Top of the morning mountain-goers,
Another beautiful morning to be alive and well up top, clouds are beginning to turn pink and orange just over the summit! As the sun creeps over the horizon to start a new day, I am starting a new day by drinking a cup of Joe and eating a big bowl of cooked oats. It is currently 35 degrees out there, partly cloudy skies make for some great pre-dawn colors! Skies should stay primarily clear for the rest of the day, possible rain showers moving in tomorrow. Moderate winds are flowing through the evergreens as we speak, the "light show" that is Pigeon Forge is shining brighter than ever. It's a funny reminder of how high up were are, and how distant we are from the go-karts, laser tag, and pancake houses. As much as I love all of those things, I'd much rather spend a day deep in the mountains!
The sky was very confused yesterday. The high temperature was 34 degrees, with a low of 21. No rain or snow yesterday, but I did see some hoarfrost! For those who don't know what hoarfrost is, it is formed when the moisture on the trees freezes due to extremely cold conditions. Temperatures continued to drop after I left the lodge, making for a bone-chilling walk. With winds upwards of 30-40 mph, that puts the wind chill in the lower single digits! Those making the climb today, the trees are still blocking the trail on Alum Cave. I have not explored the Bullhead or Rainbow Falls, but I will do so in the next day or two. Riding the Boulevard ridge yesterday, I saw a decent amount of downed trees/large limbs on the trail. Most of them are easily maneuverable, with a couple larger ones closer to the Appalachian Trail. With temps dropping yesterday significantly, you may see some ice on the upper portion of your hike. Use caution and precision when hiking the mountain. Take your sweet time and inhale some fresh air!
"Upon opening the kitchen door, I was heartbroken. The clear sky I had come to know and love was now encased in fog, what a shocker... My plans of getting out to the A.T. were still in full swing, and with some stellar views ahead of me, I craved sunlight. Just before I reached the summit, something caught my eye. Looking out over the center of the Smokies, the clouds were just beneath us, revealing only the tallest mountains. My eyes were fixated on "The Boulevard," a skinny, prominent ridge that snakes between LeConte and Mount Kephart. The right side of the ridge was engulfed in a sea of white, while the left side was as clear as day. I was anxious to get out there, but unsure what was in store. As I progressed down the trail, the clouds struggled to get comfortable. I would be in complete sunlight for about five minutes, then the clouds would sweep over me, crushing my hopes and dreams of a clear day. I didn't let those clouds deter me, completing the 5-mile trail in less than 90 minutes. Right before I arrived at the Appalachian Trail junction, I decided to stop by "The Jump Off." Appropriately named, "The Jumpoff" is a 1,000 ft cliff overlook at the false summit of Mount Kephart. With sweeping views of the Smokies' Crest and other surrounding hills, this side trail was a must. A mere half mile separated me from my first stop of the day, I was eager. Sun rays and a light breeze motivated me more than anything, pressing up the steep slope with passion and precision. Just steps away from the cliffs, I stopped clean in my tracks. Clouds rolled in and winds picked up drastically. Temperatures plummeted quickly, so I had to layer up! Wrapped up like the Michelin Man, I proceeded with caution (as always). The last 100 feet of the trail was caked in frost, evergreen trees accented with blankets of white. The view had been lost in the haze, or so I had thought. Staring into what seemed like an endless sea of cloud, I wasn't optimistic. I waited for a while before growing impatient. Just as I was about to leave, a quick break in the clouds revealed something mesmerizing. I watched as the parting clouds rushed up and over the cliffs, the dragon's breath was visible from a distance. For the next 20 minutes, the clouds kept unveiling the precious valley beneath me, so I made myself comfortable. I felt the need to applaud, as I had front row seats to a great show, with no price of admission..."
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