I hope the weather is as beautiful today at your home as it is atop Mt. LeConte. The high yesterday reached 48 with a chillier overnight low of 28, still plenty comfortable by LeConte standards. I think Friday was every bit as nice as Thursday on the mountain. We haven't registered any rain the last two days. I've talked with several guests who suffered through deluges at their homes this week. We got just the right amount of rain to keep spring moving up the mountain and no cabins washing down it.
The big crew news today was a rescue/litter training session with our friends from the National Park Service. As LeConte Lodge workers, we're not federal/park service employees, though we work closely together on all sorts of projects, rescues included. The private company for which I work runs LeConte Lodge as a concession for the park service. The concession contract periodically comes up for bid.
Since I've been on LeConte beginning in 2010, we've enjoyed a good, productive relationship with the park service. That's not always the case in other national parks between the park service and concession companies. We try to get that right in the Smokies, and I think the park is better for it.
At any rate, a couple of rangers hiked up and put our LeConte Lodge crew members through their volunteer rescue training course. You can imagine that pushing a rescue litter up or down any trail is difficult. Now imagine piloting that stretcher on a trail like Alum Cave Bluff ... in the ice ... in the dark ... trying to comfort a patient in agony. I hope we never have to use the rescue litter and it builds up so much dust we can't find it, but history tells a different story.
Part of the training involved a timed, two-mile hike with a 25-pound backpack, which we performed on the flats between the Alum Cave Bluff/Bullhead/Rainbow Trail junction and the "Hallelujah Corner" which begins Alum's descent below Cliff Tops. I think it's safe to say there aren't many other Smokies volunteers who've taken their timed test at 6,450 feet. I think it's also a safe bet that none of the other volunteers weighted their packs with a 25-pound bag of brown sugar.
At any rate, we all passed the test, and I had enough spare time to pick up a piece or two of trash on my last lap. I hiked my test with general manager Tim Line, still one of the fastest LeConte employees in history. Hiking with Tim makes you look like an unmotivated, drunken sloth.
Tim, who began his association with LeConte in 1977, through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1976. He held the LeConte-to-Gatlinburg-to-LeConte speed record (2 hours, 50 minutes) for more than three decades before former crew member John Northrup took the crown in 2012. Even though I'm a beat-up, old and slow offensive lineman, not many people pass me on a hike back up to work on LeConte. However, I'm not ever passing Tim Line.
I apologize to anyone I blew past as they were hitting the flats on their way to the lodge. In Tennessee, I think good manners dictate that (if the trail footing is safe) the person hiking uphill has the right of way and the descending hiker yields to the side. At least that makes sense to me because they're working harder heading uphill, and I think it's hospitable. I wouldn't have bulled my way through if it hadn't been a timed fitness test.
Come on up and see us this weekend. I expect we'll have plenty of good company. Happy trails.