It's a beautiful, blue gray day up top. The high yesterday reached 42 degrees. The overnight low was 29 degrees. It was 32 degrees and clear up top. The mountain received no new precipitation and there is no snow on the ground. There is very little ice remaining on the trails. Please consider taking a headlamp if you go out on a day hike. This hike is strenuous for most folks and can take longer than you expect. I've seen folks wandering the trails without headlamps after dark the past few nights - needless to say, they were not having the most fun. Also, if you bring a headlamp, you won't get a condescending lecture about planning ahead from a mystified kid of undetermined age at the Lodge as he lends you one of his backups. Win-win. Future self will thank you.
I had a super fun night hike up Alum yesterday. I dropped Grace off at the airport at 4, then hurried through Townsend and got to the trailhead at 5:10. After some haphazard organizing, I threw on my little running pack and got started at 5:18. I was able to run up to Inspiration Point just as dark was descending and drank in a little bit of the view. I love that late evening twilight - the trail seems like she is shrouded in mystery, the right mix of alluring and dangerous that increases the feeling of madness by a few magnitudes. I turned every corner expecting to see bobcats, foxes, and other wild neighbors. I passed the last set of tourists near Mossy Spring and had the settled darkness to myself. The only downside to hiking at this time of the day is that my iPhone can never quote capture how intimate and beautiful and isolating that darkness feels, those emotions reside in that place beyond photography. I got to the home stretch, got surprised by the lights of Gatlinburg (it always seems so unnatural to see lights beyond the woods) and stretched my legs on the last flat bit. I lied down at the top of the staircase, took some deep yoga breaths and enjoyed the delicious flow of endorphins. I noticed the stars were just coming out, quite brightly considering the light pollution from Gatlinburg. I felt grateful to call this deep wild nowhere my playground.