. Saturday's high was 37 with a low of 30. The temperature actually warmed up about five degrees overnight. We received 0.16 inches of rain Saturday with a healthy snow shower but no accumulation. So far, most of Sunday has been cloudy with a few filtered glimpses of the sun. We're currently living in a cloud this afternoon.
A few days ago the question was asked about the earliest snowfall on record on Mt. LeConte. Since the late 1970s, the record for earliest recorded snowfall is a dose of flurries on Sept. 27, 1985. A light snow in October is the norm.
In the last couple of days I've enjoyed meeting a dayhiker who is using hikes to LeConte and Pikes Peak as training for a summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest in Africa. We also welcomed a couple of nice guests last night who will be moving to Tanzania soon.
This morning's sunrise proved unique. Thanks to closely sandwiched layers of clouds, I could only see a horizontal, magenta slit slashed across the sky. The color bounced around between the cloud layers. The reddish line above the valley reminded me of some of my old school papers. A celestial English teacher determined that night had become a run-on sentence and demanded change.
Allyson is due to return to the mountain tonight. I'll take leave of High on LeConte duties until June. Thank you all for reading and being so friendly when you come to visit. Zombies, don't tread on LeConte. Happy trails.
May 17, 2014
Good afternoon from the top of Mt. LeConte. We just experienced another steady snow shower from about 1:15-2:15 p.m. Saturday. We haven't seen much as much sun today and are currently in the fog, as of 3 p.m. There's not really any snow remaining on the ground currently, save for a few patches in shady areas.
In other good news, I received a couple of reports saying the footing on Alum Cave Bluff Trail was better than I feared given the wet and cold conditions. No ice traction devices were needed this morning to summit LeConte via Alum. I don't have any reports on conditions for other trails.
Friday's high struggled to notch 35 degrees, while the low dipped to 26 (though actually that was from Friday morning about 6:45 a.m.). The temperature actually held steady at about 28-29 degrees last night at the lodge. Saturday's forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of rain, dropping to a lesser chance tonight. I still expect a chilly, raw day and cold night, so please prepare yourself.
I mentioned yesterday about friends and family descended from the Huffs booking the entire lodge Thursday night. Jack Huff, the patriarch of the first family of LeConte Lodge, was one tough hombre. For my money, the most iconic photo on the mountain is on display in the office. No doubt, many of you have seen it and also been impressed.
This photo is of Jack Huff, not a large man but one who casts a mighty shadow, carrying his mother in a straight-backed chair on his back up the Rainbow Falls Trail to LeConte Lodge in 1929. LeConte Lodge was founded in 1925. Last I heard, the actual chair used was housed in the East Tennessee Historical Center in Knoxville.
From there, legend begins to cloud Huff's heroic feat. I've heard that his mother was ill and didn't have long to live, but wanted to see a sunrise and sunset on Mt. LeConte while she was still in this world. I've also heard that a great wall of gray obscured both the sun's opening and closing acts, and she never got to see either from the crown of the Smokies. Truth is I just don't know.
LeConte crew members wisely appreciate legends of the mountain. Stories about speed and distance records, number of hikes, rescue efforts in the most brutal of conditions and carrying odd things up the mountain (for example, a 100-pound barbell) live on for decades as crew members share a bowl of popcorn and mull over such feats when the day's work is done.
But none hold a candle to Jack Huff's heroics for his mother. One of my greatest irritants while working the office is when someone will cast doubt on Huff's feat. It happens every three or four weeks someone will come up in the office look at the photo of Jack and his mom in the chair and either say the whole thing was staged or, worse, say, "She doesn't look that heavy."
Invariably, the person who talks about how petite Mrs. Huff looked and how it would have been easy to carry her in a straight-backed chair on your back all the way up Rainbow Falls Trail is carrying a backpack of 10 pounds or less. Their backpack usually contains about seven Kleenex and a pack of M&Ms, but what Jack Huff did would be pretty easy for them.
In other news, one member of the Huff party left a homemade slingshot (pictured below). If you'd like us to send it down by llama, please call the office and we'll keep it in our lost and found box for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we'll add it to the LeConte arsenal in the advent of defending the mountain against a zombie attack. Happy trails.
May 16, 2014
Flurries on the furries. The llamas don't like working in the heat, but this is probably a little overboard in the other direction. The midday snow marks the big news on top of LeConte today. As of 2 p.m., we have received about half an inch of snow, along with sun, clouds and some ice pellets--and that's just in the last two hours.
Thursday's high reached 49 degrees with an overnight low of 26. We tallied 0.34 inches of rain. As of early afternoon, the temperature hasn't risen above 33 degrees.
I expect the trails to be slippery near the summit of LeConte. However, several people have told me that they enjoyed nice weather and clear skies until the last two miles of the hike to the lodge. If the temperature falls at all tonight I expect the upper section of trails on Saturday morning to be more slippery than today because of wet conditions and refreezing.
I awoke to pretty conditions this morning. As the thermometer dipped to 26 degrees, Thursday's rain had frozen into a thin sheen of ice on my porch. It looked like an off Broadway (way off Broadway) production of "The Waltons on Ice" as I slid across my cabin porch toward the kitchen for work this morning--"Goodnight John Boy, pass the snow cream."
However, the morning was lovely with sun and good visibility down into the valley. About 10 a.m. clouds began to hem us in up on top. The heaviest snow and ice pellet showers occurred about 1:15 p.m., just as we were loading up llamas for their return trip.
The most recent forecast I heard called for about a 30 percent chance of showers and below average temperatures for the next few days. Please be prepared if you are hiking up to see us. I've seen some miserable dayhikers walking around in shorts and sandals today. I spoke to a nice couple in shorts and t-shirts this morning (who dropped by to purchase LeConte hooded sweatshirts) who spent last night in the shelter with a light sleeping bag. They said it wasn't a pleasant night. We'll keep the heaters on.
Some have asked if this is a record-late snowfall for Mt. LeConte. I've done a little research on this (dating back to the late 1970s) and will pass it along. Today's snowfall (0.5 inches as of now) marks the latest snowfall on Mt. LeConte since 1993 when we totaled 0.5 inches on May 22. Last year, our latest snow came via flurries on May 6, so a light snow in early May is the norm. The latest snowfall on Mt. LeConte since the late 1970s came on June 1, 1983 when flurries were observed.
Last night we were pleased to welcome a whole lodge of friends and descendants of the Huffs, the first family of LeConte Lodge. Perhaps I'll pass along a Jack Huff story tomorrow if things work out. Happy trails.
May 15, 2014
Hello to all of you. This is Nathan, filling in for a few days while Allyson takes the remainder of her May off days. I've just recently returned to LeConte from four days off and am amazed at how the forest floor has greened up in that short amount of time. It's almost like they had green shag carpet installed outside while I was gone.
The rains moved in last night and pelted us pretty good. However, I like the rain best at night, as all of our guests are snugly tucked in their beds and off the trail. We ended up measuring 1.7 inches of rain overnight, making it the second rainiest day of the year on LeConte. Yesterday's total of 1.7 inches falls behind only the 2.0 inches we received on Jan. 10.
It has rained five of the last six days. We needed the rain, but I hope it doesn't signal a trend like last year. In 2013, it started raining in May and didn't let up until September. Wednesday's high was 63 degrees with an overnight low of 43. It's been raining on and off throughout Thursday.
I saw a couple of wild critters on my descent and return trip. On my way down Alum Cave Bluff Trail last week just before dark, I ran across a bear about 0.2 mile above Arch Rock. This bear was about 170 pounds and looked healthy. Upon hearing me coming down the trail, the bear scampered down the hill, across the drainage and started up another hill before stopping to figure me out. That's exactly the kind of behavior you want to see with a wild bear. We were both living life, minding our own business and sharing the mountain.
We did have a report two nights ago of a bear at the LeConte backcountry shelter. However, the bear wasn't seen last night. At any rate, make sure you're careful with your food, packs and don't leave anything on your porch if you're coming to see us.
The wildest critter of all I saw in the Alum Cave Bluff Trail parking lot. There was a dog nearby its owner that had been transformed into some sort of canine diva. The dog had poofs of hair teased out over various parts of its body. Some of the hair had been dyed purple. From my vantage point, it also appeared that the dog had some designs shaved into its hair and was wearing some tailored clothes that certainly cost more than the ratty hiking gear I was wearing. The owners were keeping the dog near the parking lot. As you all probably know, pets are prohibited (with the exception of legitimate service animals) on all the trails to LeConte. The owners appeared to be following the law. That's a good thing because if that diva dog met up with the bear I saw a few days earlier--my money's on the bear.
I hope you all have a fine afternoon. Happy trails.
Rainbows Over the Mountain
"The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."- Dolly Parton
I felt that quote was only too fitting being from Sevier County's very own celebrity. The rain moved out and left us with a brilliant rainbow. The guests vacated their seats in the dining room and ran outside to witness the beauty. You have to look hard, but you can see the faint color of the second rainbow to the left. It was one of the most vivid rainbows I have seen in my time on the mountain. Simply stunning.
We are looking at more rain for today. The weather forecast is calling for thunderstorms. I am sure they will move in around the time Chris and I hike down tonight. We are heading into Gatlinburg for a few days. I am excited to work the first Gatlinburg Farmers Market of the 2014 season. The farmers market is one of my projects when I am not on the mountain. It is a fun event for the locals and tourists. So with that being said, you will be treated to more of Nathan's descriptive posts. See you in a few days and Happy Hiking.
Allyson is experiencing technical difficulties this morning. She will continue trying to log in and post when she can. High/low was 65/42, they are in the clear for now but very windy.
2014 LeConte Crew
We finally had the whole crew on the mountain. That means, it is time for the annual crew picture. It is hard to believe I have been in twelve of these. There have been so many crew members who have come and gone. I feel like my LeConte Family will be there for a life time. We have made some lifelong friends and I am grateful for them all. It will be fun to look back at past photos and remember all of the funny stories, and not so funny stories, that go along with each crew member.
Yesterday was a day of mixed weather. We had rain, sun, and then thunderstorms. The high was 67º with a low of 50º. We are currently under heavy fog. It looks like it may be sitting right on top of us. I can see a little sunshine down in the valley. It may turn out to be a beautiful day on the mountain.
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!