November 30th, 2018
It’s currently 42 degrees and cloudy up top. We received .35” inches of precipitation. Expect Cool - wet conditions if you’re planning to hike up the mountain.
24 hour temperature range: High 42 Low 23
The golden light is gone - the horizontal bundles of hoar frost have faded. My world has become a murky realm of grey mist. What was lost in vision has been gained in the other faculties. Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath of the dank landscape. The smell of the earth is grounding - the taste of evergreens rejuvenating - the drops of rain mesmerizing. Every breath, a deeper form of meditation.
Do I miss the sun? Do I miss the morning race of purples and pinks dancing across the Smoky Mountain sky? Do I miss the blond rays painting the pines? I can’t deny that I do. But right now, right here - this moment.
It is enough - it is more that enough.
"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."
November 29th, 2018
It’s currently 30 degrees and partly cloudy up top. We have trace amounts of snow still on the ground. If you’re planning to hike up, expect ice in the higher elevations.
24 hour temperature range: High 23 Low 5
Finding it harder and harder to stay inside, I strapped on my camera for the fifth time and began marching toward the Clifftops. It was a short hike but the ice laden corridor made for a pre unique walk. A few hop-scotch moves later, and I was topping out on the ridge. Wind slapped me in the face as I walked out onto the rocky exposure. Oddly surprised, this seemed to happen every time I made my way to the Clifftops; yet, I always seem to forgive and forget.
The sun kissed the horizon, making a splash of color in the sky. I soaked in the scene with everything that I had. How could so much warmth envelop such a cold unforgiving landscape? The wintering mountains seemed to celebrate the gesture by taking on pastel hues of orange, pink and purple. Dumbfounded, I just stood and followed suit - soaking in as much warmth as I could.
"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."
November 28th, 2018
It’s currently 10 degrees and clear up top. We received a small amount of precipitation - leaving us with .5” inches of snow. The mountain is incredibly beautiful right now, but plan for ice on the trails and cold conditions.
24 hour temperature range: High 15 Low 2
*US Hwy 441/Newfound Gap Rd from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC is open.
Crawling down from the loft, the air became progressively cooler as my feet approached the ground floor. Not yet dressed, I usually try to predict how cold it is by how jarring the floor feels. I guessed that it had to be around 0 degrees. After putting on the myriad of wool layers and cotton canvas overalls, the ensemble was completed with a down parka. I grabbed my pack and waved goodbye to the warmth.
Mt. Le Conte at 6:00AM is a special place. Unless you’re staying the night, it is unlikely that you’ll be found wandering around the lodge at this time of day. I crunched around in the light snow, lantern in hand. The Tack House was tucked away in the shadows. The orange glow of the lantern added just the right feel to the early morning light. The early birds get the worm, they always say. I guess I’m finally beginning to understand that.
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P.S.S - One more reminder, all inquiries submitted using the contact form on the 'HighonLeConte" blog will be sent to the Lodge Reservations down in the valley. If you have a question for me - please leave a comment or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) Thanks!
"It's not the load the breaks you down, it's the way you carry it."
November 27th, 2018
It’s currently 10 degrees and clear up top - an ocean of clouds rest below. We received trace amounts of precipitation. There was considerable hoar frost this morning.
24 hour temperature range: High 33 Low 9
*US Hwy 441/Newfound Gap Rd from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC is temporarily closed due to ice and snow.
Stay up to date on road conditions here: https://goo.gl/HikrMr
Moving through the dawn twilight, the mountain creaked and moaned as my boots carried me up the trail. Looking through a gap in the forest, I saw the clouds surrender to the clear sky above. I came to the conclusion that being above the clouds is one of life’s great pleasures. I continued crunching across the frozen ridge.
Not a fan of being below anything in the park, Clingmans Dome punched through the thick blanket of clouds - understandably so. By this point, I had been out in the cold and wind for almost an hour. My beard froze in its wind blown position. My cheeks were aching; yet, I couldn’t find the motivation to leave. Seeing the world in this way was like a siren’s call. Would I just stay and freeze? I came to my senses and traversed back down the mountain…
It was time for tea.
P.S. - In an attempt to share more of what I'm up to and to stay better in touch with you, I've started creating a weekly newsletter that I'll be sharing every Wednesday this winter. It will ,by no means, supplement this blog; but rather, it will serve as a forum to answer some questions or share details about what I'm reading / the gear I use / etc. If you're interested, please sign up. Have a great day!
If you just get out of your own way... It is amazing what will come to you.
November 26th, 2018
It’s currently 22 degrees and socked-in up top. We received .1” inches of precipitation. Since checking the instruments this morning, the temperature has dropped 6 degrees.
24 hour temperature range: High 44 Low 28
Moving further down the dingy trail, my imagination slowly took over. I stopped and listened to the mountain. The howl of the wind took me even further down the rabbit hole. I was back in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I was in the land of elves and hobbits. Wary but curious, I persisted deeper and deeper into the magical world on Mt. LeConte. Slivers of light crept through the canopy above, giving the moss below an ethereal glow. I continued on…
What was I looking for?
What might I find?
The journey eventually brought me back to the lodge. The warm glow of my lantern illuminated the kitchen as I peeled off my warm layers. Sitting down on the round chair next to the heater, I found myself smiling. I had found nothing; and yet, I had found everything wandering aimlessly atop Mt. LeConte.
All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.
November 25th, 2018
It’s currently 37 degrees and partly cloudy up top. We received no precipitation. The trails up top were slightly icy this morning, but warmer temperatures should melt much of the remaining ice.
24 hour temperature range: High 37 Low 27
I nestled into my sunset spot earlier than usual. A thermos full of tea and a book kept me company as I got comfortable. The warm sun, now felt, was a stark contrast to the dank atmosphere I experienced running along the Boulevard only forty minutes before. I glanced up from my book - the inverted clouds below excited me for another wonderful sunset on Mt. LeConte.
Back in the kitchen, I huddled over bowl after bowl of homemade jambalaya, thank you Guy and Janice. Headlamps outside told me that I had company. I started boiling water and welcome my guest. We swapped stories and exchanged gifts while each eating a dinner of our own.
Soon, their headlamps were like stars twinkling in the darkness. I blew out the remaining the kerosene lamps and disappeared myself.
P.S. - Though I can’t sit and chat with everyone who makes their way up top. I do enjoy hearing from you all. Whether it be in person, through snail mail, or in the comments section - Thank you for staying in touch!
If you’d like to send me a letter or maybe a piece of dark chocolate, please send all mail to the address below. Thank you and have a great day.
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
The only way to have a friend is to be one.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
November 24th, 2018
It’s currently 34 degrees and cloudy with high winds. We received 1.2” inches of precipitation. If you plan on hiking up, expect slushy conditions with limited views.
24 hour temperature range: High 34 Low 27
*US Hwy 441/Newfound Gap Rd from Gatlinburg TN to Cherokee NC is temporarily closed due to high winds.
*Cherokee Orchard is road is temporarily closed at the park boundary due to downed trees.
Stay up to date on road conditions here: https://goo.gl/HikrMr
Howling across the ridge, the winds pounded the sides of my warm lofted cabin. The entire structure began wobbling in the assault. Like an unborn child, I was comfortably insulated from the madness of the outside world. Too warm for snow, I listened as the sleet began tapping on the shake shingles. The combination of rain and wind lulled me to sleep.
Standing on the dining room porch, I savored the warmth escaping from my black cup of coffee. There is something beautiful about the damp wind burdened landscape. The dynamic mood of the mountain transports me to a different realm. I lose a sense of time and space. A strong gust brings me back. My cold coffee looks up at me with a blank stare. How long have I been standing here? I’m unsure.
I slowly make my way back toward the glow of a warmer place.
There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
November 23rd, 2018
It’s currently 30 degrees and windy up top. We received no precipitation. The trails are beginning to accrue ice. Take your time and be careful if you plan to come up.
24 hour temperature range: High 43 Low 27
Still attempting to catch my breath, I finished unloading my pack. I only carried up a couple items; but together, they weighed over 75 pounds (40 pounds of potatoes & my trusty 35 pound kettlebell). Breathing deep, I began loading another pack - this one for photography. I was soon out the door, again.
At the top of the steps, I decided against the climb to Cliff Tops; instead, I would saunter out to Myrtle Point for the moonrise. Turning left, I had a sudden urge to look right. Standing in the middle of the trail was a new neighbor - a large black bear.
We stared at each other for a few breaths. I started the conversation.
“Hey bear, you shouldn’t be snooping around the lodge.”
“I don’t mind you being here, but you can’t start breaking things.”
He eventually put his head down and slowly lumbered back up toward the Cliff Tops. I continued toward my date with the moon.
Buzzing from the my excursion to the point, I drifted quietly through the darkness on my way back to the lodge. Walking down the main steps, I had a feeling my neighbor might still be about. I spotted him touring around camp. Upon seeing me, he put his head down and began lumbering back toward the forest…
I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll see of each other.
So it goes,
P.S. - Thanks for being patient this morning. The high winds have made it challenging to get internet connection. Have a great day!
Piglet: “How do you spell ‘love’?”
Pooh: “You don’t spell it…you feel it.”
Happy Thanksgiving - 11/22/2018
It’s currently 40 degrees and crystal clear up top. We received no precipitation.
The 24-hour temperature range: High 40 Low 25
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The cool mountain air paired with the evergreen undertones told me I was getting close to home. Rounding the bend, the trail leveled out. A Balsam Fir hunched over the trail to see who was coming. We recognized each other, even after eight months of being apart. Smiling, I continued down the corridor.
The last junction came into view. A simple wooded sign pointed me in the direction of my dreams. Thankful for the gesture, I didn’t need the guidance. Closing my eyes again, I thought of all things beautiful, strong and wild. The LeConte Lodge came into view. Another smile broke free. My feet navigated the trail automatically; every stone seemed familiar - every stone welcomed me back. Cheeks hurting, I continued down to the kitchen…
I was happy to be back.
P.S. - As you now know, I'm very excited to share another winter with you! As always, I'll continue to do my best to share Mt. LeConte through my lens and with my words. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! Cheers!
How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose, if there were no winter in our year!
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Closing Day - 2018 Season
Good Morning and an early Happy Thanksgiving,
Well, friends and family, here we are once again turning the page and blowing out the lamps on another successful season atop Mt. LeConte. The 93rd of its kind now complete, but alone in its uniqueness and charm. It’s a bittersweet moment for many, as the culmination of an eight-plus month routine suddenly faces change. The mood is both celebratory and somber as crew that have become close companions now go their separate ways, and the special gathering place for guests falls silent to the whispers of the chilling winter winds. Winter caretaker, Seth Orme, is en route to his mountaintop abode for stint #2, and we’re especially excited to see what he has in store. The timing of it all couldn’t be more fitting though, as the end of this chapter presents a perfect opportunity to reflect back and offer up thanks.
There are so many people who contribute to this backcountry experience, whether here on the mountain forefront, or behind the scenes at our Apple Valley office. Starting with our crew, a fantastic group of finishers in every sense, always stepping up to take care of our guests and each other. They will certainly leave their mark as a group who embraced the work hard/play hard mantra, straight through to the finish line, and they did it together. One last movie night huddled around a small screen next to a giant cauldron of popcorn, a pure embodiment of this crew after one last solid day’s work. To our wranglers, who endure long days and nights in the best and toughest of conditions. Yet through it all, their commitment to the operation is unwavering, as is their attention to our beloved llamas. To our dedicated office staff, who spoil us with their consistency in providing employee and guest with exceptional guidance and support. The cumulative knowledge we have behind our administrative and reservations desks goes a long way in keeping this train on track. To our numerous partners, from the larger contingencies like the National Park Service who’s responsiveness when it comes to trail, road, medical, or concessions related matters is greatly appreciated, to the small business practices here locally and afar who provide outstanding services. That’s in both the numerous products we sell and this lodge’s inner workings and mechanics. And last but certainly not least, to our thousands of visitors. Whether staying here overnight or pounding out the miles in an afternoon, you are the reason we are here. A lodge is about hosting a collective, and without you, this entire outdoors experience has no place. So to all those listed above, and surely those I’ve forgotten, a 6,593 foot deep and heartfelt thanks!
I’d also like to take this moment to give attention to someone who has contributed greatly to the LeConte Lodge experience for many decades now. Back in March of this year, after an amazing 42 years of service to this mountain, we celebrated the well deserved retirement of one Tim Line. That is one person leaving their stamp on a place that has hosted thousands upon thousands of people across nearly half of its storied history. The experiences we’ve all been able to hike away with are in many ways courtesy of Tim’s commitment to our cause, his love for this mountain, and his understanding of what it takes to operate a remote backcountry lodge against the incredible forces of nature. So many bonds have been formed among crew, volunteers, businesses, and guests because this man found ways to bring them together. Although he’s been rightfully enjoying his newfound time with wife Lisa, the grandkids, and traveling, he’s still keeping an ear to the ground when it comes to the lodge as one of our owners. I am beyond humbled and honored to have been granted the opportunity to carry the torch this first year. The support from not only Tim, but our entire team with Stokely Hospitality Enterprises has been tremendous. It is an absolute pleasure to serve each and every one of you who hold this lodge so dear. The traditions of the past will propel us into the future as we forge new bonds and memories together.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving from your favorite mountain. We’ll see you all again next season!
Sincerely Yours in Lodging,
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