December 31, 2017
It’s currently 18 degrees up top. Yesterday’s high was 32 degrees, with an overnight low of 16.
It took slightly longer to crawl out of bed this morning – soreness pervaded. I made for the kitchen and began brewing tea. Ironically, the morning conversations led to where today’s run would be. Laughing, two sore runners trudged to sunrise.
Walking up the trail, my thoughts settled on the past year, the coming year. It had been a tough year; it had been a good year. Eleven months of vagabonding had led me here. Somehow, I had ended up atop Mount Le Conte. Grateful and happy, I watched the sun creep above the distance peaks.
The sun was up and we began our walk back to the lodge. Conversations shifted to the final minute of 2017. Where would it best be spent? After little deliberation, the ideal spot would have to be on Cliff Top. The view would be vast, the full moon lighting the world below. If Gatlinburg has fireworks, we’d be in the best place to catch the moment. With the schedule established, the current minute came to the forefront. What would be for breakfast?
P.S. – Breakfast ended up being egg tacos and buttered toasted pound cake.
“Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Lewis Carroll
December 30, 2017
It’s currently 20 degrees outside. The high yesterday was 32 degrees, with an overnight low of 14. We still have snow on the ground, with plenty of ice on the trail up top.
After a long night, I woke. My body preferred to stay where it was, but I knew the sun would soon arrive. I hadn’t brewed coffee in over a week. The Sumatra roast gave me the boost I was looking for. Caffeinated, I happily made moves for sunrise.
Sunrise without a doubt, spoke for itself. Like the Marshall Tucker song – Fire on the Mountain, the world burned with beauty. Beyond satisfied, I made for the lodge.
As you can tell, my morning routine took a different direction after sunrise. I forewent the blog, made a broccoli omelet, and launched out the door on a mountain loop with another audacious friend. From the lodge, we traversed the Boulevard Trail to the Appalachian Trail. Running Southbound, we bolted down to Newfound Gap. From there, our route descended 441 to the Alum Cave Trailhead. Properly sore, we commenced the mental battle back to Mount Le Conte.
Physically spent, I delayed the blog further. Rest and recovery became a priority. I would get the blog out at some point…
...with an over-filled bowl of jambalaya, the urge to write finally arrived.
“The challenge of the unknown future is so much more exciting than the stories of the accomplished past.” - Simon Sinek
December 29, 2017
It’s currently 17 degrees and above the clouds. Yesterday’s high was 31, with an overnight low of 15. We still have half an inch of snow on the ground. Expect ice up top.
I ambled into the kitchen, lit the stove, and stared at the dirty dishes I didn’t finish the night before. Good conversations with like-minded friends quickly took precedence. I called in the weather, and finished up the waiting dishes. Satisfied, I set off for the point.
Outside, the clouds loomed above. They were moving fast. Apollo Overlook was socked in. A gap in the clouds showed an untouched Myrtle Point. I hiked on.
I made it to the point just in time for the colorful show. The point looked different. It looked as if we’d been transported to the Himalaya. Fellow photographers were afoot. We exchanged repeated smiles and commented on all aspects of the new environment. The wind gusted all around us, burning our faces…
… the cameras continued to fire.
“My intention is to carry as little as possible, move fast and catch the summit by surprise.” – George Mallory
December 28, 2017
It’s currently 20 degrees and clear up top. Yesterday’s high was 30 degrees, with an overnight low of 16. We still have .5” inch of snow on the ground. There’s still plenty of ice on the ground up top.
I stopped to put on my ice traction. The short route to the Cliff Top was a shimmering creek of ice. Ice traction on, I continued my sunset ascent. The inversion visible at the lodge had my imagination flowing. What would it look like from the top?
I gave an audible yelp as I traversed the final flat section to the Cliff Top. In front of me was an ocean speckled with islands in the sky. I had butterflies in my stomach and my face felt red, flushed. My body was having a systemic reaction to the beauty. Slowly, my excitement settled. I crawled into my favorite nook and attempted to capture the scene…
…quietly, I hoped that this infectious sunset was contagious.
It is good to rub, and polish our brain against that of others.
- Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
December 27, 2017
It’s currently 25 degrees up top. Yesterday’s high was 29 degrees, with an overnight low of 16. We still have roughly 1” of snow on the ground.
Expect the Alum Cave Trail, along with other trails, to be very icy. Below is a photo from yesterday’s venture.
I woke to a thick canopy of clouds above. Unfazed, I brewed tea and began the morning hike to Myrtle Point. Honestly, I expected an uneventful show, but experience has taught me that 80% of about anything is just showing up.
Atop the point, the Smoky Mountains looked cold - looked lethal. I checked my watch; sunrise would be any minute. The clouds above began to shift and glow. Soft mellow hues bled through the blanket above. It was a relaxing scene. Compared to sunrise’s past, that hit me like a shot of espresso; today’s scene was more akin to a cup of chamomile tea – calming. I appreciated the contrast. Feeling soothed, I slowly strolled back to the lodge…
"There are some days when I think I'm going to die from an overdose of satisfaction." - Salvador Dali
December 26, 2017
It’s currently 20 degrees and overcast up top. Yesterday’s high was 19 degrees with a low of 1 degree. We currently have 1” of snow on the ground.
Expect and plan for ice covered trails if you’re coming up top. I hiked on mostly ice from Cliff Tops down to the Alum Cave Bluffs, yesterday.
Hwy 441 still appears to be closed, but that status may change as the day progresses. Keep up to date here -> https://goo.gl/HikrMr
Leaving the kitchen for sunrise, I noticed clear skies below and an overcast sky above. I hiked into the pre-dawn, retracing my steps from the previous morning. I couldn’t help but to think ahead. How would the sun paint the sky? Would the curtain close too soon?
I arrived. There would only be small window for full sunrise colors. The gap between mountain and cloud was scant, but I was there – ready. Deep purple hues danced across the canopy above. Awestruck, I quickly put my camera into position to capture the moment. Five minutes later, the sun disappeared into the clouds above. I didn’t argue. I was happy as a pig in mud...
…I made for home.
“O, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.” - Roman Payne
December 25, 2017
It’s currently 5 degrees out and clear. We received 1” of snow last night, securing a white Christmas up top. Yesterday’s high was 36 degrees with an overnight low of 5 degrees.
Hwy 441 from Cherokee to Gatlinburg is closed. Please visit the Smoky Mountain Roads – Twitter page for updates on road closures. ---> https://goo.gl/HikrMr
Yesterday’s sunset looked promising. I’d gone the entire week without getting a proper sunset or sunrise. With only a few minutes to go before the show, my excitement built. The curtain suddenly dropped, clouds covered the view. Maybe that’s how Santa does it? He rides in on a cloud? So it goes…
I woke to a white world. Excited, I packed on the layers and launched outside. The biting air inspired me to add more layers to today’s wardrobe. I looked up at the stars. STARS! More excited than before, I finished my morning routine and broke trail to Apollo Overlook. The internal debate to make a break for Myrtle Point was decided by a large cloud traveling from the northeast. Moving fast, the cloud engulfed the point. I wasn’t going to risk it. I set my camera up, hid both camera batteries in my chest pocket and watched as the colors began to explode in the sky. My face burned from the cold. I covered up and attempted to capture the beauty.
Walking back to the lodge, I could feel the temperature dropping. My fingers ached. My cheeks were sore, partially from smiling. I couldn’t contain myself. I had to take a walk around the lodge…
Back inside, the thermometer read 1.8 degrees. It had gotten colder. I re-lit the stove. One burner for tea; the other for the final touches on yesterday’s Christmas Eve project. Instead of throwing away the peel from the grapefruit I was gifted, I opted to make candied citrus peels. I had wanted to bake bread, but accidently baked five loaves the day prior. One loaf of banana blueberry nut bread, two loaves of Anadama bread, and two loaves of oatmeal bread. Three of the five loaves lay comfortably in the freezer - saving counter space for Christmas Day baked goods. I huddled next to the heater. I was thankful for heat, snow, and sunrises.
P.S. – Since it is Christmas, I’ve added a few extra photos to today’s blog post. My gift to you!
"Christmas isn't a season. It's a feeling." – Edna Ferber
December 24, 2017
It’s currently 30 degrees and cloudy up top. Yesterday’s high was 46 degrees, with an overnight low of 27 degrees. We received .8” of rain yesterday. Expect icy trails, with these cooler temperatures.
The mountain appeared unchanged from days’ past - clouds blanketed everything. A thin layer of frost reminded me that I wasn’t living a repeat of yesterday. It was a new day, a different day. I continued my routine and prepared for sunrise.
Hot rooibos tea in hand, I hiked toward Myrtle Point. Above, a colorful light seeped through a tear in the dense cotton cover. Curious of what the sunrise may bring, I chose a high vantage on the point. As the sun rose, more tears in the fabric appeared. I knew my window to capture the shot wouldn’t be long. I released the shutter. I recomposed for another shot…
…the hole was already patched.
P.S. – I hope you all have an excellent Christmas Eve.
“You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you.” -John Muir
December 23, 2017
It’s currently 44 degrees, partly cloudy and extremely windy. Yesterday’s high was 46 degrees, with an overnight low 37. We received .12” of precipitation.
I woke in the middle of the night. The wind was blowing through camp with a fury. I’ve yet to hear it howl that loud. The wall’s shook… I faded back to sleep.
I woke again. This time, to start the day. The wind was still howling outside. I bundled up and left the warmth of my cabin. Pigeon Forge was visible down below. The wind was catapulting a thick mass of clouds over the mountain, blocking out the sky. I hiked out to Apollo Overlook, almost being blown over in the process. Again, my view was obscured. Happy to have hiked a little bit, I made for camp.
I was rounding the corner of the kitchen when I noticed layers of cotton candy clouds off in the distance. The sky above was covered, but from the kitchen door I had an excellent view of the sun’s handy work. Smiling, I pulled out my camera.
“For the more limited, if adequate, is always preferable.” – Aristotle
December 22, 2017
It’s currently 40 degrees and cloudy. Yesterday’s high was 41 degrees, with an overnight low of 34. We received .05” of rain in the last 24 hours.
I woke to a star speckled sky. Excited for sunrise, I hopped out of bed and began my morning routine. Once outside, I gazed with awe at the sky. It had only been a few days, but I missed seeing the vast unknown above. Below was an eerie glow. A thin mask of clouds cloaked Pigeon Forge. Still in awe, I made for the kitchen.
Excitement palpable, I called in the weather and waited for my Rooibos tea to brew. I had finished my morning routine thirty-minutes early. Hints of Madagascar vanilla wafted from the brewed tea. Feeling hypnotized, I decided to take a seat and savor the contents of the cup.
I stepped outside. Overcome with confusion, I quickly realized that I was, again, socked in by a cloud. Within a matter of minutes, the fog had taken over. I couldn’t help but laugh. “So it goes.” I said aloud. Undeterred, I turned my head-lamp off and wandered into the mist.
P.S. – Huge thanks to Bob and Ann Jones for sending me an incredible Deluxe Fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery. I tried a piece yesterday. All I can say is, W0w! - I can’t wait to share it with my mom, who is hiking up next week. Again, Thank you!
P.S.S – I’m a big fan of snail-mail! If you get an urge to send a letter or a care package, I usually hike down once every week or so. I receive mail at the Gatlinburg NOC – C/o Winter Caretaker. Expect a hand-written letter in return. Cheers!
If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?
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