As Allyson has mentioned in previous posts, the composition of our overnight guests shifts some in the summer as families set out on adventures. We do tend to see more kids in the summer than in the bookend portions of our March through November operating season.
I loved the following exchange I heard on my rounds through camp a while back.
Parent to kid: "What are you doing?"
Other parent to kid: "Pretending to a superhero?"
Kid: "I don't have to pretend."
That's life on LeConte for you. After you've mastered the trail and made peace with the mountain, your chest puffs out a bit more and you become more likely to share your dinner table with Batman and Robin.
I was out hanging some laundry to dry a while back and heard another memorable exclamation from some weary-legged youngsters nearing completion of the Trillium Gap Trail. The boys were in the vanguard, leading their family up the 6.5-mile route. Ringing out down the trail, I heard "I see it! I see buildings!" delivered with no less enthusiasm than the lookout on the Mayflower nearing the end of its daunting voyage.
Although we're sometimes fused to all our newfangled technology (and I do happen to be typing on a computer with no wires at the top of a mountain without electricity, so yes, I may be a hypocrite), I think most kids who are physically prepared for the hike (and have the luxury of good weather) really enjoy their stay at LeConte Lodge. True, we have no video games or televisions and your smart phone may not be so smart up here.
There are exceptions, but most kids end up finding a way to entertain themselves--often not much different than the youngsters who braved this mountain in the 1930s and subsequent decades. Kids play freeze tag and hide and seek, which is exclusive to their age group. This marks my second season at LeConte Lodge and I've yet to come across anyone eligible for Social Security start a rousing game of freeze tag after their hike. Kids play board games or cards up in the office by light of a kerosene lamp. They listen and practice the ancient art of storytelling on one of Tennessee's best stages (with the possible exception of the annual Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn.).
I think it's refreshing. I noticed the same thing when I was a wrangler on a wonderful guest ranch in Colorado that--like LeConte Lodge--lacked some of the amenities that take up too much of our awareness. After a day or two, the kids quit looking at their useless phones and became enamored with the great nightly show in the heavens. They knew their horse's name and cared how their four-legged partner was feeling that day.
The kids are all right--if we let them be.