Glow Worms and Fireflies
What an amazing day up top. The sun was shining and it was warm enough to sit out and enjoy it. The high was 64º with a low of 49º. For the first time in a while, the notes for yesterdays weather said "clear". We had a busy day on the mountain. I can tell we are entering the July 4th week. Lots of families made their way to the top to finish or start their summer vacations. Chris and I were busy in the kitchen all day yesterday. We decided to take a night stroll to check out the glow worms. For the first time, in my time on the mountain, I witnessed glow worms and fireflies. They were spectacular. We shared the beauty with some other fellow night hikers. They thought we were crazy when we saw their headlamps coming down the path and asked them to turn them off and keep coming forward. One of the girls said she was a little leery of the voice calling out in the dark, but she was so happy she took my advice and got to experience the beauty that awaited her along the sides of the trail. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and enjoy what night time has to offer in the forest. You might be amazed.
Is That the Sun?
What a sight to behold. The sun has come out to start our day. The crew is in much need of a good sunny day. Chris decided to add up our rain fall for the month of June. We had rain 21 days out of 29. The total rain fall, so far this month, is 14.88". We received an inch of that yesterday. The high yesterday was 64º with a low of 49º. What a change from the heat we were experiencing last year.
The fog makes for a beautiful backdrop to the rhodo around the lodge. I will say, however, it is on its way out. The blossoms have peaked and they are dying off. You know what this means? Time for the coneflowers and bee balm to start budding. It won't be long until we have the chance to witness a wonderful wildflower display. The clouds have kept things cool up here. The high yesterday was 63º. The weather forecast has rain in the picture everyday for the next week. That will keep our temperatures on the cooler side. The low was 55º. Remember to bring layers with you even if you are hiking up for the day. Once you get wet and sit down to rest, you will start to get a chill.
Nothing like waking up to thunder and lightning. We are currently experiencing a good size thunder storm. It sounded like the noise we heard around 9:30 last night. I forgot that Dollywood has started a nightly fireworks display. You can hear it all the way up the mountain. I was too tired to step outside to check and see if you could see the show, maybe I will have the energy tonight.
It is hard to believe we are coming up on July. Mid season is just around the corner. The crew is settling in to mountain life and enjoying the simple life the mountain has to offer. It won't be long until the mountain top is exploding with color from the abundance of wild flowers that surround our mountain home. This time next month it should be in full swing.
Ahhh, Good Ole' Mountain Air
I am happy to report Chris and I made it back safe and sound yesterday. The trip up was beautiful. The mountain laurel is in full swing around Inspiration Point. It was a hot and humid day, but I swore I would not complain about the heat since I had just returned from Phoenix where the high was 108º. I know, I know, "It is a dry heat". Well, to this mountain girl, 108º is 108º. I am used to the mountain temperatures. The high yesterday was 65º with a low of 51º.
Our days off were great. We witnessed two of crew members tie the knot. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Belmont. I know you will have a happy life together. I then made my way to Phoenix where I spent three days holding triplets. There was no shortage of quality baby time. All in all, it was a great vacation, but I am glad to be home and back to my routine. Now, time to get breakfast ready.
June 25, 2013
Hello to all of you. This will be my last update for about a week as Allyson and Chris are returning from off days. The weather has been quite similar the last four days or so--mostly cloudy, some rain and sun.
The high temperature yesterday, 69 degrees, marked the second-hottest day of the year. The overnight low dipped to 52, excellent sleeping weather. All told, we received 0.41 inches of rain. We got a splash of rain around lunch but are sitting under a mottled mixture of clouds and sun as of 1 p.m.
In today's update I'll tackle a frequently asked question to the crew. "How do you get the propane up here?" We only get one shot at propane for the year, so we better have our numbers right. That's also why we prefer folks not to run their heaters if the cabin windows or doors are open. We fly in multiple tanks (big, oval tanks like you might see in your neighborhood) by helicopter during the annual March airlift to bring in all our heavy, non-perishable supplies.
As those of you who've followed the fortunes of our preseason airlift know it's a delicate and expensive operation. However, the construction helicopter company we use is good and can drop pallets of t-shirts or propane tanks just about anywhere we request.
Because we can only fly with the construction helicopter once a year (usually airlift takes two or three days depending on weather conditions), we send all of our propane, gas and kerosene tanks down to the staging area where the fuel truck is on standby. At that point they'll be fueled and reattached to the cable to fly back to the top of LeConte. Typically, the helicopter can fly off four empty tanks and bring back two full tanks. Our loyal ground crew here at the lodge has the unenviable task of standing underneath the tanks as they're lowered by cable and finessing them to their precise spot on the ground. It's a heck of a thing to see those propane tanks spinning on the end of the cable flying over Myrtle Point.
My favorite variation of the "how do you get the propane up here?" question involves the use of llamas. I guess every crew member has had a hiker ask if the llamas deliver the propane tanks. This question usually comes after people have looked off the deck into the propane field and see how big the tanks are.
My response to that question is this: "If you find a llama who can tote that propane tank up Trillium Gap on his back, make sure you let us know because he's getting a job offer." Such a physical specimen wouldn't even need to go through the usual physical, background checks and psychological analysis we require for the right to call yourself a LeConte llama, one of the chosen few.
Thank you all for reading. Have a fine day. Happy trails.
June 24, 2013
I pass along hopes for a fine day to all of you from the top of LeConte. The weather seems stuck on a consistent pattern of inconsistency--clouds, rain and sun in an alternating fashion. The last several days the clouds have been passing over Mt. LeConte right about our elevation so we're getting a little variety. This morning as I was making breakfast I was listening to "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Indeed, it was so foggy that I couldn't see far enough to see it was foggy.
The temperature has been pleasant compared to the sweatbox some of the nation has locked in. Our high yesterday was 65 with a low of 51. We tallied 0.25 inches of rain Sunday, mostly in a heavy shower before supper. We have measured rain six of the last eight days.
After staring down squirrels in yesterday's post, I'll stick with the animal theme and introduce you to Cliff, LeConte Lodge llama extraordinaire. Cliff started working with the llama team the same year as wrangler Alan. He also just happens to be Alan's favorite, which means he sometimes gets away with murder.
"He's good about everything," Alan said. "He's the smartest and strongest llama on the farm. If he sets his mind to it, he can get through any fence on the farm. He's also more tolerant of people than most of the other llamas."
His full name is Clifford Clifftops. His last name should be plenty recognizable to anyone who's watched sunset on LeConte. He also knows his name.
"He'll come running to me on the farm," Alan said. "All the others run the other way." Of course, Alan usually has a treat in hand for his favorite worker.
On a warm day when they're working the other llamas will be huffing and puffing, but Cliff just looks at them and yawns even though he's probably carrying a heavier load.
Here's to Cliff and a job well done. Happy trails (in Cliff's case Trillium Gap Trail, but you come up any that suits you best).
June 23, 2013
Hello to you. We enjoyed an extraordinarily busy day at LeConte Lodge Saturday. We also enjoyed our most sustained sunshine in quite some time. The high reached 65 with a low of 44 for Saturday. We had a couple of light sprinkles, but not enough to measure.
So far on Sunday we've received a hodgepodge of weather--a little sun, a little rain seasoned with some clouds. The rain showers to date haven't been long or heavy.
We have been dealing with a bumper crop of red squirrels (or boomers as they're known up top). I don't go back as far as Tim, Chris or Allyson, but there seem to be far more of the bushy-tailed critters up here than in my other seasons on LeConte.
If you're coming up to see us I'd like to enlist your help. So many people feed the squirrels up here that they've become delinquents. Several of the squirrels up here have gotten plenty bold. They fight with each other like the Jets and the Sharks (without the snapping fingers and switchblades). In past years we've had begging squirrels bite people because they've been so extensively fed by folks.
A squirrel's teeth are so sharp that they'd be happy to slice through some flesh and introduce you to the bones in your finger (not a fun hike down to medical help and the medical helicopter won't fly for a squirrel attack, though you would be a source of their amusement for decades). It's the same idea as not feeding the bears. The squirrels in the national park are plenty resourceful enough to fend for themselves.
One of the most notorious outlaw squirrels on the mountain slipped into the office and called me out on a showdown this morning. The townspeople came and told me he was itching for a fight. I walked in the door and the rascal was sitting smugly on the office heater, mayhem in his heart and evil in his eyes. Like a gunfighter, he stared me down with a Clint Eastwood squint. He ran around the loom and around the office before riding into the sunset. But I'm pretty sure I've not seen the last of that outlaw. With your help, maybe he'll get hungry and become a "mountain man" again. We don't need any trouble up here.
Have a fine day and keep your head on a swivel for outlaw squirrels. Happy trails.
June 22, 2013
Good afternoon. We're enjoying a partly sunny day on top of Mt. LeConte, more sun than we've seen in several days. However, the clouds continue to shuttle over the mountain and hem us in at times. Friday's weather reads much like a sequel of Thursday's conditions. Yesterday we saw a high-low of 62-46 with 0.19 inches of rain. We've had measurable rain five of the last six days.
Most of our guests get a kick out of watching from above as a storm churns up the valley. The towering cumulonimbus clouds backlit by distant lightning are some of my favorite skies up on LeConte. Last night we saw some thunderheads building in the distance, their shape resembling aerial anvils. The forge of lightning and thunder rose above the Forge of Pigeon.
Crew member Austin and I lucked into a surprise fireworks display in the valley last night. I saw some explosions of color down in Pigeon Forge. You could make out the colors clearly and even see some shapes in the fireworks (hearts, circles and the like). It was a good show and apparent it wasn't some character in his backyard with a bunch of Roman candles, sparklers and bottle rockets. I wouldn't have wanted to foot the bill for a show down below that we could watch for five minutes on top of LeConte. It whetted my appetite for July 4. I hope we get good clear skies on LeConte on Independence Day.
Assistant cook Caroline pieced together a fine leftover day for the crew lunch. Her dishes the last few days have had an international flair. I always like leftover days. The crew has three leftover lunches each week so we minimize our food waste. People worked powerfully hard to grow, transport, stock, shop for and haul our food up the mountain. We don't like to waste it. At any rate, there were a lot of clean plates today as the leftover menu read like a potluck at the United Nations. Maybe we should start addressing each other like UN delegates. "The delegation from the United States would like to thank our distinguished colleague from Paraguay for his contribution of Latvian bacon crepes." Could be that's a little too formal for LeConte.
I hope you're having a nice weekend. Happy trails.
June 21, 2013
Hello to you all from the top of Mt. LeConte. I'd like to wish everyone a great summer solstice day and hope the upcoming summer proves happy and fruitful for you. I also hope you'll be able to sneak in a trip to see us on top of LeConte.
Thursday's high reached 62 degrees with an overnight low of 48. Our sprinkles yesterday amounted to 0.22 inches of rain. A couple of crew members celebrated the beginning of summer with an early hike out to Myrtle Point to greet the sunrise before their breakfast shift. From my vantage point at the lodge the sunrise was muted, but my fellow crew members said the show was better at Myrtle Point. From that point, it didn't take long for the cloud to swallow us.
For two days I've trotted out a sunny forecast during breakfast announcements--and for two days we've seen precious little of that golden orb. We've not had too much rain either, just a heaping helping of gray. Although this is the longest day of the year (sunrise at 6:18 a.m and sunset at 8:53 p.m. near LeConte), the sun hasn't been working overtime for us on the mountain. The solar water pump has been starved for most of the last week, leaving us to resort to a gasoline pump to provide water for the lodge.
One of my most memorable summer solstice days came in 2009 when I was wrangling horses in Alaska. There, the sun truly does work overtime. On solstice day, there wasn't a minute overnight that I couldn't have gone outside to read a book. There is also a summer solstice tradition in Alaska for a midnight first pitch at a minor league baseball game in a stadium without lights. No baseball at LeConte Lodge tonight (though we certainly have enough guests to fill out several teams); I'll leave my ice cleats stowed away for later (much later, I hope).
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!