Hello to all of you from a waterlogged LeConte Lodge. It's been raining fairly steady since about 6:30 a.m. We've had a couple of brief respites this afternoon when we could see our neighbor mountaintops, though the valley was still covered with clouds.
The forecast for the rest of the weekend remains rainy, so be careful on the slick rocks and logs if you're coming up to see us. Thursday's temperatures were about what you'd expect for early August, a high of 70 degrees (the warmest day of the young month) and low of 53. We saw just a trace of rain when I checked early this morning. The rain gauge will tell a different tale tomorrow.
When I headed to work this morning about 4:45 a.m., I could see Pigeon Forge gleaming in the valley. However, you could also feel the cloud layer hovering just above the summit of LeConte, precluding any early morning moon or star gazing. By 5:30 a.m., the cloud layer descended on the mountain, enveloping us in an unusually opaque darkness. I felt like I was swimming through a cloud of octopus ink plunged 2,000 feet deep in an Atlantic Ocean trench.
In other news, I spoke with a gentleman the other day who used to haul food up to LeConte Lodge on horses and mules back in the 1960s. I don't think he had been on the mountain since the 1980s and was surprised to see what has changed (and what has not). He told several interesting tales about the route the horses followed from Cherokee Orchard up Rainbow Falls Trail to unload supplies at the lodge. He used to love staying over and particularly looked forward to meals at LeConte Lodge, all cooked over a woodburning stove fueled by deadfall hauled out of the woods by horses and mules.
One story I particularly enjoyed concerned Ambrose, the LeConte Lodge mule from the 1960s. I've heard tales before about Old Joe (Jack Huff's horse, which he trusted enough to ride up to Cliff Tops) and Blacky (the LeConte workhorse from the early 1970s), but I'd never heard any Ambrose stories.
You see, I've found mules are kind of like cats--people possess no tepid feeling about the critters. You either really like them or are not a big fan of mules. I asked the logical question to this gentleman, "Was Ambrose a good mule?"
At the time of the question, this fellow was walking up the steps from the dining hall away from me. Upon hearing me inquire about the worthiness of Ambrose, this man wheeled around in about 0.0073 seconds and quickly answered. He acted like I'd questioned the sanctity of his mother.
"Lord, yes!" he said. "He pulled a great many logs off this mountain." All these decades later, he was certainly still solidly in the Ambrose Fan Club.
Happy trails to you and Ambrose, wherever he may be.
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