It seems we've had a little bit of most kinds of summer weather the last 24 hours. After quite a wet month, I thought we might escape Thursday without any measurable precipitation. We even experienced some bouts of filtered sunshine. However, as dark fell over the Tennessee Valley and distant lightning outlined the clouds, we received Thursday's first rain about 11 p.m. We ended up tallying 0.33 inches of rain between 11 p.m. and our weather observation at 6:45 a.m. Friday. Thursday's high reached 70 with a mild low of 55 degrees. We've already seen a hodgepodge of weather -- rain, wind, clouds and sun -- as of Friday at lunch.
During my reading on the history of Mt. LeConte I was struck by how often July pops up as an important time. Certainly the mountain is accessible in July, compared to the tough conditions in winter. In fact, I've heard that July is the only month in which it's never snowed on Mt. LeConte. With only 11 days left in July this year, I think we're safe again in 2012. At any rate, July takes on an outsized importance in the history of Mt. LeConte.
Today I'm going to write about the first of three crucial elements of LeConte history all shoehorned into July 1925. President Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge called 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., home, but he wouldn't sign the bill that provided the first step in the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (and Shenandoah, as well) until May 1926. However, the groundwork and lobbying for choosing the Smokies as the location of the grand national park of the East was well underway.
I know the above photo of the spring isn't nearly as pretty as the photos Allyson takes every day. However, the water flowing all year long from that dedicated spring is the primary reason LeConte Lodge was built in its present location. Without that humble but trustworthy spring, LeConte Lodge would not exist and you wouldn't be reading this weblog today.
There had been an earlier attempt to start a rudimentary camp nearer Cliff Tops, but the water supply was fussy as campers waited for water to drip from the rocks. The old timers down below told of a LeConte basin spring located between the peaks of High Top and Cliff Tops that ran clear and cold all year long. However, the old timers who used to hunt on LeConte could no longer make the ascent and the youngsters couldn't sniff out the location of the spring in the thick vegetation. Perhaps some of them figured it was just a wild-haired fountain of youth fable conjured up by the codgers.
Finally, in July 1925 the LeConte basin spring was rediscovered--just as the graybeards had explained. Located just about 100 feet down the Trillium Gap Trail, the spring still keeps the lodge running. I've often said that the water on LeConte and in Antarctica is the best I've ever tasted. I always pack an extra bottle of LeConte water for my trips down the mountain so I can enjoy it below. The water we give away to our guests is treated and tested daily (though the water emanating direct from the spring in the photo above is obviously not treated). I can testify that our treated LeConte spring water makes an impressive pot of sweet mint tea (I grew my mint below and packed it up, please don't pick any vegetation in the park). The Park Service also recommends you boil all water from any spring in the Smokies for your safety.
Unless something changes I'll try to tell you all about two other important developments in July 1925 in Saturday's update. Happy trails.