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.
8/28/2014 08:09:25 am
8/28/2014 08:11:12 am
John and Bonnie were 2 of my favorites on the mountain. I'm so glad they are happily married and still "living the dream." Mt. LeConte is still one of my favorite places in the Smokies.
8/28/2014 08:25:04 am
They are closing Roaring Fork Rd early this year, on November 1st, so bridges can be repaired/rebuilt. Since the truck/trailer parks at Grotto Falls lot, how will the llamas get up to the lodge those last three operating weeks in November?? I assume arrangements have been made already, and that y'all already know this, but I want to be sure y'all are not blindsided.
8/28/2014 08:25:21 am
Obviously, this is one of my favorite posts to read! Shane, I agree...These are 2 of my favorite mountain folks, too, as John is my son, and delightful Bonnie, my daughter-in-law! Gotta love Chrissy, Alan, the Virdens, and the rest of the crew, too!
8/28/2014 08:52:40 am
Although I've never asked, I've always wondered. Thanks for the info. We passed the Llamas and saw the trailer at the Trillium trail head our 1st hike down 7 years ago. I'm already missing LeConte even thou we were there only 15 days ago. Can't wait to come back!
8/28/2014 09:05:58 am
BTW, here's a video I took on the trail that day 7 years ago...
8/29/2014 03:40:34 am
Great video, Eddie. We are taking Trillium this fall - looking forward to seeing the llamas on the trail. :)
8/28/2014 09:09:33 am
Nice post Nathan. I didn't realize John and Bonnie were down at the llama farm. Good for them! Thank you all Leconte Lodge crew for all you do.
8/28/2014 10:39:15 am
Will someone please respond to my question of the difficulty of hiking up to the lodge. I've asked several times but never received a reply. I've wanted to hike up for at lease 40 yrs. How difficult is it and which trail would be easiest. This is first on my bucket list. Thanks
Linda: I just noticed your comments and question and I hope that I can be helpful. Hiking up to the lodge is a wonderful experience and naturally depends on your physical condition as well as your mental outlook. Good gear is also important. There seems to be no one trail that is easier than the others, and people prefer different ones. Rather than take up a lot of space here, you are welcome to send me an email message and I'll try to give you some useful advice on hiking, etc. My address can be found on my own web site at the end of any comments I have there. G'day
8/28/2014 06:15:01 pm
I have hiked all the trails to LeConte but I like Alum Cave the Best!!! If you are asking about easiest that would be Trillium but it is Longer!!! Which ever trail you decide, make the effort to hike to the summit! LeConte is one of my Favorite places, it is as close to heaven as you can get on this earth!!! Peaceful & BEAUTIFUL!!! Enjoy!
8/29/2014 01:47:06 am
Linda there is no easy trail, if there was everyone would be up there, and we dont want that lol! all are strenous and beautiful! dependinng on age and physical condition!, i prefer Alum, considered to be the hardest but shortest!, but i would suggest Trillium, if you have never been, tip, start at daylight, and take your time, You will want about 8 or 9 hours of daylight no less!, and rest time at the top! Im 62 yrs old i do it twice a yr, and my last was in march, when the blizzard hit unexpected! and in Jan we did a day hike staRted at 830 am and got back at 530 spend two hours on top! we went up Alum! enjoy it! Im going back nov 17th staying in shelter and also in Sept for a day hike with friends!
8/29/2014 04:15:37 am
Linda - Look back on the 8/5 blog, "Taking Mental Notes". You did get a few replies. Good luck with your hike! Even if it is hard at the time, you will love it. ;)
8/28/2014 11:12:16 am
Thanks for sharing this info! I have wondered from time to time about where the llamas come from. And what the place they come from looks like. Now I know! It's really pretty too, I think it would be kind of cool working at a place like that... keeping that end of the business going. Thanks again for the inside view!!!
8/28/2014 11:40:16 am
I also have read that the roaring forks road will close Oct 31st this year. I am sure arrangements are made for our Llama palls! We will see them on our trip in Oct as well!
8/28/2014 12:49:44 pm
Elisabeth & Doug - Do either of you know if Roaring Forks gates are closed at night? If they are, do you know what time they are opened in the morning? We are planning on hiking up Trillium to the lodge for our first time this fall. Due to the mileage, we want to get as early of a start as possible. We are planning to take Bullhead down. Kind of nervous-ish about both because we've not hiked them before. We hiked up/down Alum last fall. Thanks!
8/28/2014 12:51:49 pm
Forgot to mention that we did hike to Grotto Falls last year. How is the rest of Trillium compared to that first little section?
tomk in SC
8/28/2014 02:01:08 pm
Bullhead UP and Trillium DOWN. Bullhead DOWN is an absolute leg pounder. UP it is work, but not bad. We just did Bullhead UP and Trillium DOWN and I recommend that direction highly. We do take Bullhead DOWN when we do Rainbow UP because a rest at Rainbow Falls on the way up is just so nice. Bullhead is a killer down because it has the greatest drop per mile by a long shot.
8/28/2014 01:48:18 pm
This does not apply to Le Conte but I thought u might enjoy it. I did. Today I headed out to my favorite swimming hole in MY mountains. Just a book some munchies and water. I did not take my camera bcuz I was not hiking or doing photography today, just chilling. I was sitting in about 18" of water on a gravel and rock bar about 3 Ft. from a crystal clear pool about 15 Ft. deep. I was joined by a family of river otters. I sat very still. Once they determined that I was not a threat they began fishing that hole. They speak ! they chirp to one another and they co-ordinate their attack. The adults would swim out into the deep water and herd the trout into the shallows and their pups would get them. They r so graceful. They would climb up on the bank and on rocks and sit up and eat with their little front paws. I kinda felt sorry for the fish. They were getting eaten alive. After eating they all sat and groomed each other and sinned for a while than they began playing and doing water aerobics. After about an hour to an hour and a half ma and pa took off down stream, stopped and chirped for the pups who than joined them and they swam off. The pups were all most as large as the adults so they were no longer babies. Do not ask me for a location. It is off the normal grid and not on a marked trail. It is unspoiled by human touch. However I am going back with overnite gear and my cameras just to c if God will bless me one more time. If not, thank you Jesus for sharing a marvelous encounter with your creatures
8/28/2014 02:25:57 pm
missy...I have gotten to the trailheads very early (7 AM ish) before...so I don't think they close overnight....but I could be wrong. Doug, we are thinking of taking blvd up and Bullhead down in a few weeks while we are on our "big adventure" in the park. The two trails (besides greenbrier) that I have yet to try! Which brings me to a question for Nathan. If we stop for lunch (after 3 days of eating slim jims we will be starving) that day and bring our $10....can we do it on the fly, or must we reserve our spot at the table? (you may force us to eat outside...we will be ripe, I am sure!). Interesting side note.....I met the gal I am hiking with, at the top of LeConte during that April snow, and we have become fast friends! smile.
High on LeConte
8/28/2014 03:42:40 pm
8/28/2014 05:23:35 pm
thank you.....we plan to come visit! appreciated!
8/29/2014 04:20:02 am
Thanks Elisabeth & Tomk.
8/28/2014 02:37:53 pm
Great post Nathan! We were at the lodge last September when the llamas were there & it was the highlight of our trip. I got to feed the llamas pancakes. I put a pancake in my mouth & one of them actually took it from me without even touching my face. They were a real treat to be able to see them. We are hiking up the last weekend in September & staying 2 nights & we are planning to feed the llamas! Just can't wait!!! We love the Smoky Mountain & LeConte Lodge. All of the crew are exceptional!!!!
Susan Scott (Bonnie's mom)
8/28/2014 02:51:54 pm
Once again, our talented son-in-law, John has taken a picture that captures the character and beauty of a particular place. This time it is one of the pastures of the llama farm. I love that Nathan got into the picture with his cowboy hat on... perfect!
8/28/2014 03:47:23 pm
Thanks Nathan ! I enjoyed hearing about the LLamas,care,trek,etc .I ALWAYS enjoy this blog and look forward to reading it everyday .Lynn S.Thanks for sharing your otter experience .We have often shared such times with wildlife, tis' a God thing I always say. Happy Trails ! !
8/29/2014 03:10:38 am
Kudos to John and his photography. A little promotion for him...he has a facebook site "Smokies Stories and Glories" on which he posts beautiful photographs and hiking adventures. He has talent. I thought maybe he and Bonnie might be the next couple Managers but good to know they are still involved. I want his life!
8/29/2014 09:30:18 am
I want his life, too, Paul!
9/1/2014 01:54:28 am
Was so happy to see John and Bonnie are still around and working on the farm. They both were are lifesavers back in 2012 when the big snow storm hit on the mountain on 10/30/12. The snow was very deep and it took us till 10;30 to reach the top. About a mile before we got there , they came to our rescue and took our backpacks and made a trail for us with lots of light from their head lamps. They were wonderful and made sure we were both alright. Will never forget their kindness , one of our most memorable moments on the mountain. John and Bonnie you are truly special.
9/3/2014 12:44:51 am
Kathy I also was there with my son. I remember them going down for you. They met us about a half mile down with hot chocolate and they took my pack. That was a once in a life time experience.
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