We hosted folks celebrating a birthday and anniversary. In addition, there was a gentleman spending last night with us who has made a trip to LeConte Lodge for 41 consecutive years. More than four decades without a miss puts him in some lofty company. Additionally, we welcomed two nice ladies from Ireland as overnight guests. We did our best to be hospitable, going so far as to order up 40 shades of green and a heaping helping of gray to embrace them.
That brings us to the weather. We topped out at 62 degrees with an overnight low of 49. We've been bathed in a cloud for most of the last two days. Late last night the ceiling raised enough for us to look into the valley, but most of the time we've not been able to see across camp.
I know from some conversations I've had with hikers and those living down below that the cloud doesn't extend all the way to the valley. Some told me yesterday that they had decent skies until the last couple of miles of hiking before they reached the lodge. The cloud seems to be clutching the top of LeConte like a kindergartener afraid to leave his parents on the first day of school.
I call our current crown of clouds the "LeConte sombrero." Last week I saw firsthand the ring of clouds suffocating the top of the mountain as I drove through Pigeon Forge under clear skies on my way back to work. It appears the LeConte sombrero has been donned the last couple of days. Sometimes when we're lucky enough to be clear for sunset on Cliff Tops, I notice the same effect on Clingman's Dome.
In some ways LeConte's thick crown of clouds fits perfectly with summer on the mountain. The vegetation closes in and impedes visibility into the woods. You certainly can't see very far off the trail. Perhaps summer is the most secretive of seasons, always hiding something that would be in plain sight the rest of the year. The sleeves get shorter and we swap jeans for swim trunks, but summer holds onto whispers as the woods become less revealing. Autumn will come soon enough, blowing off the cloak of secrecy and opening up the mountains to honest scrutiny.
There's still plenty of beauty to behold even on a cloudy day hiking up LeConte. I noticed the Catawba rhododendron blooming last week, impressively framing Inspiration Point on the Alum Cave Bluff Trail. The colors of the rhododendron blooms pretty near matched the dress of my date for my senior prom during the Clinton administration.
Thanks for reading. I'll try to sniff out some more LeConte stories for you during the next week. Happy trails.