Happy first day of February! Blessed to wake up happy and healthy once again! As always, the crows have been chatting outside my window for quite some time. This must be a prime "meet-and-great" location for them, as this has been going on for a few weeks. Glancing out my bedroom window, strands of clouds compliment the sky as the day begins to unravel. It is currently 27 degrees out there, with overcast skies and sheer silence. The snow is still ever present up here, with approximately 7 inches on the ground up top. Snow amounts vary around LeConte and the rest of the park. Some sloped areas near the top have drifts over a foot, while sun-exposed areas have but a few inches. A moody landscape lies beneath, while the clouds can't seem to make up their mind. One minute, the blue-hued valley floor is easily visible. Five minutes later, the clouds take charge once again. Weather can take a turn for the better/worse within a matter of minutes. Often times, I will report the current conditions early in the morning, only to be blindsided with sunshine or heavy cloud cover. Predictions are educated guesses, and sometimes things happen that aren't expected. That's one thing I enjoy about being up here; the uncertainty. The thought that something drastic could happen out of my control crosses my mind fairy often, so I'd say I am prepared for just about any extreme case of weather Mother Nature throws my way!
Looking at the forecast today, temperatures should remain below 30 degrees, with light snow possible this afternoon. Highway 441 is currently open, so all trails leading to LeConte are accessible. Those planning on making the dreaded climb to the top, be aware. Copious amounts of snow reside on the upper sections of trail, with deep pockets covering up rocks, roots, and steps in some spots. Traction seems to fair well with all the snow, no ice to worry about on the exposed rocks. Once this stuff starts melting, that will be a different story... Alum Cave is pretty well packed from all the footprints, but all the other trails have seen considerably less traffic. With deep snow and a few downed trees on each trail, give yourself some extra time to get up and down the mountain. Looking back on yesterday, the high temperature was a comfortable 29 degrees, with an inspirational low of 23. After receiving .25" of snow yesterday, we now have approximately 7.25" around the lodge. With clear skies and higher temperatures on the radar for this week, we might have to say goodbye to the snow we know and love...
"Shuffling aggressively through ancient snow, I slowly progressed down the Boulevard with eager intentions. Sawteeth in sight, I yearned for old growth and solitude. Miles passed, converging fast, I took my first step on the Smokies' Crest (the first of many). After a brief moment of gratitude, it was time to proceed to the next landmark. The well-known Icewater Springs and Charlie's Bunion were not on my radar! I was in search of bigger and better things, the rugged, remote Sawteeth range. Few day hikers ever dare to tackle this section without an overnight bag. Knowing me, I intended to conquer 24 wretched miles holding a mirrorless camera the entire time! Pain and anguish was no match, I was locked in. Step after step brought me closer to the heart of the forest, getting further and further from safety with every second. A truly hostile environment, a rugged jungle gym through my eyes..."