Monday, December 20, 2021
A chilly mountain top kicking off this fourth week of December and lead up to the holidays. The mercury say us drop down to 18° last night for a low, although we did manage to tap 40° for a high. We are currently in the mid 20s with delightfully clear skies. It’s a bit icy around the mountain so remember to tote those traction devices for safe trekking. Should get close to 40° again today with plentiful sunshine under light winds. A great day for a ramble in the woods.
The island-in-the-sky effect just never gets old up here. Not only does it lend itself to the solitude of being atop a cold and quiet peak, but the heavenly beauty is certainly otherworldly. All indications of a civilization below are hidden away, and the whiteness of the clouds removes nearly all blemishes. To be riding high above it all is uplifting for the spirit in several senses. May today’s sunshine and this “season of light” be a time for thankful reflection and hopeful optimism to all of you and yours.
Have a great day.
Sunday, December 19, 2021
Dealing with some continued sloppy conditions across the mountain this cool and gray Sunday morning. Aside from a consistent breeze, conditions are expected to improve for us as the day trots along. Yesterday’s high was 46° with a low of 30°. The skies unloaded 2.1” of rainfall on us, but none of the white fluffy stuff. We’ve been steadily descending from the mid 30s into the upper 20s and aren’t expected to break the freezing mark the rest of the day. Hopefully we witness the return of sunshine tomorrow in time for us to see warmer temps. The rest of the week leading up to Christmas looks awesome for exploring the outdoors. Just come ready for icy patches on trail after all this precip and freezing temps.
Have a great end to the week!
Saturday, December 18, 2021
The rain has rolled into town, and it appears it will be with us on and off all day. So if you insist on getting outside to play today, best come dressed for wet and sloppy trail conditions. We’re in for one more mild day of temps where we could see the lower 50s, but once this front pushes through the lodge will be welcoming the return of winter. Yesterday’s air temps ranged from 41-47°. As we drop back down toward freezing, there is the chance for some snow showers this evening and into tomorrow morning. Winds will be active again as well gusting upwards around 30mph. Depending on how the precip transformation lines up with the temp change will determine if any of the white fluff is able to accumulate. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what we wake up to tomorrow! By late Sunday and Monday the Smokies ought to enjoy clearer skies.
Yesterday afforded opportunities to get out of camp and enjoy the landscape. Always something intriguing to see that one hasn’t recognized before. Today is turning out to be a good day for settling down indoors, listening to the rain’s pitter-patter on roof shingles, diving deep into a intriguing book, and perhaps even baking up some warm goodies in the kitchen. It’s all fair game when time is of no concern up here!
Have a great day.
Friday, December 17, 2021
Shaping up to be a socked in start to the weekend atop the Smokies. The skies only squeaked out a simple 0.05” of rain over the last 24 hours. Temps ranged from a high of 50° to a low of just 38°. Conditions are currently in the mid 40s under cloud cover and light winds. It’ll be warm in the mountains again today as the south breeze has a chance to blow as much as 30mph. There could be some partial clearing of skies this afternoon, but the storm possibilities return in force later tonight. Saturday still looks like it’ll be a wash.
Even when the famous views Mt. LeConte is known for are obstructed in such conditions, there is always beauty to be appreciated. Whether it’s admiring the condensation that forms tiny droplets on spruce needles, or the stillness of the fog that closes in tightly on the rustic cabins. Sometimes just being here is enough, regardless of what the weather decides to do.
Have a great day.
December 16, 2021
It’s going to be difficult to bid farewell to this incredible stretch of weather we’ve had this past week. It appears as though today will be bringing it to a close, with a sloppy mess on tap for the weekend. Yesterday’s high temp reached 51° and our low was just 36°. We’re currently sipping on coffee looking out over the vastness under mostly clear skies and temps in the lower 40s. We should have no problem jumping back up into the 50s again today. The strong wind presence is expected to persist, with gusts upwards of 40mph possible this evening. Tonight is when the rain is supposed to move in as well, lingering late through Saturday. By Sunday, the wind direction will shift 180° from south to north, temps will drop, and the precip could transition over to snow showers before the system clears out. It’s been so long, beginning to forget what a white winter wonderland looks like around here! Best to get the last of all that gallivanting in the outdoors taken care of today before it’s time to hunker down a couple days.
The trails are calling! Have a great day.
The Rambling Runner
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
What a beautiful mid-December day to wake up to. We’ve got yet another sunny blue-bell not-very-wintry kind of day lined up. Bright sun and clear skies will continue their dominance over the Smokies this Wednesday along with mild temps and strong breezes out of the south. Yesterday’s high reached an otherwise toasty 55°, and our overnight low was only 34°. Winds could gust as much as 35mph by tonight which might take that warm edge off the projected high temps in the 50s. Bringing that wind breaker and an extra layer is still a good idea for spending time at the top.
With being halfway through the month and only ten days away from the “big day,” one certainly wonders if this unseasonably warm trend will persist. A white Christmas certainly lends itself to the holiday magic one dreams of, but perhaps after last year’s snowy and icy nightmare, East Tennesseans won’t complain too much if conditions outside are just plain old safe and boring! Despite the warm weather we’ve been able to enjoy up top, now is as good a time as any to kindly remind folks that the lodge is still in fact closed for the winter months. Day hikers to the lodge have access to the pit privies, but that’s it. No indoor accommodations, no gift shop, no snacks, and water is only available from the natural spring down the start of Trillium Gap Trail. So hikers are 100% responsible for making sure one is well fed, hydrated, outfitted, and prepared for inclement weather from start to finish. And don’t let the mild temps lull you into forgetting that the sun still sets early this time of year. It gets dark in those hollers right quick, so plan accordingly to get out of the woods and back home safe and sound.
The sunshine is calling, time to get out and play! Have a great day. The Mountain Meanderer
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
What seems like the warmest December ever, continues. As expected, yesterday was a fabulous fun-filled day for frolicking in the forest. Under clear and sunny skies, the lodge reached a high temp of 51°, while our overnight low was a mere 35°. We’re starting this Tuesday off in the mid 30s as the rising sun sheds light across open skies once again. Another beautiful day across East Tennessee is in the cards today, as we should return to the 50s this afternoon. About the only difference from yesterday is that the winds should pick up, with gusts of 30mph possible by tonight.
Monday’s conditions made for a great opportunity to forage and familiarize oneself with the surrounding woods. There’s so much new out there among the trees and rocks, that such a day without being held captive by the snow or cold demands one go outside and play. Although the squirrels and birds have an easier time of it, that didn’t stop the joy and exhilaration that comes with the scrambling and rambling for different views around the mountain. There’s also a sense of youth and newness that comes along with such activity. And maybe that’s just one of many draws for people who travel to Mt. LeConte. Perhaps our belief in being able to continually conquer the mountain, combined with that hope to still discover something new, also keeps us connected to our memories and the past. That those of us who have been scaling these peaks for what feels like ages still have some giddy-up in our step. So we lace up the boots and cinch down the pack, and it’s eyes forward with a slight smirk of confidence and determination on our faces. Upward and onward to seize the day.
Enjoy and happy wandering. A Friend of the Forest
Monday, December 13, 2021
What a superbly sunny Monday we have lined up. The skies are clear, the bright orb to the east is rising, the birds are chirping, and the coffee’s perking. Can’t think of a better way to kickoff the new week than such a fine morning on Mt. LeConte. The lodge witnessed a high temp of 42° Sunday and we dipped to a low of 20° last night. It’s warming up quick though as we’re already back above freezing. There could be a few lingering slick spots on trail the sun works its magic, so continue to use caution in the shaded and higher up places. Cloud sightings will be few and far between today, the air will be the calmest it’s been a quite a while, and temps should feel delightful in the upper 40s by this afternoon. We’ll have the pleasure of receiving a few more nice days with warming temps before conditions sour later in the week, so get out and enjoy it now if you can!
Did you know that on a cold and clear day in winter, when the trees are bare, one can actually see Ramsey Cascades from Myrtle Point? Of course it’s quite small off in the distance, and it certainly helps to know where to look. After a heavy rain or a stretch of days where temps linger below freezing, and the western sun cuts into hollers between Mt. Guyot and Greenbrier Pinnacle, the white of the cascades literally leaps out at you. It just so happens that our friends from the Trails Forever crews are slated to make improvements along that trail in 2022. If it’s anything like what they accomplished on this mountain in recent years, that popular trail is going to turn out fabulous.
The sunshine is calling and the forest needs exploring! Have a great day. The Wandering Woodsman
Sunday, December 12, 2021
Well, thankfully we didn’t get blown away in yesterday’s howling windstorm. Sounds like it got pretty nasty in a lot of places, not just the Smokies, so hats off to the NPS for smartly discouraging entry into the park. Now that things have calmed down and the sun is back, travelers should be able to enjoy the mountains safely today. As of this moment, US 441 (Newfound Gap Rd) is back open to vehicular traffic. For the most part it was a rather warm day at the lodge Saturday, as we reached a high temp of 47°. As expected, once that front moved through and the rain stopped, the mercury dropped and winter’s chill returned. We got all the way down to 17° last night and are sitting in the lower 20s here as the rising sun overtakes High Top. The rain gauge collected just under 1.5” of liquid precip, definitely one of the better soakings we’ve received in what feels like forever. Due to the swift cool down, expect ice to have formed in places on trail, so remember those traction devices.
With abundant sunshine on tap for the next few days, it’ll be interesting to explore the mountain and see how it held up elsewhere after yesterday’s storms. It’s always impressive how well the trees hold up during such forceful wind events. Especially when you consider how shallow the root systems are at this elevation. One indicator reflecting the firs’ and spruces’ adaptive strategy at places like Cliff Tops is how their branches mostly form facing inward toward the mountain and away from the open ledges. The alternate path that connects Cliff Tops to the backcountry shelter is notorious for witnessing trees and surface soil lifting and rocking without ever coming uprooted. It’s almost as if the earth is breathing from place to place as the trail waves back and forth like the ocean. Certainly a bit unnerving to observe, but impressive nonetheless. The mountain stands mighty for another day!
Have a great end to the week. The Rambling Man
Saturday, December 11, 2021
“Well the weather outside is frightful, but inside it’s so delightful.” No truer words have been sung than that this second weekend of December, but not for the same reasons as described in such a musical holiday classic. Instead of frigid temps and blindingly white snow, our climate conundrum this Saturday is a bit more summer-like, with atypically warm temps, roaring winds, and a potential torrent of rain en route. Temps have been fairly stable these past 24 hours, ranging from a high of 49° to a low of 45°. Current conditions are cloudy under a light drizzle and in the mid 40s.
US 441 (Newfound Gap Rd) is temporarily closed on account of the rough-ridin’ weather conditions the region has on tap. There is no timetable for when it might reopen, but the expectation would be not until Sunday once the storms have since passed and the roads are properly assessed by NPS crews. We are currently in the middle of a High Wind Warning set to last until 4:00 PM, but even then strong breezes will persist all weekend. Today, the mountain will have to stand firm against sustained south winds of 45-55mph, with gusts upwards of 85mph (!!!!!!!!) now possible. We might be a bit more sheltered here at the lodge because of our northern perspective, but places like Cliff Tops and Myrtle Point are going to feel the true brunt of it. Once the line of storms hits, the mountain could bear witness to over an inch of rainfall.
One doesn’t have to look far to understand that these conditions are not to be taken lightly. Our hearts certainly go out to the fine folks of our northern Kentucky neighbors after last night’s unprecedented tornadic activity. Please stay safe and hunkered down until this mess clears out. We’re slated to enjoy a calmer and sunny Sunday, albeit much cooler after the cold front, but far more suitable for outdoor exploration.
Have a great weekend. Flying J
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