May 24, 2013
I wish everyone a fine Memorial Day weekend. The clouds have finally lifted here and we're looking at azure skies. It's a breezy, chilly, lovely afternoon and you can see as far as your eye is good.
This morning was a different story, however. While yesterday's high hit 57, Friday morning's low sank to 40. By late this morning the temperature dropped to 35 with a stiff wind. With the cloud pressing in and wind blowing up the mountain this morning, I felt like I'd been trapped in a Charles Dickens' novel. There's redemption at the end of A Christmas Carol, and I guess we've gotten some, too, as sunny skies have overtaken the top of Tennessee.
We're heading into late May and have yet to see a bear at the lodge. Usually by now, we've seen a bruin wandering through camp. With that in mind, I wanted to pass along a few bear safety tips for your trip to the Smokies.
We're sensitive to leaving food, drink or backpacks lying around camp. Sometimes the oddest things could attract a bear onto your porch here at the lodge. That's why we ask our guests not to leave anything out on their porch unless someone is there to watch it. One time we had a bear steal a pair of jeans from a porch.
I also heard a report recently about a bear breaking into someone's car trunk (which had been held partially shut with an elastic cord) in the Alum Cave Bluff parking lot. Please don't leave food in any unsecured location in the park. Once a bear gets a taste for human food, grubs and acorns don't seem quite so tasty. In all seriousness, once a bear begins to look at humans as a source for food, the people who got him hooked have signed his death warrant.
On the trail, be careful about leaving scraps of snacks. Just because it's biodegradable doesn't mean you should leave it in the woods. That apple core is an artificial food source and could begin a bear down that nefarious path of seeking food from humans.
We had some guests not long ago say they always kept a jar of peanut butter in their backpack to throw at a bear in case it threatened them. We mentioned that was exactly why that bear would threaten them, because it had been rewarded with human food for that bad behavior. We encouraged them to bring a can of pepper spray instead if they were concerned about bears (not that I've ever needed it in the Smokies). It's lighter than a can of peanut butter (but doesn't taste very good on a cracker), and much better for the long-term health of the bear.
We only had one problem bear last year at the lodge. This one bear had lost all fear of humans and was waiting around the lodge for someone to make a mistake--leave a pack unattended or leave a cup of lemonade out on the porch.
We ended up trapping him and ranger Rick Varner came up to do a full health workup on the bear. When that bear awoke from sedation, he was pretty wary of the two-legged critters responsible. That story ended happily, exactly like we hoped--that bear may have continued to call LeConte home but he never turned into a beggar. As far as we know, he's doing what Smoky bears are supposed to do--live wild and fend for himself.
I've heard some unfair criticism that the rangers are bullying trapped bears. I've seen firsthand two bears trapped on LeConte, and the actions of Rick Varner and the other bear rangers may very well have saved their lives and prevented ugly bear-human encounters. In both instances, the ranger explained each step of the process to a gathering of hikers in a wonderful educational opportunity while the bear was sedated.
I know this has been a long post, but this topic is important to all of us on LeConte. We're concerned for the health of our neighbor bears and our human guests. We can share the mountain. Allyson has returned from off days and will be retaking the lead on High on LeConte. I've enjoyed visiting with many of you in person and thank you for reading. Happy trails.
5/24/2013 08:50:42 am
Love this!!!!! Hope everyone has a wonderful hike this weekend.
5/24/2013 08:53:32 am
Great and very important information. Now if could just get people to do it. A fed bear is a dead bear.
My dad died in 1997, but left a series of tapes about his life. One of those was about a hike up to the lodge in late March,1928. He and a friend spent the night, courtesy of an employee named Carter. I will be hiking up Sunday. I have an mp3 file of the tape if someone would like it. It's 27 minutes long, and entertaining.
5/24/2013 03:51:06 pm
Mike Ray: I would love to hear the tape. Can you put it on YouTube or some such? Or I could post my email address and get it from you like that. I'm sorry I will not be up there Sunday.
Barbara: I'll be glad to send you the story. I don't know how to upload to Youtube, but I can send it to you by email. You can send me your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org. That's my backup email address. The file is around 25mb, so it will take awhile for it to download. If anyone else is interested, do the same.
Al in S. MS
5/24/2013 01:38:59 pm
Checking out today's blog trying to figure out my new iPhone and having a terrible time looking forward to next month hike up to the lodge.
5/24/2013 03:49:18 pm
Thanks for the info you shared today about bears. I'm old enough to remember the days when a trip to the Smokies meant seeing "tame" bears at roadside attractions & people offering food to bears from their car windows. Thank goodness those days are over & most people respect bears as the amazing wild creatures they are.
The call of the wild
5/24/2013 03:49:52 pm
My grandfather was a chief of the village he lived on the mountain in the winters and had very experience in the wildlife.
5/24/2013 11:30:32 pm
Great information Nathan. Enjoyed your posting. Now, back to regular duty for you. Great job well done.
5/26/2013 11:41:23 am
A friend and I once came back to his soft top Suzuki Samauri from a weekend trip in the Cohutta Wilderness to find the roof and seats torn to shreds and the spare tire -- a steel-belted radial -- gashed clean through. A USFS ranger left a note in the wreckage that a bear had apparently climbed on top looking for a way into a place where he/she knew to expect food, and had fallen through. The bear panicked, and the car suffered thousands of dollars in damage. From that moment on, we've been ultra careful about food and food odors in the woods!
5/27/2013 03:16:03 pm
So how did they get this bear off the mountain?
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Welcome to the official blog of LeConte Lodge. We hope you find the information provided here both helpful and enjoyable. Thank you for visiting the site, and we hope to see you on the mountain!