In other good news, I received a couple of reports saying the footing on Alum Cave Bluff Trail was better than I feared given the wet and cold conditions. No ice traction devices were needed this morning to summit LeConte via Alum. I don't have any reports on conditions for other trails.
Friday's high struggled to notch 35 degrees, while the low dipped to 26 (though actually that was from Friday morning about 6:45 a.m.). The temperature actually held steady at about 28-29 degrees last night at the lodge. Saturday's forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of rain, dropping to a lesser chance tonight. I still expect a chilly, raw day and cold night, so please prepare yourself.
I mentioned yesterday about friends and family descended from the Huffs booking the entire lodge Thursday night. Jack Huff, the patriarch of the first family of LeConte Lodge, was one tough hombre. For my money, the most iconic photo on the mountain is on display in the office. No doubt, many of you have seen it and also been impressed.
This photo is of Jack Huff, not a large man but one who casts a mighty shadow, carrying his mother in a straight-backed chair on his back up the Rainbow Falls Trail to LeConte Lodge in 1929. LeConte Lodge was founded in 1925. Last I heard, the actual chair used was housed in the East Tennessee Historical Center in Knoxville.
From there, legend begins to cloud Huff's heroic feat. I've heard that his mother was ill and didn't have long to live, but wanted to see a sunrise and sunset on Mt. LeConte while she was still in this world. I've also heard that a great wall of gray obscured both the sun's opening and closing acts, and she never got to see either from the crown of the Smokies. Truth is I just don't know.
LeConte crew members wisely appreciate legends of the mountain. Stories about speed and distance records, number of hikes, rescue efforts in the most brutal of conditions and carrying odd things up the mountain (for example, a 100-pound barbell) live on for decades as crew members share a bowl of popcorn and mull over such feats when the day's work is done.
But none hold a candle to Jack Huff's heroics for his mother. One of my greatest irritants while working the office is when someone will cast doubt on Huff's feat. It happens every three or four weeks someone will come up in the office look at the photo of Jack and his mom in the chair and either say the whole thing was staged or, worse, say, "She doesn't look that heavy."
Invariably, the person who talks about how petite Mrs. Huff looked and how it would have been easy to carry her in a straight-backed chair on your back all the way up Rainbow Falls Trail is carrying a backpack of 10 pounds or less. Their backpack usually contains about seven Kleenex and a pack of M&Ms, but what Jack Huff did would be pretty easy for them.
In other news, one member of the Huff party left a homemade slingshot (pictured below). If you'd like us to send it down by llama, please call the office and we'll keep it in our lost and found box for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we'll add it to the LeConte arsenal in the advent of defending the mountain against a zombie attack. Happy trails.