Aug. 31, 2014
Hello to all of you High on LeConte readers. We stayed plenty busy yesterday on a pretty, pre-Labor Day Saturday. I had to stay up late to count our sales reports, which should make all those folks in the Sevierville office happy. I'm happy we have more room in the merchandise storeroom (and fewer boxes stacked sky-high waiting to fall and crunch my bald head).
We ended up getting just 0.36 inches of rain Saturday with a 71-54 high and low. The Sunday forecast was not as promising, but it's been a nice day thus far. I hope all our overnight guests arrive before we get any precipitation. It was a little cloudy earlier this afternoon, so I started up the gas pump to counter the sluggish solar pump and get our wonderful spring water headed uphill to be treated in the holding tanks. Of course, that guaranteed that the sun would pop back out.
We'll be bidding August adios tonight and turning the page to September. August has been a nice month up here, albeit with some sporadic heavy rain. The supermoon earlier this month was a great highlight for me, as was some homemade baklava from some nice guests in Indiana which arrived via llama. I understand we are to get another viewing of the supermoon during the September full moon. Even if it's not as brilliant, I'm hoping for a clear night. My Granny told me many years ago about the old timers predicting how many snows we would have in a winter by counting the fogs of August. I didn't keep a close tally, but if there's anything to that J.P. should have some snow to kick around this winter.
Allyson mentioned last week about how she enjoyed September on LeConte. She's exactly right. I think September is the most underrated month of the year on LeConte. It's odd, but it's also one of our slowest months of the season. Family vacations are in the rearview mirror, and the leaf-peepers haven't yet arrived in the Smokies in September.
Meanwhile, up top, we'll get started on our autumn long before our friends in the valley. We'll also, on average, see drier weather with cooling temperatures but probably not early flurries (usually those come in October on top of LeConte). The visibility should clear up more often as we leave the haze behind and allow us to see clear across the Tennessee Valley to the Cumberland Mountains--a rare sight in summer.
We've also been lucky to welcome back some faces from LeConte past in August, from former crew members, chaplains and one of the First Kids of LeConte. Just last night, we were happy to host Barbara Brown, daughter of former LeConte Lodge managers Herrick and Myrtle Brown. The Browns ran the lodge during parts of the 1960s and 1970s and are well thought of by their former employees. Herrick has passed away, but we pass along a hello from high on LeConte to Myrtle, who lives in North Carolina. Their daughter, Barbara, told me stories of growing up with LeConte as her summer playground.
Thanks to all the nice folks who've come to visit us in August. Come on back in September and see why we like it so much on top of LeConte. Happy trails.
Aug. 30, 2014
Good afternoon from the top of LeConte. We've been in a nice weather pattern as of late. Friday was dry and beautiful most of the day with a high of 71 and low of 54. We've had a few more clouds today, but are still enjoying some afternoon sun.
While Labor Day is a bit of an exception with most schools taking a breather, we notice fewer children staying overnight on the mountain. The army of youngsters on leave during the summer has been drafted back into school, their backpacks repurposed to tote textbooks rather than trail mix.
The crew noted an exception to that lack of children today during lunch when a girl stopped by to visit. It proved a pretty interesting conversation, as many up here turn out, and I learned a lot. Donning a Tinkerbell shirt (of Peter Pan fame), she has been exploring around the lodge grounds with an omnipresent magnifying glass--"looking for clues."
She told us she hiked up to LeConte Lodge to stay last year, but she was only two-feet tall then. I mentioned that she must be eating right because she had apparently doubled in height this year. I continued that she better watch out because she may show up at the lodge next year at eight-feet tall if she continued to double--and that would present problems for ducking through all our doors. I think that prospect perplexed her a bit.
Further, I learned that she and her family had explored Myrtle Point earlier in the day. I told her that was a pretty nice hike, but it would be easy for Tinkerbell, who could just flitter about anywhere she wanted on LeConte. The little girl countered, "Yes, but not if she got her wings wet." I agreed that was wise planning because wet wings are always a possibility on LeConte and could slow down even the fittest fairy.
You meet all sorts of nice and interesting people on the mountain, and today was no exception. I hope you're one of those nice and interesting folks who get to come up and see us. Happy trails.
Aug. 29, 2014
Good afternoon to all of you High on LeConte readers. I'm a little tardy posting this afternoon, but we had to load llamas and I've been making some advance preparations for what I anticipate will be a busy Labor Day weekend. I hope you all have a great one.
I'm writing on a gorgeous day at the lodge. We've been looking up at lovely cumulus clouds floating across the sky. To date, we haven't been swallowed by one and have seen much sun.
Thursday proved a pretty day until the clouds rolled in mid-afternoon. Just before crew supper at 5 p.m., the dining room grew quite dark and the skies opened for a real frog-strangling rain. We ended up with a couple of heavy showers around supper and more rain overnight for a total of 1.19 inches (to be honest, I expected the rain gauge to read more than that). Thursday's high reached 73 degrees with a low of 53. The 73-degree reading marks the hottest day since July 29 and is just shy of the the 74-degree season high.
Speaking of frogs, the big rain didn't strangle all of them. While doing chores this morning I saw the biggest frog I've ever seen at the lodge. This puddle-jumper was big as a grapefruit. Truth be known, we usually don't see many frogs at all. We do hear them often in the evenings, as part of our LeConte classical concerts. This big specimen didn't do any singing while I was around, but if he did, I expect he'd sound like Tennessee Ernie Ford.
When I hiked up earlier this week, I turned the corner at Inspiration Point and looked back at the peaks behind. In this time of year, the vegetation has maxed out lush and verdant. It won't be long before autumn takes over (it has already begun in subtle ways at the lodge). However, now those peaks behind Inspiration Point rise so green it looks like a burglar has hit Elvis Presley's Graceland on the other end of our fine state and draped a massive swath of the pilfered shag carpet from his "Jungle Room" over the mountains.
I hope you'll have a chance to come up and see us this weekend. Happy trails.
Aug. 28, 2014
Hello again to everyone. This is Nathan, filling in for Allyson for a while. The weather was nearly perfect yesterday and much of today. We saw a high temperature Wednesday of 68 with an overnight low of 47 and not even a rumor of any precipitation. You'd have to be president-elect of the American Society of Pessimists to find much fault with Wednesday's weather. Today has been much the same, just a little warmer and with a few more clouds.
This afternoon I'd like to answer one of the most common questions we get from guests and day hikers. The question concerns our llama resupply operation.
Many people like to know whether the llamas live at LeConte Lodge. The answer is no, though in the 1970s and prior we had some horses live on lodge grounds. The llamas live on a farm off Highway 321 between Gatlinburg and Cosby. The farm is a working farm and not set up to host visitors. The best place to meet the llamas is in back of the LeConte Lodge kitchen about noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There they rest, eat and drink at their troughs before they are reloaded and descend the mountain to head home to the farm.
The llamas utilize the Trillium Gap Trail and are trailered to and from the farm. Llamas aren't particularly affectionate animals, though we do ask them to at least be polite if hikers want to have their photos made while resting at the lodge (just never touch a llama on the head). Just posing for photos and refraining from spitting is asking a lot for a llama, so keeping the farm peaceful and quiet is important to them.
Alan and Chrissy share duties as our llama wranglers, usually alternating trips and teams to the lodge. That includes caring for the llamas at the farm and on the trail. There's no way we could operate without their work. They are the reason our guests will sleep on clean sheets tonight and eat fresh eggs in the morning.
Former crew members John and Bonnie Northrup also live on the farm and help with everything from grocery shopping for the lodge, hay stacking and llama feeding. After a recent visit on my August off days, I can attest that farm operations have never been better. The llamas are healthy and happy, and the farm looks great.
All of us on the LeConte Lodge crew thank Alan, Chrissy, John and Bonnie for doing an outstanding job running the farm. Thank you for reading and coming up to see us. Happy trails.
Fall Is In The Air
What a glorious day on the mountain. The air is crisp and the sky is clear. I included a panorama from yesterday's sunrise. The low last night was 41º with a high of 63º. It is currently 53º. Chris and I are hiking down in a little while. I love commuting on days like this. It is the commutes during high winds and hail that I am not so fond of. Luckily, the sunny days are more common. I hope this weather lasts through the weekend. If it is does, I highly recommend a hike up to the lodge. We are coming up on my favorite time of the season. I love September. I tell people that September on the mountain is like October in the lower elevation. We don't have a lot of foliage that changes color, but the rain dries up and the air is crisp with that fall feeling. Not to mention blackberry season. That is coming up soon. Oh yeah, one more thing, GO VOLS! (Sorry, I had to get that in.)
What Good Days Are Made Of
"I hope everyone that is reading this is having a really good day. And if you are not, just know that in every new minute that passes you have an opportunity to change that." - Gillian Anderson
The quote above spoke to me today. Sometimes all I have to do is look out the back door of the kitchen and realize how lucky I am to have called this place home for twelve years. I have seen some amazing things on this mountain. From phenomenal sunrises and sunsets to three feet of new fallen snow, it never ceases to amaze me how nature can be so beautiful in many different ways. I was talking to a retired park service employee the other day. We were discussing what Chris and I will do when we are off the mountain. I told him that I was really excited to get back to the other areas of the park. I will continue to visit my favorite mountain, but I am looking forward to enjoying my home in Gatlinburg and continuing my exploration of the rest of the park. Who knows, maybe I will join the 900 mile club.
We had a great day yesterday. The rain stopped mid morning and the sun came out. The high was 66º with a low of 43º. It was a quiet day around the lodge. I am sure a lot of folks have travel plans for this coming weekend and are laying low this week. Today is going to be a good one for a hike. If you live locally, lace up those boots and hike up for a visit.
I finally found some ghost pipe flowers. The ones that I normally see in the flat section at the top of Alum Cave trail are finally out. I know some of you said you have seen them there over the past couple of weeks. That is pretty late for them. This mountain is ever changing. What is true for one year will change the next. Chris and I were discussing the lack of butterflies this year. We have seen a few, but not near the numbers we are used to seeing. I have not seen any swallowtails or monarchs this season. It makes you wonder what conditions have changed that make them go somewhere else. If you pay attention to the small things around the mountain, you are forever learning.
We are currently socked in. The high yesterday was 66º with a low of 53º. The day started out beautiful and later turned to dense fog.
Beautiful Day on the Mountain
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike."- John Muir
Good morning from our favorite mountain. The sun is rising as is the temperature. The high yesterday was 69º with a low of 55º. I looked up the high for this season and so far it is 74º. We have reached that temperature 5 times this summer. The average has been in the mid to high 60s. We have had less rain but the temps have been cooler. That is just fine. I will take more vitamin D over rain any day.
We are plugging along on the mountain. Nicholette has decided to stay on as head cook for next year. I am trying to pass on as many tips as I can. Anything to make her life a little easier next season. Ruthie is learning the ways and eager to do so. She is super excited about the future and spending it at the lodge. Between Nicholette and Ruthie, the lodge is going to be in good hands.
Summer Coming to an End
Once again, we are starting out the day in a dense cloud cover. The wind is blowing and there is some precipitation. The high yesterday was 69º with a low of 58º. The trails are settling down and we are seeing less kids and more couples around the lodge. It is hard to believe Labor Day is a week away. It won't be long until the crew starts guessing the first snow fall. All in all, this summer has been pleasant. The sun has provided plenty of vitamin D and the days stayed relatively cool. We have only had a handful of days that I remember being really warm. As long as the sun is shining I am just fine. I hope the trend continues into the fall.
I walked outside and heard a noise that I have never heard on the mountain. I soon found it was the sound of thousands of bees. The cone flowers looked to be alive. After looking at closeups, I believe these are honey bees. If any of you know them to be a different species, I would love to know. In my twelve years on the mountain, I have never seen this much activity. Every flower bed, including the ones below camp, were buzzing with thousands of busy little bees. I sat and watched them for a few minutes and it was as if they didn't even notice me. They were so busy performing their duties, they had no time for me. I like to think there were so many because earlier in the season I kept after Chris to leave the dandelions alone when he was weedwacking. I had seen several articles on the importance of dandelions and their early season benefit to honey bees. I will say, my husband did a great job of leaving the ones around the edges of the buildings and the high concentration areas. What ever it was, it was great seeing that many little pollinators going about their day to day business.
Yesterday was a mix of sun and rain. We saw bits of blue skies and then we saw a few sprinkles later in the afternoon. The high was 69º with a low of 51º. We are currently under heavy cloud coverage with a small amount of precipitation. We are also experiencing large gusts of wind. If you are hiking up today, make sure you bring clothes to change into. The wind can make it chilly at the top.
Update: new photo as of August 22nd at 12 p.m.
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!