November 30th, 2015
It is a spectacular rainy day up top! The high yesterday reached 47 degrees. The overnight low was 41 degrees. It was 45 degrees and raining lightly at 7am observation. The mountain received 2.67 inches of rain yesterday and the trails are sure to be rather soggy. I would definitely recommend rain gear and a spare pair of socks to change into up top, in addition to the rest of the ten essentials. Enjoy this characteristically soggy Smokies day!
I had an absolutely lovely day hike yesterday. My friend Roger and I hiked out to Charlie's Bunion, enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures, forever interesting ridge winds, and some surprisingly good views of the Greenbrier. The clouds rising over the ridges looked like menacing dragons, slowly climbing and dissipating in beautifully unpredictable ways. Once we reached my favorite sign in the park (Charlies Bunion: Closely Control Children), the rain picked up and we ate peanut butter sandwiches under our umbrellas. We sat on the Bunion and took in views of my clouded-in winter home, knowing that the view never changes - it is forever beautiful, no matter the variable sky conditions. We enjoyed a soggy hike out to 441, then hitched down to Alum Cave and met our friend Katie for a rainy afternoon hike back up to the lodge. We moseyed back up the mountain, marveling at the new trail work, stomping through puddles, clearing clogged drainages, taking shelter under the cave, sweating through our rain gear, and arriving just as night fell with a perfect tired contentedness in our bones.
November 29th, 2015
It's a warm, foggy day up top. The high yesterday reached 47 degrees. The overnight low was 38 degrees. It was 41 degrees and the mountain was in a cloud at 7am observation. The trails are in great condition, there is no ice remaining after this warm spell. Enjoy the day!
November 28th, 2015
It's a beautiful, warm morning up top. The high yesterday reached 51 (!!!) degrees and the overnight low was 35 degrees. It was 44 degrees and clear at 7am observation. The trails are almost entirely clear, there is very little ice remaining towards the top. It looks as though the rain will hold until tomorrow, so get out and enjoy the weekend!
November 27th, 2015
It's a beautiful, clear day up top. The high yesterday reached 45 degrees. The overnight low 34 degrees. It was 36 degrees and clear at 7am observation. The mountain received no new precipitation and there is very little ice remaining on the ground. Traction is not yet necessary, just a sense of caution around some of the upper slopes. Get out and enjoy the day, it's too beautiful to be stuck in the mall!
I had an absolutely lovely day yesterday. It felt as though the mountain welcomed me back with open arms. I spent the majority of the morning getting settled in my cabin... although I got distracted from time to time re-reading one of my favorite books. Around 1 o'clock, the sun became too kind and made me restless. I ran down Alum and hiked back up, enjoying the late fall sunshine and gentle temperatures. By the time I had made it back up, I was able to relax for a little bit before sunset. It was another stunning show, just my friends and I on the mountain enjoying the first private viewing at Cliff Tops of the season. It isn't hard to be grateful up here. This life is the best life.
Much thanks to my dear friends Guy & Janice! Thanksgiving on the mountain wouldn't be the same without you two!
November 26th, 2015
It's a beautiful, blustery day up top. The high yesterday reached 41 degrees. The overnight low was 29 degrees. It was 34 degrees and partly cloudy at 7am observation. The mountain received no new precipitation and there is no snow on the ground. There are a few patches of black ice along the trail, so be cautious. I don't think any sort of traction is necessary quite yet. Enjoy the holiday!
I spent the majority of yesterday idling between a few joyful chores: unpacking my lovely library (thanks for carrying it up, Chrissy, Alan and the boys!), organizing my gear and winter layers, rediscovering old letters and photographs, and reacquainting myself with the backyard. I spent a perfect hour with my friends Guy and Danny, watching clouds (someone's gotta do it) at one of our treasured quiet places on the mountain. The sun was radiant, the golden glow majestic. The sun is always giving us life, but it was especially apparent in this moment.
Another welcome ritual is the first sunset of my winter season. It is a surreal feeling: still processing thousands of miles of travels, too many tender good byes, forays into the 'real world' of car troubles, bus terminals flooded with people, sad cities with more cars than trees, etc... and yet, somehow, ending up back at Cliff Tops. In pure silence. With nothing to occupy your mind. The colours fade, then a sneaky suspicion floats into my awareness - I might be the luckiest man alive. Again.
November 25th, 2015
It's a beautiful, blustery day up top. The high yesterday reached 40 degrees. The overnight low was 22 degrees. It was 29 degrees and partly cloudy at 7am observation. The mountain received no new precipitation yesterday. It looks as though we are in store for a few nice, clear days for the holiday weekend. I ran down Alum yesterday and there are only a few patches of ice along the trail, I don't think traction is required quite yet. Have fun out there!
I am thrilled to return for yet another season of sublime sunsets, majestic snow capped firs, bitter cold cheeks and hot tea, ecstatic day hikes, full moon wanderings in search of the bobcat, and all the associated glories that come with being the only man lucky enough to live in a national park all winter. I look forward to few rituals as much as my first pack of the season, with way too much gear strapped to my trusty Granite Gear, bones weary and head foggy from a longgggg bus trip... but so thrilled by what is around each familiar corner of the Alum Cave trail that I simply float. It isn't a normal hike, with things like exertion or time. I can't wait to reacquaint myself with all the million little pleasures up here and to share them with dear friends who are smart enough to visit me. It is going to be a great winter.
I say something to this effect at the start of every winter season, but the lodge is CLOSED for the season. There are no day hiker services available. No coffee, no hot chocolate, no warming up next to the fire, no overnight stays... just about all you can do is admire the beauty the winter months bring and relish in the joys of your self-sufficiency. The gift of winter hiking lies in the fact that with greater risk comes greater rewards. If you plan to hike in the park this winter, use all the resources available to make it the pleasant experience for yourself and others. Winter hiking can be a transcendent experience when done well - no bugs, fewer bears, no crowds, crisp air, clearer skies, seemingly infinite peace, pure comfort in a remote setting... but it can also be a time for wet boots, endless shivering nights, hands that no longer feel like hands but strange foreign pieces of rubber, frozen jeans and sweatshirts, desperation where outside help is unlikely... so please, for everyone's sake, be safe and stay within your limits. Turn around if you feel uncomfortable. The mountains will be here longer than you will. Be safe out there, folks!
November 23rd, 2015
Hello down there! It is cold! The low dropped to 8 degrees last night, and the high for yesterday only reached 34 for a short period of time. It is currently 18 degrees and sunny. #burrr You only have tomorrow and Wednesday to hike up and see our smiling faces so come on. What are you waiting for? #endOfSeason
Hello down there!!! It is Mountain Thanksgiving. Kenneth and I spent last night and all morning preparing bread, dressing, baked apples, turkey, pie, bread pudding, stuffed acorn squash, kale salad, broccoli casserole, smashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and roasted vegetables. We have many friends to the lodge up enjoying the food, and the cold, clear weather. I was hoping for snow overnight but all of it fell below 5000 ft. It is currently 20 degrees and dropping. The high yesterday was 41 degrees and the low dropped to 18. #staywarm
November 04th, 2015
I think November is a little confused this year about what season it wants to be...Yesterday's high was 52 and the low was 45 overnight. We had no rain but the clouds moved in and out all day. The same pattern seems to be emerging today as well, 48 degrees with clouds, then sky, then clouds again!
November 03rd, 2015
What a beautiful morning we are having on Mt. LeConte! After more than a few days without seeing the sun, we awoke to an inversion this morning and a clear sky above. Yesterday's high was 51 and the low overnight was 46 and we received .7"of rain. Right now a few thin clouds have moved in, but the sun is burning them off as we speak and it is still a crazy warm 47 degrees!
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